Atlanta Braves Starting Pitchers: A Bottlenecking Problem

During the rebuild, the Braves chose a path and stuck to their “guns”, as trade after trade, and draft pick after draft pick, starting pitchers with high ceilings were collected. For many Braves fans, it became comical the amount of gathered riches over a 3 year period, and some openly questioned the strategy as pitchers are seemingly more volatile to develop into big leaguers, hence the heavily used acronym in these parts, TNSTAAPP, “There’s no such thing as a pitching prospect”, pops up at least 7-8 times a year.

However, now that the rebuild is over, there’s a problem. And many times when those words are remarked, “there’s a problem”, they’re immediately followed by “a good problem, though”, but I’m not sure that is the case this time. There can never be enough starting pitching, right? Wrong.

Atlanta Braves Braves Starting Pitchers on the 40-man Roster

One would think that if a player is on the 40-man roster and not with the MLB club, then said player would be, at the least, on the doorstep to the big leagues. Put simply, the player is either MLB-ready and waiting on an open spot and just staying sharp at the AAA level, or putting on the finishing touches before the last leap. Unfortunately for the Braves, that’s not going to be possible in 2020.

Assuming health, Mike Soroka, Cole Hamels, Max Fried, and Mike Foltynewicz will man 4/5 of the Atlanta Braves Starting rotation. Now let’s take a look at the rest of the pitchers that are on the 40-man that are currently starters and/or could be given an opportunity to start again.

  1. Sean Newcomb
  2. Bryse Wilson
  3. Kyle Wright
  4. Tucker Davidson
  5. Jasseel De La Cruz
  6. Phil Pfeifer
  7. Touki Toussaint
  8. Patrick Weigel
  9. Huascar Ynoa

Atlanta Braves Starting Pitchers: Where Do They Go?

Before 2 of the Braves top pitching prospects, Ian Anderson and Kyle Muller, are discussed, there are 12-13 guys in need of rotation spots (Newk pending). Sure, some could be moved to the bullpen, and guys like Pfeifer and Weigel could make that jump right away. However, any move that takes a AAA pitcher from a starting pitcher to reliever will, like a new car purchased and driven off the lot for the first time, greatly diminish trade value. More to the point, between MLB and AAA, there are 10 SP slots to be filled and 14-15 pitchers gunning for those spots, and that doesn’t factor in Felix Hernandez.

Wrapup

Last year, the Braves traded 3 MiLB SP prospects in Kolby Allard, Joey Wentz, and Tristan Beck, and released another one in Luiz Gohara. The year prior, it was Matt Wisler, Bruce Zimmermann, and Lucas Sims. Even after trading 7 SP candidates, there’s still a logjam that’s become a real problem at the MLB and AAA levels.

So, a good problem? No…this isn’t one of those good problems. There are pitchers on this list that will either get moved to the bullpen at AAA and lose what trade value they carried, or some will unjustly be placed at AA, of which they don’t belong.

Make a move, AA. It’s time.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this piece on the Atlanta Braves Starting Pitchers, take a gander at the Locks and Battles heading into Spring Training.

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18 thoughts on “Atlanta Braves Starting Pitchers: A Bottlenecking Problem”

  1. Answering Blazon in the last thread, Bob Horner pulled a similar stunt in 1979. Apparently only Braves can attempt this maneuver.

  2. I don’t think the starter situation is quite as dire as it might seem. Assuming Newk opens the season as 5th starter, that leaves 2 spots in the bullpen, one of which is likely Pfeiffer due to his leftiness with the other presumably manned by King Felix until he shows he is put-a-fork-in-him done. That leaves 7 guys for the Gwinnett rotation but three of them — Ynoa, Weigel and Touki — are likely more valuable as relievers already (or at least that is how most MLB teams currently see them). The name you omitted — Muller — also deserves a shot at AAA but we can justify keeping him in Pearl while he tries to shave a couple BB’s a game from his performance. Another solution is to hold de la Cruz at Mississippi for the start of the season.

    One of AA’s problems at the moment is that while he can package several of these guys in a trade, what would he trade for? Any upgrade at 3rd will cost a king’s ransom and we really don’t need anything else yet (CF upgrades are also an option but unlikely as we would presumably want to move Ender and no team taking our young pitching is also going to take him.)

