Do the Braves have a pitching development problem?

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The Braves rebuild is over and done, and it happened quite quickly. But while former GM John Coppolella made some genius moves, at the end of the day, it was two Frank Wren signings – Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña Jr. that expedited the process.

During this rebuild, the Braves stockpiled arms. This was always going to be a law of large numbers approach due to the high bust rate of prospects in general. This data is a bit outdated now as it is eight years old, but it shows how well top 100 ranked arms have panned out.

 

Now obviously the Braves have had some pitchers make an impact. Mike Foltynewicz was not a prospect when acquired but has developed with the team. Mike Soroka has looked like an ace this season. It took Max Fried a bit longer to come around due to injuries, but he has had a stellar 2019. However, the rest of the crew – not so much.

Sean Newcomb has been dynamite in the bullpen but let’s not forget how he got there. It will be interesting to see if the Braves place him back in the rotation next year or if they feel he is best-suited for the pen permanently. His inability to throw strikes plagued him as a starter and remains his primary issue as a reliever.

Aaron Blair has not thrown an inning at any level this season. Luiz Gohara is no longer with the organization. Lucas Sims never panned out as expected. Want a good laugh? Remember Tyrell Jenkins?

Touki Toussaint seemed to hit a wall in 2019. Kyle Wright was supposed to make an impact at the major league level in 2019 and disappointed even in AAA, though he had a promising finish to the season. Bryse Wilson is still just 21, so it is way too early to write him off, but he has been roughed up in his brief major league outings.

Kolby Allard looked unimpressive with the Braves in 2018 but immediately made an impact for the Rangers this season upon getting a call-up. His velocity has seen a tremendous spike, and he has the highest WAR of any pitcher acquired at the deadline, including Zack Grienke. Why were the Braves unable to tap into his potential?

Another prospect dealt at the deadline, Joey Wentz, has looked like a completely different guy now that he’s in the Tigers’ system. Even a lesser-known arm, Tristan Beck, has given the Giants much more fruitful returns in high-A ball than he did with the Braves. So what gives?

Out of all these top 100 arms only Soroka, Fried and Newcomb are making any contributions. We all can see the high bust rate of prospects, and I think it comes down to how much of an impact Kyle Wright and Ian Anderson make down the road as top draft picks. If one of them can contribute, this was a successful experiment. But looking back, it is pretty crazy that only two of these arms are being featured in the rotation.

Seeing how Wentz and Allard have upped their performance elsewhere has to make you wonder if there is an underlying issue in the team’s development of their young arms. At this stage, it is still to be determined, but it is a possibility, and this time next year, there may have to be some accountability within the organization. One would assume the Braves could opt to move on from Dave Wallace as director of pitching at age 72 and go with a younger guy if Wright, Anderson or even Bryse Wilson don’t see an uptick in production soon. If they do not pan out – with their talent – the Braves have nobody to blame but themselves.

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