I’m working on the assumption that Jason will be the fifth starter, but he might be in the pen or sent to Richmond. That would probably be the best thing for him. The fifth starter’s role for the Braves is simply an impossible place for a young pitcher to thrive. The Braves have been much more successful with veterans like Mike Bielecki or John Burkett in that role. Young pitchers need regular work (but not too much) to develop, and being skipped half the time isn’t good for them.
Objectively, Jason was too hittable last year, allowing a .283 batting average against. The year before, when he looked like a budding star, he allowed only a .234 BA. Some of that’s just luck, some of it because he was around the plate more (his walks were down a little bit). The really worrisome points are that he gave up more homers and his strikeouts were slightly down; both of those should improve in a pitcher’s second year.
But look at it this way… Jason has essentially a year’s worth, or a little more than a year’s worth, of major league work spread over the last three seasons. And he’s been league-average, 14-15, 4.28 ERA. How many pitchers are league-average in their first season’s worth of work? Not that many.
What I would like is for the Braves to give him 30-plus starts and leave him alone, let him find his bearings. That seems unlikely, especially with the NL East (to put it mildly) not a sure thing. The Braves are holding open tryouts for the fifth starter’s spot with Horacio Ramirez and Trey Hodges, and probably others, getting shots, and Adam Wainwright on the horizon… It’s possible that Marquis has some injuries. He complained of shoulder soreness in November and early in camp, though he says that’s cleared up. Irregular work, it seems to me, is likely to lead to injuries as well as arrested development. The Braves would be wise to use whoever wins the job as the fourth starter and Byrd as a swingman making 25 starts and working out of the pen, but that’s not going to happen; Byrd makes $3 million this season and the kids make the minimum.