Much of the chatter this season has been about the Atlanta Braves bullpen, and rightly so. However, it’s the starting rotation that is in crisis and dire need of a move at the moment.
When Max Fried went down with an injury and to the 10-day IL, the Braves starting rotation was officially in trouble. Somehow, the Braves rotation has been able to weather the storm of having presumed three starters from your Opening Day roster, Sean Newcomb, Mike Foltynewicz, and Kevin Gausman, all injured or out of the rotation due to performance issues. Through all that adversary, the Braves have weaved a starting rotation that has led this team to the second-best record in the National League.
Mike Soroka and Max Fried are huge pieces of the Braves success this season. Both pitchers have ten wins on the season. Soroka was named to the All-Star team based on how well he has pitched this season. Fried started hot, and has slowed slightly, but nonetheless is having an above-average season.
The issue with these two pitchers, however, is their innings. At this point of the season, Soroka and Fried are on pace to fly past their highest innings pitched this season. Soroka is at 96, and Fried is at 103. Soroka’s previous high is 153, and Fried’s high is 118. And there have been rumors of these two pitchers being on innings limits.
Dallas Keuchel was brought on as the innings eater and veteran for when the young guys hit their pitching limits or begin to slow down. So far, it’s been a success for the Braves and Keuchel. He lost his last start, but before that, has looked stronger after every start. And with the one-year deal, the Braves will most likely ride him as hard and as long as they can.
The Braves still have Julio Teheran, too. He’s been the one stalwart the Braves rotation has been able to count on this season. He’s been up and down like his entire career has been, but he’s been there pitching as much as he can. Julio had a run before the All-Star break where he looked terrific. He’s slowed since, but Teheran is an arm the Braves can count on.
The last two rotation spots will be harder to fill. Since Fried went down, Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright have stepped in for fill-in duty. Wilson has looked good, and will most likely get a few more starts while the Braves figure out what’s going on with Fried. Wright, who got a start last night, probably won’t be getting another start after last night’s game with Washington. Wright has hit hard for 7 runs in just 2.2 innings.
Sean Newcomb, Kevin Gausman, and Mike Foltynewicz are still out there. Newcomb has found a home in the bullpen, but it’s possible he could be getting a start soon. Gausman is still recovering from his injury, and we will likely see him back in the rotation or the bullpen at the very least. Folty is still working his way back to being right in AAA. If the Braves and Folty feel good, we could see him back with the Braves soon.
Honestly, I don’t think the Braves can count on those three guys to come back and be big-time performers for the team. The best solution, for the Braves, would be getting a frontline starter in a trade. The trade deadline is less than two weeks away. It’s time for the Braves to make a move for a Zack Greinke or Trevor Bauer. If the Braves are hoping to keep pace with the Dodgers, a move has to be made to improve this starting rotation sooner than later.
The Braves have put themselves in a great position moving forward. The NL East lead is still comfortable, and if the Braves want it to stay that way a move must be made. The rotation has been good enough to put the Braves in this spot right now. But if the team wants to actually compete with the Dodgers and Astros of the world, this rotation will have to be drastically better come playoff time.