Cleat Geeks

Bravos Buzz

Youth on the Mound

Spring training has officially begun! Unfortunately, Braves fans don’t have a whole lot to be excited about heading into the 2016 season because the Braves don’t have a very good team from top to bottom. If the Braves manage to be a .500 team this year, that would be a huge success based on what they are working with.

The good news is that help is on the way. This past offseason, the Braves made a lot of trades and transactions that brought a plethora of young talent into the organization. What was particularly noticeable was how they aggressively acquired a stockpile of pitching prospects. As an organizational philosophy, the Braves want to win with pitching in the future. So, the good news is that if all goes as planned, the Braves will have a good team in just a few years. The bad news is that they may be tough to watch at the Major League level in the meantime as their young players improve and go through growing pains.

This week, we are going to continue our examination of the Braves’ battery. Last week we covered the catchers, so now it’s time to delve into the starting pitchers.

Pitching

The Braves do have some veteran arms in their pitching staff, but not many. When looking at the Braves’ pitchers, one thing stands out. They are very, very young. A lot of youth on a pitching staff can be both good and bad. It’s good because we’re assuming that these young pitchers are going to get better and better and perhaps be great one day. Also, young arms tend to break down less often than old ones, so pitch-counts won’t be as big of an issue as they would be for a mostly veteran staff. Youth can be bad because there is no substitute for experience; when things start to get hectic, it’s hard to rely on young guys to keep their composure.

The best pitcher on the staff heading into the 2016 campaign is probably Julio Teherán, and he’ll definitely be considered as the Braves’ ace. Teherán just turned 25 in January, so like a lot of his peers in the Braves’ pitching department, he still hasn’t hit his prime. He was an All-Star in 2014, but he took a significant step back last year in production. Hopefully he’ll return to All-Star quality this year.

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Julio Teherán

The second guy in the rotation could wind up being Matt Wisler. Wisler is only 23. He has a bright future, but at this point in his career he’s pretty mediocre. Last year was his rookie campaign, and it was less than stellar. He had a 4.71 ERA over 108 innings. He has to improve, and most likely he will.

Pitcher No. 3 might be 24-year-old Mike Foltynewicz. Much like Wisler, Foltynewicz is a young guy with a lot of upside who has been unimpressive thus far at the Major League level. The hard-throwing right-hander is hoping to make a splash in 2016, but he does have some scary blood clotting issues that he is trying to recover from. If he’s healthy, he can be a solid starter for the Braves.

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Mike Foltynewicz

The No. 4 pitcher in the rotation is difficult to predict at this point. It could be a number of guys. Most likely, the spot will go to whichever young pitcher impresses the most during spring workouts. The candidates are Williams Perez, Ryan Weber, Tyrell Jenkins, and Manny Banuelos — none of which are over 25 years old. Perez is my pick to win the job because of the fact that he has the more MLB experience than the rest of the lot.

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Williams Perez

The number five starter will probably be Bud Norris. Norris is the only guy in the starting rotation who’s not in his early or mid twenties, but it’s not like he’s ancient either. He’s 30. He’s not a great pitcher, but he’s solid enough to make some decent contributions. His contract only costs $2.5 million this year. For the price, he serves as a nice Band-Aid until one of the younger guys is ready to nab a starting spot.

The Braves’ starting pitchers definitely won’t be the best in baseball, but they may be the youngest, which does give the situation a bit of a silver lining. Furthermore, there is a good chance that the starting rotation will change throughout the year as the Braves learn what they have in some of the young talent that they acquired. It might not be an extremely competitive year for the Bravos, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be an interesting one.

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