The recent news about the agreement between the MLB and MLBPA gives us hope that there will indeed be a 2020 season, but it also all but guarantees that it will be shorter than 162 games. The question remains how much shorter? Right now, the earliest possible start date is mid-May, but that seems increasingly less likely by the day. What we do know is — whenever baseball does resume — there will far less off days and a healthy helping of double-headers, meaning strategies have to be adjusted.
For starters, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported last week that rosters are expected to expand from 26 players to 29 for the first month of the season. Our Harrison Coburn recently predicted what a 29-man roster might look like, adding two more pitchers and Austin Riley to fill it out. And one thing he focused on is how most teams — if not all — will be using six-man rotations for at least part of the season, and I’m willing to take that one step further.
By the time the season returns, Cole Hamels should be ready to go. Typically, that would mean one of Sean Newcomb or Felix Hernandez would be the odd man out, but since a six-man rotation to start the season seems like a foregone conclusion, both should make the Opening Day roster, but the Braves could even add more help to make sure all their starters are fresh — like keeping Kyle Wright or Touki Toussaint around.
This sort of all hands on deck approach would not only help prevent injuries while easing the Braves young studs — Mike Soroka and Max Fried, who both threw a career-high in innings last year — into things, but it will also allow the Braves to continue there ongoing spring training competition. While Felix Hernandez and Sean Newcomb did everything they could to ensure they made the Opening Day starting rotation, Kyle Wright is a promising young prospect that was electric as well. In an ideal world, the Braves want Wright to be starting in the majors this year; it’s his time.
Toussaint also pitched brilliantly in Spring Training, and while the Braves recently optioned him to AAA, this might be the year he finally breaks out at the major league level, and he could serve in a multitude of different roles. It will probably only be one of him or Wright, and Wright will get the nod first. But if the former first-round pick out of Vandy struggles, Toussaint is just a few miles down the road.
I don’t see how the rosters won’t be expanded if the plan is to have fewer off days with more double-headers, and this might play in the Braves favor. While most teams are floundering to put together five quality starters, the Braves have six-plus, and they should be able to use that to their advantage early on in the shortened season.