An old business class special takes place today, as the Braves end their four-game set with the Padres at ten minutes past noon at SunTrust Park. Working folk with half days rejoice with some baseball, but the ones that can’t and have something to tune in to while they slave away may be the real winners. Mike Foltynewicz toes the rubber for his second start of the season versus another one of the Padres’ noteworthy stable of arms, Matt Strahm.
Strahm, who only has 13 career starts under his belt, comes into Thursday 0-2 but sports a 3.04 ERA in five outings thus far. But all eyes will be on Mike Foltynewicz. The Thorish fireballer suffered an elbow injury in spring training and didn’t make his first start until last week; which didn’t go as planned. Folty allowed four runs, including two home runs, in six innings of work.
On the promising side: Foltynewicz only walked one and worked in an efficient manner (78 pitches), but his control still isn’t where he would like it to be. The outing was similar to what he was showing in his rehab starts with the Stripers. That said, it shouldn’t discourage anyone if Folty needs a little time to shake the rust off. As long as he stays healthy, the Braves are going to have a first-class trio of starting pitchers lining atop their rotation.
Max Fried started his May even hotter than his April. Holding the Padres to four hits over seven innings while striking out seven may be his best performance to date. His only blemish came on a Manny Machado homer, and it occurred on a pitch all young pitchers should be praised for. Fried went after Machado in a 3-2 count with a fastball on the outer half. Machado makes a good swing and adds a run to the board. I’ll take it over a walk any day. He would buckle down and shut the Padres out the rest of the way.
That scenario exemplifies the type of pitcher Max Fried is, and why he is 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA and 1.1 WAR in six starts. His unimposing babyface doesn’t do his arm or his attitude justice. He’s an assassin on the mound and one that just found out how proficient he is at his job. Fried sits atop the rotation and possibly the early NL Cy Young race.
While it’s only been three starts, Soroka is showing the makings of being right up there with Fried shortly. This is the Braves top pitching prospect that we have seen so far and probably the top one we are going to see. Atlanta is so confident in Soroka; they were ready to entrench him in the rotation last year as a 20-year-old. Injuries prevented that from happening, but he’s finally back and looking better than he ever has.
His velocity is way up in 2019, throwing an average fastball of 94 mph compared to 92.9 mph last year. That number is even more superb when considering how much movement Soroka gets on his fastballs. In each of his three starts, he’s allowed a run in the first inning and nothing after, showing tremendous poise for a 21-year old with less than ten starts in his MLB career. Soroka is worth watching every time he goes out to pitch and could be the number 1 starter of a potential playoff series down the road.
Then we circle back to the only pitcher who has done close to enough to be considered an Ace – Mike Foltynewicz. The Braves could have an absurd trio of top of the line starters if he can begin to find his rhythm, and two pretty good ones to follow as well. Is this the second coming of the Braves’ rotations in the 90s? Who knows. One thing I’m sure of: by season’s end, the bats and the rotation are going to be there. If only there were an area we knew needed fixing all offseason…