With the Braves pitchers impressing of late it seems like the future for the Braves in their young rotation and bullpen is bright.
Everyone already knows how good Julio Teheran can be when everything is going his way but 2017 has not been all good for the 26-year-old righty. Julio is sporting a 4.52 ERA and a 4.95 xFIP this season, a far cry from the 3.21 ERA and 4.13 xFIP he posted last season. So, what seems to be Julio’s problem? Look no farther than the walk column where his BB/9 has increased from 1.96 in 2016 to 3.49 in 2017 and although his strikeout rate is close to his usual numbers, his increase in walks paired with a career high in home runs allowed has tanked his season. The hardest thing to figure out is the reason for his very different home/road splits as Julio pitches to a 2.84 ERA away from SunTrust Park in about the same amount of innings pitched as at home where he sports a 6.23 ERA. Another crazy stat is lefties have walked 54 times this season against Julio while right-handers have only walked 14 times. It’ll be interesting to see in 2018 if Julio adjusts and is able to get the walks under control.
The Braves 25-year-old righty has had an interesting season in 2017. Mike Foltynewicz is sporting a 4.79 ERA with a 4.61 xFIP and the highest WAR of any pitcher on the Braves currently. Folty’s 2017 campaign has been an inconsistent one at best and there are times when he seems like the ace of the Braves and times where he isn’t even a fifth starter. This has been a rollercoaster of a season for Folty including a near no-hitter and 5 games that saw him give up 6 runs or more. Folty has done a great job this season of controlling his home runs allowed but has dipped a tad in velocity and sacrificed his four-seam fastball for the movement he can get on his two-seamer. Mike’s biggest focus in 2018 needs to be staying focused on the game and attacking hitters inside with his ability to get a lot of movement on his two-seamer. Mike also has a little growing up to do on the mound and can’t go sweating the small stuff, thankfully he’s no John Lackey and I think he will show much better poise and consistency in 2018.
This season has been a relatively successful one for the Braves rookie Sean Newcomb, a season that saw him promoted from Gwinnett after a strong couple of games to the majors and by rookie standards has put up some pretty decent numbers. In 17 games for Atlanta this season Sean has posted a 4.32 ERA and a 4.58 xFIP good numbers by rookie standards and chalked full of room to grow. Sean has had a problem, per usual, with walks in 2017 and has a BB/9 of 5.12 and that is going to be Sean’s biggest hurdle in the majors. He has shown great swing-and-miss quality stuff in his short time in Atlanta with a 9.64 K/9 this year. The interesting thing is his HR/FB rate has nearly doubled from his minor league average. From A ball to AAA he never posted a HR/FB rate above 6.7 but his MLB HR/FB rate is at 12% which will probably be something that regresses to normal over time. Sean has some of the highest upside in the Braves rotation and if he can bring his walk rate down any little bit he’s going to have a very bright future in Atlanta.
Although the 21 year old has only made two starts in Atlanta it’s easy to see why the Braves coveted him so much. Born in Brazil, Luiz Gohara sports the highest fastball velocity of a lefty starter in the major leagues by a good stretch at 97.1 MPH. Pair that lightning bolt fastball with a plus slider to watch guys swing-and-miss all day and night. In the Braves minor league system this season Gohara posted 147 strikeouts in 123.2 innings pitched and only walked 44 over that same stretch. In his latest start Gohara got his first MLB win after going 6 innings against division foe Washington, striking out 6 and giving up one earned run. Gohara is going to be a part of the Braves rotation in the coming years and at only 21 years old is one of Atlanta’s brightest young stars.
Max Fried is an interesting case for Atlanta. After beginning the year in AA Fried posted a 5.92 ERA but a 3.78 xFIP suggesting he was the victim of a high BABIP which is true. Fried has always had a healthy strikeout rate and a low HR/FB rate and after two quality games at AAA was brought up to join Atlanta’s bullpen. Fried has made two starts so far and has definitely given the Braves some things to think about with him after beating the Cubs with 5 innings of one run ball. It’ll be interesting to see if Fried can stick in rotation or if he is destined for the bullpen but either way expect to see his name on the roster next season.
Lucas Sims has been to and repeated almost every level of the Braves system and is a shining example of how to take your time developing pitchers. Sims is still only 23 and has had a good strikeout rate over his minor league career. He was named the AAA Braves pitcher of the year after he had a 3.75 ERA and a 3.39 xFIP in Gwinnett. So far Lucas has been in and out of rotation but probably profiles to be a reliver for Atlanta with the plethora of starters in Atlanta’s farm system.
Akeel Morris has been outstanding since coming over from the Mets in trade. For Gwinnett and Mississippi this season Akeel posted a cumulative 2.65 ERA and in his short stint in Atlanta posted a 1.23 ERA. He deserves a spot in Atlanta and should have one in 2018.
A.J. Minter probably has the highest upside of any Braves minor league reliver. He has come to Atlanta and pitched to the tune of a 2.70 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 10 innings. He features a fastball that sits in the high 90’s with a slider and cutter that are also both hard.
In the Pipeline:
After being drafted by the Braves in the first round of the 2015 draft Allard has shown ace potential. This season at the ripe age of 20 at AA Mississippi Allard posted a 3.18 ERA and a 3.42 xFIP to go along with 129 strikeouts as Kolby was able to reach his innings goal of 150.
Soroka was the other Braves first round selection in 2015 and much like his counterpart Allard has pitched immaculately. Also 20, Soroka was at Mississippi this season and one-upped Allard with a 2.75 ERA and a 3.28 xFIP. Soroka had 125 strikeouts in 153.2 innings pitched and projects to be a top of the rotation guy as well.
The Braves selected Wright with the 5th pick overall of the 2017 draft and in his 17 innings pitched between rookie ball and Florida A+ he showed why. Wright is a college pitcher out of Vandy with 4 plus pitches (cough, cough, David Price, cough) and had a 2.65 ERA over his short time in the Braves system in 2017. His ETA is 2019 but don’t be surprised if he zooms through the minors in 2018 to get a September call-up.
Touki Toussaint probably has the highest ceiling of any Braves starting pitching prospect. Touki has a plus plus fastball, a plus curveball and an average changeup that culminates to be anything but average. He had a 5.04 ERA at Florida this season but that was misleading as he also had a 3.27 xFIP. He struck out 123 in just 105.1 innings at Florida and then 44 more in 39.2 innings at Mississippi. Walks are going to be his biggest hurdle as well but if he can control them any little bit he could be the Braves ace in the future.
As you can imagine there are probably a few names that will be traded, a few that will be added but with the pipeline so stocked full of pitching Braves fans have reason to be excited.
If you enjoyed this post check out my other one on the future core of the Braves lineup which is even more exciting to me.