BS Report: February 27th
One of the main questions for the Braves this spring will be the 5th spot in the starting rotation. We basically know the first four in the rotation – Mike Foltynewicz, Kevin Gausman, Sean Newcomb and Julio Teheran. But the last spot is wide open, and the options are there. Touki Toussaint, Max Fried, Bryse Wilson, Luiz Gohara, Kyle Wright and Kolby Allard could all be considered candidates. Mike Soroka was in that conversation until his shoulder flared up again. Wright probably needs more time to develop and Allard showed us last season in Atlanta he’s not quite ready yet. So, to have four legit candidates – all young candidates – for a rotation spot is incredible. The best thing about these options is the pitchers who do not win the job could still be on the team as a reliever. And, with the way baseball is going – with the shorter starts and the desire to not have your starting pitcher face a lineup for the third time – it will only help the Braves if one of those starters evolves into a long reliever. Let’s say Fried wins the job as the fifth starter. That could mean Toussaint, a right-hander, and Gohara, a lefty, could go to the bullpen. What if they both pitched in two to three games a week and had between five and 10 innings? That could save the bullpen a little. Call them the bridge pitchers – those who may get a team from the starting pitcher to the late-inning relievers. And with the Braves having so many young starting pitching prospects, that’s perfect for them to use those guys in that role. Now, I’m still in favor of the Braves signing Craig Kimbrel for the bullpen, but even without Kimbrel this group of relievers will be better – on top of what those young starters could bring to the table. Keep this name in mind – Chad Sobotka. He came up and pitched in 14 games last season and was so impressive the Braves put him on the playoff roster. This big, tall kid might well become the closer, as long as Kimbrel is not brought back. Sobotka has a blazing fastball and has learned how to be a reliever. Don’t forget about the Braves having Jonny Venters for the full season, and having Darren O’Day on the roster should be looked at as a huge acquisition. O’Day came over from the Orioles in the Gausman trade, but he was hurt. O’Day had his hamstring surgically repaired, so it wasn’t an arm injury. He was one of the best setup men in the majors the last few years. Remember, this pitching staff was much better last season. The Braves had the seventh-best team ERA in baseball – fifth-best in the National League. It will be even better this season. Only a limited number of the prospects from the rebuild have made it to Atlanta, with many more to come. And that young nucleus, especially with those young pitchers, is why the Braves are still a dangerous team in the NL East.