Mailbag Monday: Who will be the Braves’ 5th starter?

dkb190412002 ny vs atl

What are your expectations for the Falcons draft this year? (Jaxson_Mebius on Instagram)

I’ve talked about this on the podcast several times, and I’ve probably written about it even more; I’m not fond of many of the draft decisions Thomas Dimitroff has made. It’s been better with Dan Quinn involved, but I still feel like the Falcons have avoided obvious areas of need far too often. Like right now, they have to draft multiple pass rushers and defensive linemen. They don’t have much cap space and are losing a ton off what was an already suspect unit. I wouldn’t be the slightest bit upset if the Falcons drafted three or four of them. But is that what they will do? Who knows; Dimitroff might mess around and take another receiver. The one thing I am excited about is that Atlanta has three picks in the top 55. They have the opportunity to patch up a number of their holes, but they have to hit on those first three selections. If not, I don’t know how the Falcons are going to be much better than what they have been the last two seasons.

What picks do the Hawks have in the future? (Umair2446 on Twitter)

I would answer that, but Harrison Coburn recently did an article, laying out all of the Hawks’ future draft picks until 2026.

Austin Hooper projection? (Michael.Faress on Instagram)

This is a topic I’m pretty torn on. I feel like the Falcons want to work out a deal with Austin Hooper, but can they? Even if they make several cuts and restructure a couple of contracts, the most money I could see them having this offseason is somewhere between $35-40 million. Some of that will be used to sign their rookie class, and the Falcons have a ton of holes to fill this offseason. Can they afford the luxury of signing a tight-end for more than $10 million a year (Granted, they could backload the deal, so the cap hit is significantly lower in 2020)? I’m just not sure the answer is yes. In an ideal world, I’d like the Falcons to use the franchise tag and then work out a reasonable long-term extension before the July 15th deadline — somewhere in the four-year, $45 million range. However, I would not blame the Falcons for letting him walk, so they can use that money to add help at other positions.

Who do you think will be the Braves 5th starter?

This is going to be one of the genuine spring training battles, as there are multiple legitimate options. Gun to my head — I’d say Sean Newcomb is the favorite. The Braves hope his success out of the bullpen, particularly his lower walk rate, will be sustainable as he transitions back into a starter’s role. We’ve seen it work with Max Fried, and if it has a similar effect on Newcomb, the Braves will have a sneakily formidable five-man rotation. But while Fried and Newcomb are both lefties that have been effective relievers, I’ve never thought they were built the same mentally, which could mean Newk is best served as a career reliever.

In that case, I like Kyle Wright to earn the final spot in the rotation. A lot of people are down on Wright after an underwhelming 2019, especially after it started so promising, with him earning a place in the Opening Day rotation. But I am not one of those people. Wright has a terrific combination of pitches, beginning with his fastball, which sits in the mid to high-90s. The Braves may have rushed him a bit, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he broke out this season and established himself as a member of the rotation in Atlanta for many years to come.

Then, you have Felix Hernandez. I’d say he has the worst odds of these three to make the Opening Day rotation, but I wouldn’t count it out completely. The Braves won’t just hand Newcomb the role, and if Wright struggles in spring training, he will begin the year in Gwinnett, leaving Hernandez as the next best option, as long as he can put last year’s woes behind him.

Of course, the team also has players such as Touki Toussaint and Bryse Wilson, but I’d expect them both to begin 2020 in AAA. Although, I would not totally count out Bryse Wilson if he can show improvement with his secondary offerings.



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