With Chase Irle reporting Cole Hamels will NOT be ready for Opening Day, there’s another hole at the back end of the rotation. We already knew there was going to be a competition for 5th spot; now, there are two openings up for grabs, with Soroka, Folty, and Fried the only three locks. Here are the five guys who could fill those two spots, including one dark-horse candidate nobody is talking about.
It’s pretty simple: plug the hole left by a lefty with another lefty. As well as Sean Newcomb pitched down the stretch last season, the plan has always been to give him at least one more shot as a starter. He looked to be the favorite to fill in the final rotation spot before the Hamels news. Now, I don’t see how he is not in the Opening Day rotation. However, if he doesn’t show signs of improved control, the Braves should not hesitate moving him back to the bullpen, even if it means having four right-handed starters.
Wilson has had plenty of success in the minors, but he’s also fallen flat more than once in the majors, posting a career 7.00 ERA. He and the next guy on this list are undoubtedly the two favorites to land a spot — as far as prospects are concerned. But if I’m the Braves, I’m not trusting Wilson until he shows a better handle for his secondary offerings. You can’t blow fastballs by everyone at this level, especially not as a starter.
Kyle Wright is a guy I’m eager to see more of in the majors. His first cup of coffee wasn’t what I’d call inspiring (0-3, 8.69 ERA in 2019). However, this was only over 19.2 innings and he’s just 24 years old. I still think Wright has a chance to be elite, and this could be the year he breaks out and earns a spot in the rotation for the foreseeable future, regardless of whether Cole Hamels is healthy or not.
Dark-horse alert! A 1.93 ERA over 6 games in 2019 probably isn’t sustainable over a whole season, but I want to see what this kid can do. He may be best suited as a major-league reliever; however, he has experience as a starter, and we’ve had multiple guests on the podcast list Walker as the most underrated player in the system. Let’s put that to the test early in 2020.
This one would be the most interesting. King Felix had an atrocious 2019; a 1-8 record with a 6.40 ERA is… unappetizing, but he’s a Hall of Famer in my book with a perfect game and over 2,500 strikeouts to his name. His best days are behind him, but you have to roll the dice early and see what he has left in the tank. If he’s going to be awful, let him be awful in April & May instead of August.