  3. And, on our roster bottleneck: Reports are that once the Mookie deal gets finalized that the Dodgers will waive 2 on their 40. Odds are those are pretty good players.

  4. I’m not saying the Dodgers wouldn’t be a good trading partner, but it seems they have the same 40-man crunch we do. Depth problems are good to have, until you have to move someone of value for less than they’re worth.

  5. I have a feeling Spring Training will be really telling. If Weigel’s velocity returns, he’s probably a candidate to crack the pen. If he doesn’t, then he probably gets DFA’ed. Doesn’t it concern you that we haven’t seen any video of Weigel throwing cheddar when we’ve seen video from Davidson and Muller?

    Same thing with Pfeifer. I wonder if we’ll give him a shot on the opening day roster, and then if he doesn’t work out, we just DFA him too. The dude’s 27 years old. I know it’s cool to hear about guys that come out of nowhere, but the guy hasn’t been good at playing baseball for a long time.

    Ynoa is interesting since he’s still pretty young, so he’d be a pretty important crunch.

    Grant Dayton is a good pitcher, but he’s also 32 and has only pitched 62 innings in his entire career. When Los Angeles became interested in winning championships, they cut him loose. We should be no different.

  6. And if some of these guys show out, then we could also trade the newly-discounted Shane Greene to someone for a solid bench bat or prospect. I think there’s just enough surplus value there to get that done.

  7. I was kind of surprised that AA didn’t pull off some kind of trade this winter to get a more experienced SP or 3B in exchange for 2 – 3 of these pitching prospects. Maybe he tried and the right deal just wasn’t there.

    That being said, it’s really a tricky situation with the starters. Soroka is the only bonafide #1 starter in the group. Max can be one if he stays healthy. Hamels is way on the wrong side of 30….but I’m fully convinced he is better than Julio. With his salary he is definitely going to be a starter unless he gets hurt….always a possibility at his age. Who knows what Folty will be. I think Newk is better suited to the bullpen. I have more faith in Wilson than most people. I’m hoping he worked with someone this winter to develop his offspeed pitches. If so, he’s my choice to win the #5 spot. Wright would be my pick to trade before he loses trade value (just a hunch….not an expert opinion at all). I have no idea what to think about Touki….so much talent…but he really needs to turn a corner. Tucker Davidson is a long shot to make the rotation. …crazy circumstances would need to happen…and Snitker is far too impatient with young pitchers.

    Out of the all of that mumbo jumbo I just rambled on about, maybe some of the young guys will surprise us this year and take off…making us forget we wanted to trade them.

  8. I actually have no problem with bottlenecking. The one thing I really wish we would do more is to move our young starters into the pen and pursue an opener strategy — sort of a sixth man strategy where three or four guys could go two to three innings each. Then you could either stretch them out or you could keep them as swingmen.

  9. Several random thoughts:
    In our prospect write-up I suggested that the best use of Wright this season is to use him as the long man, but on a regular schedule (2 innings every 4th day) and then immediately after every outing taking him into the film room and show him the trackman data pitch by pitch. Then the coaches would craft his next bullpen session to reinforce any lessons learned. Dude needs to repeat his mechanics better and this is a good way to do it — and this is exactly what the Astros did with Lance McCullers Jr a few seasons ago and that experiment turned out really well!

    I (unfortunately) take the under on 85 and would set 75 as a reasonable estimate.

    Wilson is still super young so unless he starts spring with a brand new super-effective change and breaker I still send him to Gwinnett to both save some wear and tear on his arm and allow him to develop his secondaries in a lower stress environment. I still like him long-term as a starter.

    I think Davidson starts the season at AAA just because we have so many other candidates and he only got 4 starts at that level last year. If that velocity on twitter is real he might be the best LHP prospect in the game.

  10. @1
    Right. Bob though was in a strong position, the darling of the draft. Tommy, pretty much zilch comparatively. Which is why, to this day, I am still astonished by what he did. And got away with!

  11. @1 @13 Wasn’t that a part of Chris Martin’s contract? That he wasn’t allowed to be sent to the minors even though he had an option remaining?

  12. Manfred needs to stop watching the XFL.

    The only change I would make is to make the wild card a best-of-three series instead of do-0r-die.

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