The Atlanta Braves made a sizable round of cuts this week while an injury to a rotation hopeful has trimmed down the competition. In last week’s edition we operated under the assumption that the team would begin the season with a traditional five-man rotation. With a couple of early off days, the Braves won’t actually need a fifth starter until mid-April. That could allow them to go with four starters and carry an extra bullpen arm or an extra bench player. With that in mind, here is where I think things stand heading into next week.
Rotation Locks: Julio Teheran, Brandon McCarthy, Mike Foltynewicz
Not much has changed with the rotation other than there being just one opening instead of two. Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz and Brandon McCarthy have been impressive to date and barring an injury, are assured a spot in the rotation. Teheran and Foltynewicz haven’t allowed a run in a combined 18 innings so far this spring. McCarthy has allowed one run in two spring appearances and through five innings in a simulated game on Sunday in which he allowed one hit and struck out 10.
Rotation Competition: Sean Newcomb, Scott Kazmir, Matt Wisler
Luiz Gohara’s spring hit another bump in the road this week as he suffered an ankle injury while doing drill work. Gohara will be reevaluated in two weeks which takes him out of the rotation competition. He was already something of a long shot after he was slowed by a groin injury early in camp.
That essentially leaves three names in Sean Newcomb, Scott Kazmir and Matt Wisler competing for the final rotation spot.
The biggest question surrounding Newcomb entering spring was his control. He’s walked just two and struck out six over three spring appearances. He has been hit hard however with three of his four hits allowed leaving the yard.
Kazmir has made three spring appearances and has allowed six hits and four walks but only two runs. His fastball is sitting in the upper 80s but he is trying to show that he has the command to make it work.
Wisler was hit hard by the Tigers on Sunday but had otherwise been impressive. Since beginning the spring as an afterthought, he has improved to at least being in the discussion.
It still feels like this spot should go to Newcomb but if everything remains the same between now and the end of camp, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them take a flyer on Kazmir to start the season. If Wisler is able to bounce back from Sunday’s rough outing, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him as a long relief option out of the bullpen.
Others: Lucas Sims, Aaron Blair
Lucas Sims and Aaron Blair are still around as well but at this point it just feels like they are behind the group above. If Wisler doesn’t bounce back then perhaps they become long relief options as well. Still, it feels like both are likely to begin the season at Triple-A.
Dropped from Consideration: Kyle Wright, Luiz Gohara, Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka
Along with Gohara, newcomers to this group include Kolby Allard and Mike Soroka who were reassigned to minor league camp earlier this week. Both were impressive in their limited opportunities and it won’t be surprising to see both in Atlanta at some point this season.
Bullpen Locks: Arodys Vizcaino, A.J. Minter, Sam Freeman, Peter Moylan, Jose Ramirez, Daniel Winkler, Anyelo Gomez
Barring a last minute acquisition, the bullpen also feels like it is starting to take shape. Rule 5 pick Anyelo Gomez has been impressive in five opportunities and joins the group this week.
Bullpen Competition: Wisler, Blair, Sims, Chase Whitley, Shane Carle
Assuming that the final spot goes to a long reliever, it appears to be a competition between Wisler, Blair and Sims along with Chase Whitley and possibly Shane Carle. The Braves claimed Whitley off of waivers from the Rays this offseason but he hasn’t seen a lot of opportunities yet in the spring. We will see if that changes over the next week.
Others: Rex Brothers, Josh Graham, Luke Jackson, Miguel Socolovich
Rex Brothers is an insurance lefty option with experience. He probably still has time to pitch his way into the conversation. Josh Graham has yet to allow a run in 5.1 innings. Luke Jackson hasn’t exactly shown any reason that he deserves to be added back to the 40-man roster.
Dropped from consideration: Grant Dayton, Jacob Lindgren, Mauricio Cabrera, Jason Hursh, Akeel Morris, Jesse Biddle, Josh Ravin, Adam McCreery, Ricardo Sanchez, Philip Pfeifer
Josh Ravin passed through waivers earlier this week so the Braves could clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Ryan Shimpf. Ravin was outrighted to Gwinnett so we could see him again at some point this season. The team also reassigned relievers Jesse Biddle, Adam McCreery, Ricardo Sanchez and Philip Pfeifer.