Starting Pitching (likely 2 spots): Julio Teheran is all but assured to make his third consecutive opening day start and is penciled in as the number one starter this season. After Teheran things get quite interesting. Free agent acquisition Bud Norris and Matt Wisler, who came over from the San Diego Padres last year, appear relatively safe in the number two and three slots in the rotation, at least for now. The last two spots in the rotation are wide open and there is no shortage of names competing for those roster positions.
The Retreads: Reclamation projects and non-roster invitees Jhoulys Chacin and Kyle Kendrick have been slotted for starts early this spring and appear to have the attention of manager Fredi Gonzalez. It’s hard to get excited about either player long-term, but the Braves could give each of them a shot coming out of camp in order to ease the workload of some of their younger players. While neither of these pitchers are a lock to make the rotation, at least one of them could break camp and head north to Atlanta to start the season. However, with the bevy of pitching prospects in the Atlanta system, it’s tough to imagine either one of these players sticking in the rotation for the duration of the season.
The Tweeners: Williams Perez, Manny Banuelos and Mike Foltynewicz all pitched with the big club last year with varying degrees of success. Perez and Banuelos each performed well in spots and are certainly in the mix again for positions at the back end of the rotation. Foltynewicz has been a bit of enigma as he possesses a blazing fastball but his control issues led him to struggle greatly last year before being shut down with a blot clot near his ribs. Perez battled a foot injury of his own last year but also displayed the ability to pitch deep into games on several occasions. Banuelos likely has the best polish of the trio but he is working back from an offseason elbow scope and the team is planning on bringing both he and Foltynewicz along slowly this spring. Based on the fact Perez is a full go to start camp, he might be able to separate himself from this trio with a strong spring.
The Youngsters: This is where the fun begins for the Braves and their fans. Sean Newcomb, Aaron Blair, and to a degree Tyrell Jenkins all are highly ranked in the Braves system and aiming to secure a spot in the rotation. By all accounts Blair is the most major league ready as he pitched brilliantly in AAA at the end of last season. Newcomb is the Braves top pitching prospect and will likely be in Atlanta at some point this season, although he might be a long shot to make the team to start the season. Jenkins was the Braves Minor League Pitcher of the Year, and the Braves also think quite highly of him. Coming off a career high in innings, it is unlikely he will make the team out of camp as the Braves will want to monitor his innings closely to start the season. It might be tough for any of these guys to start the season in Atlanta, but it shouldn’t be long before they receive their first major league call up.
Prediction: It would not be surprising if all eleven of the pitchers named above make starts for Atlanta at some point this season. However, the Braves front office seems keen on letting some of the younger players gain a bit more seasoning down on the farm before bringing them to Atlanta. My prediction for the starting five to begin the season is Julio Teheran, Bud Norris, Matt Wisler, Kyle Kendrick and Manny Banuelos, with Kendrick and Banuelos grabbing the last two spots.