Through twenty games, the Braves have been understandably hesitant to throw their best prospects into the fire in less than ideal circumstances. Most of these guys I’ll be mentioning have had limited time in AAA; they haven’t seen much live-action since there is no minor league season; and on top of that, they’ve had an extended layoff thanks to COVID-19.
In a perfect world, the Braves wouldn’t need any of them. They could bring them along at a tortoise-like pace, making things as easy as possible once they reach the majors. But this isn’t Utopia, and the Braves are in desperate need of a boost, particularly in their rotation.
To assess Atlanta’s dire need for starting pitching properly, we must start from the beginning to see all the alternatives they have exhausted.
Before the season even started, Felix Hernandez decided to opt-out. Not too long after that, the Braves placed Cole Hamels on the 45-day IL. Mike Foltynewicz was next; he was DFA’d after just one start due to his plummeting velocity. At this point, the Braves knew they were going to need some young arms to step up, but their losses were only just beginning.
The most devastating blow occurred on August 3rd when Mike Soroka tore his Achilles in a freak incident while he was attempting to cover third base. A week later, Sean Newcomb was demoted to Gwinnett camp after imploding against the Phillies, leaving the Braves with Max Fried and a whole bunch of young, inexperienced arms in their rotation. To this point, they’ve given opportunities to the likes of Huascar Ynoa and Bryse Wilson, but if they want any chance to fix this issue internally, they will have to let some of their highly-touted prospects loose.
Ynoa looked decent in his first outing, but he’s more like a reliever at this point in his career than a full-time starter. And Bryse Wilson… it was easy to tell he’s not the answer after just one appearance.
The Braves have made it clear that using guys like Tucker Davidson and Ian Anderson is the last resort, but that’s about where they are at right now. Folty, Newcomb, and even Wilson — based on what we saw last night — are no longer viable options. They don’t give the team a chance to win, and there won’t be many franchises selling starting pitching this early in the season… or at all before the trade deadline. The answers to the Braves starting pitching woes will most likely have to come from within, and Davidson and Anderson should be next in line for an opportunity.
Atlanta’s concerns aren’t strictly starting pitching related, either. They also have a problem in center field — one that became a lot more significant after Ronald Acuña was scratched from last night’s game with a sore wrist. He will see a doctor today to determine how significant the issue is, but if it’s something that will keep him out for even a week, the Braves have to call up their top prospect Cristian Pache.
Ender Inciarte is a liability offensively. When stars like Acuña are in the lineup, they can make up for Inciarte’s inability to hit over the Mendoza line. But without Acuña, the Braves need all the offense they can get, especially considering their woeful starting pitching situation. Even if Acuña’s injury is determined to be minor, and he’s back in the lineup on Friday after the Braves off-day, Pache should still be in consideration for a promotion, replacing Inciarte. Pache is just as elite defensively, and you can’t get much worse offensively than Inciarte.
The year 2020 has been an utter mess, and through three weeks, so has the Braves season. Typically, over 162 games, they would have plenty of time to figure things out. But since we are already one-third of the way through the schedule, the Braves need to toss some of these talented prospects into the fire and see what they can offer before it is too late.