How will the starting rotation shake out?
One thing is for sure, there is no shortage of candidates to fill out the starting rotation for the Braves. Though just 24 years old, Julio Teheran is now the veteran of the staff and will head into the season as the Braves most proven starter. After Teheran, there are question marks abound for skipper Fredi Gonzalez and pitching coach Roger McDowell. Matt Wisler experienced an up-and-down rookie campaign, but came on strong in September and the former top-50 prospect is likely assured a spot in the rotation at least to begin the season.
Behind Teheran and Wisler is really where the fun begins. Manny Banuelos, Mike Foltynewicz and Williams Perez all were given the opportunity to start in 2015 with a modicum of success. Also just 24, Foltynewicz’s high 90’s fastball offers the most upside, but he struggled mightily with a 5.71 ERA over 18 games (15 starts) last year. It is looking more likely that Foltynewicz’s arm might be best suited in the bullpen, but the Braves will give his tantalizing arm at least one more shot to stick as a starter. Banuelos, a former Yankees top prospect, showed last year he could get Major League batters out, but has battled arm issues for much of the past three seasons. Williams Perez doesn’t wow you with his stuff, but seemed to have a good grasp on how to pitch and will also get another long look in camp.
Also under consideration are a handful of top prospects waiting in the minors. It has also been well documented the Braves have been stockpiling arms as part of their rebuild. As it stands now, it appears that newly acquired Sean Newcomb (Simmons trade) and Aaron Blair (Miller trade) are the closest to the majors, followed by Tyrell Jenkins. Lest we not forget, the Braves also signed veterans Bud Norris and Jhoulys Chacin to potentially provide depth and a veteran presence to the staff.
Right now, injuries not withstanding, if I had to pick the five pitchers to log the most starts for the Braves this year I would go with Teheran, Wisler, Norris, Newcomb and Williams Perez. It will be VERY interesting to see which young players take advantage of the opportunity in front of them in 2016.