The Future of Mike Foltynewicz

Mike Foltynewicz has been a puzzle ever since joining the organization. He was the main piece acquired in the trade for Evan Gattis. It might be the one trade that John Hart will look back on and say, I may have missed on that one. However, it is obvious to see what Hart saw in Folty. He is young with a perfect pitcher’s body at 6 feet 4 inches and 220 pounds. His pitches include a fastball that can touch 100 mph and a hook that can drop off the table. It seemed he was a great talent on the cusp of being MLB ready. Folty dominated AAA and was called up to take Trevor Cahill’s spot in the rotation. However, since joining the majors, Folty’s performance has been erratic, and even though he has the stuff, he has not been successful as a starter in the majors.

It is tough to get a grasp on Mike Foltynewicz. He has had starts were he was absolutely dominant. He controlled his pitches well, and pounded the strike zone with high 90’s fastball. However in some starts he really struggles with his control. The stats do not do his control issues justice. He only has 18 walks in 54.2 innings pitched, which is not bad at all. But when watching Folty, he gets behind in a lot of counts and is forced to give in. He has gotten hammered with 70 hits in those 52+ innings because he is constantly in positions were he must throw fastballs over the heart of the plate. A high 90’s fastball is a great weapon to have, but can only be effective if the pitcher has the offspeed stuff and control to match. Folty’s struggles landed him back in AAA, however, because of bullpen struggles, Folty came back up to the majors as a relief pitcher. He only made three appearances as a relief pitcher for the Braves, but he had success and very well could be a player who is better served out of the bullpen.

Some players just do not have what it takes to be a starter. It is not a knock on them, but they are just mentally better served to handle an inning here and there. The same thing can be said about some guys throwing out of the bullpen. Take a look at Wade Davis. Davis was a 3rd round pick in 2004 and came up with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009. He is a fireballer with a very similar build to Folty. For 3 years the Rays tried and tried to make Davis a starter, but things never really panned out. He was never awful and the stuff was there, but he seemed like a guy who could really thrive in relief. The Rays moved Davis to the bullpen in 2012 and he pitched in 54 games for the team with a 3-0 record and 2.43 ERA. He was terrific, but he moved to the Kansas City Royals organization prior to the 2013 season. The Royals tried to make Davis a starter again, but he once again proved he was better served as a reliever. He was moved back to the bullpen and has been magnificent ever since. In 2014 Davis pitched in 71 games for the Royals in relief posting a 9-2 record with a 1.00 ERA. There is no way those numbers could get better right? False, Davis in 2015 is 5-1 with a 0.46 ERA. He made his first All-Star appearance and has done wonders for the Royals’ ball club.

The Braves currently have an overload of starting pitchers. The rotation is filled with young hungry guys who have had success at all levels of professional baseball. Mike Foltynewicz is a spectacle to watch, and the Braves are opting to send him back down to AAA after the All-Star break in hopes he can develop into a great starting pitcher. While I would love to see Folty dominate the MLB as a starter, his days are numbered. The Braves have to many starting pitchers at their disposal, so moves will have to be made. Folty spent his time in the majors with the Astros as a reliever and struggled as well, but it was brief and I firmly believe that could change. Mike Foltynewicz has a tremendous amount of talent, but at the moment, his future is cloudy at best. It’s unclear what kind of role he will carve out for himself.


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