Following the decision to send Sean Newcomb to Gwinnett, the Braves have at least two rotation spots that need to be filled. Atlanta will likely give one of their highly-touted arms, like Tucker Davidson or Ian Anderson, an opportunity to start sooner rather than later. Still, there’s no guarantee either experiences much success, and even if one does, Atlanta needs another quality starting option.
After Max Fried, there’s no consistency. Touki Toussaint looks to be turning the corner, but he’s yet to put it together in back-to-back starts and boasts a 7.27 ERA on the season. That’s not exactly thriving. Then, there is Kyle Wright, who has all the ability to make an impact but must grow up quickly. If not, who knows how much longer the Braves can stick with him.
There’s also the off-chance Alex Anthopoulos can find a trade partner this early. The Braves GM must be evaluating all of his external options, but there aren’t many teams looking to give up on their season just yet. And there probably won’t be many at all before this month’s August 31st trade deadline, given 16 teams are set to make the playoffs, and several others will be competing.
Until the Braves find a trade partner (if they ever do), or unless a few of their young arms turn the corner, Atlanta’s answers will have to come from elsewhere, and the bullpen is the next best place to start looking.
In tonight’s game, that was the plan. Start Huascar Ynoa, let him go as many as he can, turn to Tyler Matzek, and then hope the middle-late relief can string together some scoreless frames. Ynoa was able to escape some damage in the first, but the Yanks overwhelmed him in the second, starting with back-to-back homers. He then walked Brett Gardner and gave up a single to D.J. LeMahieu before Brian Snitker decided to call on Tyler Matzek in relief, who continued his fantastic work — no matter the situation.
Matzek cleaned up Ynoa’s mess in the second without letting another run score, recording all three outs with just a walk in between. After only one baserunner reached in the third, Brian Snitker trusted him to pitch the fourth inning too. But the Yankees were finally able to get to him — the first team to do so in ten innings — when Aaron Hicks doubled in D.J. LeMahieu with one out. That was the last batter Matzek would face, but it was another promising outing for one of the best underdog stories in baseball.
Huascar Ynoa showed off his potential in his first start last week against the Phillies, allowing just one run in 2.1 innings. But it’s pretty clear at this point in his career that he’s not a major league starter — based on the way Brian Snitker has used him and his two-pitch repertoire.
On the other hand, Matzek might be able to offer 4-5 innings to start a game if the Braves were to continue preparing him to go longer distances. As a former first-round pick, he began his career as a starter. He even started 24 games for the Rockies prior to suffering from an uncontrollable case of the yips that forced him to play in independent leagues before finally making his way to the bigs again with the Braves after a five-year absence.
Matzek’s been perhaps Alex Anthopoulos’ find of the offseason so far, and he could prove even more valuable if the Braves allow him to start every five games. It was almost impossible to imagine this situation a couple of months ago, but pretty much everything that could have gone wrong with the rotation has gone wrong. Now, the Braves are left evaluating every potential option. Matzek might be worth more than Anthopoulos ever could have imagined, and the Braves would be wise to find out.