Predicting an injury riddled Opening Day rotation

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Made official today: Julio Teheran will be the Opening Day starter on March 28th when the Braves take on the Phillies in Philadelphia. There was a growing feeling that would be the case based on Teheran’s history as an Opening Day starter and the injury to Mike Foltynewicz. The rest of the rotation, however, remains up in the air according to Braves’ manager Brian Snitker.

The obvious choices to start games two and three are Sean Newcomb and Kevin Gausman, but there is no guarantee Gausman is ready at that point. Brian Snitker told the media on Monday that Gausman is scheduled to pitch a minor league game on Tuesday, which if all goes well, will set him up to make his season debut during the first week.

Gausman has been haunted by the shoulder soreness bug that has plagued the Braves’ clubhouse all spring. As a result, he’s only made two appearances during spring training, pitching in one inning each time out and allowing six earned runs combined. Considering the way the Braves have used a cautionary approach with all their injured arms, that should take Gausman out of the running for the first series of the season. Pencil Newk in at the #2 spot for now.

This is where things get interesting.

If Gausman can’t go in the series finale versus the Phils, the Braves will have to turn to one of their heralded prospects sooner than anyone would have expected a month ago. My choice would be Kyle Wright.

Wright has been the talk of Braves’ spring training, pitching in 12 innings, allowing four earned-runs with 16 Ks and a 1.083 WHIP. When spring began, Wright appeared to be on the outside looking in for a roster spot. Now, he looks like a lock to be in Atlanta. The Braves have not been hesitant in the past moving players who have played college ball up faster than others, but it will be intriguing to see if the Braves hold off on using him in Philadelphia so Wright can make his first professional start in front of a raucous home crowd.

For that reason, Touki Touissant – another one of the Braves highly-touted prospects – will get the start in Game #3 with Kyle Wright following him in the home opener (How crazy will that game be?). I’ll pencil in Kevin Gausman in the fifth and final spot, giving him an ample amount of time to rest up before he is thrust into live action.

If Gausman were not to be ready for the first week of the season, expect Bryse Wilson to start in his place. Max Fried is another quality option, but with guys like Darren O’Day and A.J. Minter set to open the year on the injured list, Fried’s skills from the left side will be needed in the pen. He will still have the opportunity to make spot starts throughout the year and possibly work his way into the rotation by season’s end.

So that means the rotation will look like this to begin the season:

#1 Julio Teheran

#2 Sean Newcomb

#3 Touki Touissant

#4 Kyle Wright

#5 Kevin Gausman/Bryse Wilson


It goes without saying this is (hopefully) nothing like what the rotation will look like by season’s end. Mike Foltynewicz is planning on returning before the start of May. Kevin Gausman should find his footing and become, at the very least, a solid #3 option. But the wild cards of this group – the players who may end up making or breaking the Braves’ season – will be the younger guys like Sean Newcomb, Kyle Wright, and Touki Touissant.

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