Braves Rotation Needs Changes

W L ERA GS IP H ER HR BB IBB K HBP

0

12

6.81

20

95.2

114

72

18

43

3

51

6

That is not a very good stat line. That’s not even a mediocre line for a starting pitcher. No, that’s a very bad line for a pitcher to tote around in the starting rotation. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what happens when you combine what Aaron Blair and Joel De La Cruz have been doing for the Braves their combined 20 starts on the 2016 season. It’s time for a change. A lot of these numbers are inflated by Blair’s 8.30 ERA on the season, but understand that De La Cruz has definitely been part of the issue. So what do the Braves do? Luckily I have some cheap, easy options for the team to consider.

Promote Jed Bradley

Since acquiring Jed Bradley from the Milwaukee Brewers in May, the Braves worked with the former first-round pick’s delivery to add more tilt on his fastball. The results have been outstanding. Here is what Bradley has done in 12 starts for the Braves in AA Mississippi and AAA Gwinnett:

W L ERA GS IP H ER HR BB IBB K HBP

5

2

1.96

12

69

63

15

0

25

0

75

1

Many will look to Bradley’s 1.96 ERA as the high mark of this line, but the thing that should impress everyone is the fact that the left-hander has not allowed a home run since joining the rotation in Mississippi. When you add that along with his 3:1 K/BB ratio and the fact that he is striking out 9.78 batters per nine innings, Bradley looks to have the peripherals to perform well at the big league level.

It should be noted, however, that Bradley is 26-years-old and that these success stories rarely work out. Ryan Vogelsong and R.A. Dickey like MLB redemptions are few and far between, but they do occur. Another thing to monitor with Bradley is his workload. He’s already thrown 107.1 innings this season, which is closing in on the 147.1 that he amassed in 2014. Another issue that arises is the fact that the Braves would need to create a 40-man roster spot for Bradley to take a spot on the big league roster, but it isn’t as if the Braves don’t have eligible candidates.

Sign Mat Latos

I know this one sounds a little crazy, as Mat Latos struggled with the Chicago White Sox this season in 60.1 innings, but things have turned around since the right-hander joined the Washington Nationals organization in June. Latos signed a minor league deal in late June with the Nats and has performed admirably in 28 innings between rookie ball and AAA. Here is an excerpt from MLB Trade Rumors.

Since joining the Nats system, however, Latos has a 1.29 ERA, 2.8 K/BB rate and 28 strikeouts over 28 innings split between rookie ball and Triple-A.  As you might expect, those numbers are largely weighted towards Latos dominating the rookie league; while he has a 1.06 ERA over 17 frames at Triple-A Syracuse, his 5.3 K/9 indicates that Latos is still having problems missing bats against tougher competition.  The righty has battled knee injuries and a likely-related loss of velocity in recent years, averaging around 90mph over the last two seasons.”

Since the Nationals rotation is already deep, Latos might not have the best chance of earning a job with the club. He can opt out of his minor-league deal with the Nationals if he isn’t added to the team’s 25-man roster by Monday.

Latos might not seem like a significant upgrade over De La Cruz, but he was a top prospect that experienced success at the major league level as recent as 2014. Albeit, he made just 16 starts in an injury plagued season but it’s hard to discredit all the work he did from 2010-2014. Latos might not find success in Atlanta, but the Braves seemed to revitalize Bud Norris‘ career before shipping him off to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Maybe the same could be done with Latos, who will be a free agent this offseason.

Promote Sean Newcomb

Just hear me out! Look at his last eight starts and you can stop reading if you want to.

W L ERA GS IP H ER HR BB IBB K HBP

3

0

2.65

8

44.2

29

13

0

20

0

52

3

You’d like to see the walks go down, but what is encouraging is the 10.58 K/9 ratio and that he has not allowed a home run in those eight starts, which correlates with his increasing ground outs/air outs ratio. The Braves had Dansby Swanson skip AAA, so if they feel that Sean Newcomb is ready there is no reason to think he too wouldn’t skip an already crowded Gwinnett rotation. Newcomb actually has numbers that rivaled the No. 1 prospect in baseball entering the 2016 season (Lucas Giolito) and has the scouting report to match up with him. I don’t know if he’ll have instant success, but can it be any worse than what you’ve seen out of Blair, De La Cruz or Tyrell Jenkins recently?

In Conclusion

There is no set answer of a clear fix for this rotation. You don’t want to have a clubhouse carousel with the rotation, but, at the same time, you can’t keep trotting out players that aren’t giving you a chance to win. Blair needs more seasoning and De La Cruz is a depth piece that should only see big league action if there’s been a catastrophe. Jenkins struggled and Rob Whalen struggled. John Gant still needs to get his footing underneath him, as he’s coming back from missing nearly two months of action and just got optioned back to Triple-A Gwinnett. There are, however, options both internally and externally for the Braves to consider.

This is by no means a “hate piece” on Blair, Jenkins, Gant or any of the other young players the Braves have started in 2016, it’s merely a piece to show that they aren’t working right now. I love Blair’s potential and I think the other three have the ceiling to be No. 3 starters at the big league level as. They just need more seasoning.

What the Braves need are changes for September 2016 and they should happen sooner rather than later.

Man, I miss Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz.

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