There is a lot of talk already about who will be in the Atlanta Braves’ rotation in 2018. Could they go with all young pitchers? Will they add another veteran? Will they perhaps go after a younger starter with experience who is under control for several years? Will R.A. Dickey’s option be picked up?
Maybe we should look at what the Colorado Rockies have done this season. The Rockies are 79-65 and in the second spot in the NL wild-card race. New manager Bud Black, who was the runner-up for the Braves’ managerial job, has done this with a young starting rotation.
Eight different pitchers have started games for the Rockies this season, including four rookies. Tyler Chatwood, at 27 years old, is the experienced starter on the staff. He had 5.039 years-experience entering this season, and Chatwood can become a free agent after this season.
The other three starters are also young. Jon Gray, who is 25, made nine starts in 2015 and then 29 starts last season. Tyler Anderson is in his second season, as he made 19 starts last year. And Chad Bettis came up in 2013, but he has been a consistent starter for the Rockies the past two seasons.
Here is the breakdown of Colorado’s 2017 starting rotation:
2017 COLORADO ROCKIES STARTING ROTATION
Rookie - Made his MLB debut this season
Rookie - Had 6 games (3 starst) last season
Becomes free agent after this season
Rookie - Made his MLB debut this season
Rookie - Had 8 games (6 starts) last season
Made 9 starts in 2015 & 29 starts in 2016 - 3rd year
Made 19 starts in 2016, his 1st MLB season - 2nd year
Was in COL rotation the last 2 years - came up in 2013
The average age of these eight pitchers is 24.9.
Baseball America had Hoffman ranked as the Rockies’ 3rd-best prospect entering this season. Marquez was rated 5th, Freeland was ranked 8th and Senzatela was 10th. So, the four rookies in the Colorado rotation were four of the Top 10 prospects for the Rockies entering this season.
The Rockies did not bring in a Dickey or a Bartolo Colon or a Jaime Garcia to compliment the young starters. The Braves did, and their record this season is 65-78. Those three pitchers – Dickey, Colon and Garcia – have combined to go 15-24 with a 4.99 ERA in 59 starts.
So, this should serve as a lesson for the Braves. Go with the young starting pitchers who have been at the forefront of the rebuilding process that started almost three years ago. Don’t give up the farm for a Chris Archer-type pitcher. Don’t bring in another veteran. Just see what you have with the young pitchers in the organization already.
The average age of the eleven pitchers who have started games for Atlanta this year is 27.8. Atlanta’s rotation has a 4.89 earned run average, the eighth-worst in baseball and fourth-worst in the National League.
Let’s look at the internal candidates for the 2018 rotation, without Dickey.
POTENTIAL 2018 ATLANTA BRAVES STARTING ROTATION
CAREER MLB STARTS (AS OF NOW)
0 (17.0 minor league innings)
0 (330.2 minor league innings)
0 (243.2 minor league innings)
What if the Braves did not pick up Dickey’s option and simply went with the kids? Sure, it would be a young rotation. But all we’ve heard the last several years is how talented these young pitchers are, so maybe it’s time to find out.
The Braves would have Teheran to lead the rotation, followed by Foltynewicz and Newcomb. Then they would have a competition for the last two rotation spots in spring training. Fried and Gohara might be the favorites to win, with Sims also getting another shot.
The Braves would then have two young pitchers, two very young pitchers in Soroka and Allard right behind those five in Triple-A Gwinnett. Some scouts believe both should be ready to get a shot in Atlanta sometime next summer.
Oh, and don’t forget about Wright. This year’s first round pick was handled carefully by the Braves, as they limited all his starts to two innings. It’s expected Wright will be on the fast track next summer, and if he follows the timetable of Mike Minor and Alex Wood (two other high draft picks by the Braves from the college ranks), Wright is not far away and deserves to be in the conversation.
There may be a thought that the Braves need a veteran in the rotation to complement the young pitchers. Well, Colorado didn’t think so, and it’s worked out well for the Rockies this season.
If this rebuild is all about the young pitchers, we need to see those kids get the chance and not be blocked by older veterans. We no longer need to see a R.A. Dickey-type be a placeholder until a young pitcher is ready. They’re ready, with more on the way, and that means it’s time to give them a chance — just like the Rockies did this season.
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