The Atlanta Braves are clearly in a rebuilding mode, and with rebuilding comes struggle.
And although they’ll struggle this season, the Braves did make some key moves over the offseason to acquire young talented arms, and of course, first overall draft pick, Dansby Swanson.
By default, after a number of changes to the rotation over the last two seasons, Julio Teheran became the ace of the Braves’ staff. However, Teheran struggled in the early half of the 2015 season, but was able to regain form after the All-Star break. Teheran finished the season with a 4.04 ERA after coming off a 2014 season where he posted a 2.89 ERA and earned a spot with the NL All-Star team. He struggled the most with lefties, but also walked more batters last year than he had in previous years.
It could have been just a down year but, regardless of how the Braves do in 2016, Teheran needs to be better.
Atlanta signed veteran free agent pitcher Bud Norris to a one-year, $2.5 million contract. Norris, who had a few good years with Houston and Baltimore, will likely serve as a temporary fix as the Braves develop their young arms in the minor leagues.
Matt Wisler is among Atlanta’s young arms in the major leagues. Wisler was called up last June and had a few solid starts before encountering some issues with control. He turned into a somewhat fly ball pitcher last season, and his K/9 was just 5.9. He’ll need to strike more batters out because his walks became an issue. At times, Wisler was visibly frustrated last year, to the point that he would begin grooving pitches. He had to deal with issues he never had in the minor leagues, which resulted in a 4.71 ERA to end his rookie season. Still, he’s a very promising pitcher as Wisler was highly ranked when he was acquired by Atlanta in a trade that sent closer Craig Kimbrel to the San Diego Padres. Although the top of the rotation was shaky last year, the Braves may need to lean on Wisler for innings this year.
The bottom half of the rotation is a total crapshoot.
Williams Perez is another pitcher who had a great start but struggled toward the middle of the season. Perez had a great May and June but, after June 26th, wouldn’t pick up his next win until September 7th. It was a trying season all around, but Perez showed flashes of talent. He closed out the season giving up just three earned runs in his last three starts. Perez, like Wisler and Teheran, struggled against lefties. Should those three young pitchers fix their issues with lefties, it could be huge in their development. Overall, Perez is a good pitcher. He has a good sinker, which is important, considering he throws it over 70 percent of the time.
One of the guys who could make his way into the rotation is Jhoulys Chacin. Chacin is one of the fringe pitchers right now. But, if things go the way they did last season, he will definitely have a spot high in the rotation.
It’s tough to say where Mike Foltynewicz should be. Everything about Folty just screams reliever. His high 90’s fastball, and lack of control makes it hard for him to get deep into games without giving up a lot of runs.
Teheran, Wisler, Norris, and Perez are likely to be the only solidified starters at the beginning of the season. Atlanta is hoping Manny Banuelos‘ velocity comes back to where it used to be. Banuelos definitely has a shot to be the fourth or fifth starter at some point in the season, though.
Although there are a number of questions surrounding the Braves’ rotation and bullpen, they’ve stockpiled a ton of pitchers for the future. Even with the lack of offense, the young pitchers will have to step up; being ranked close to the bottom of the MLB in team ERA shouldn’t be the case, especially with so much promise.