Friday night, Mike Foltynewicz pitched well again for Atlanta. He lost, but it wasn’t his fault. His offense failed him, and that’s bound to happen a few more times this summer for the Braves’ starting pitchers.
But while the offense likely will struggle to find itself, with an ever-changing lineup, the rotation has a chance to truly be a story. Entering Saturday’s game, Atlanta’s starters had the 12th-best earned run average in baseball.
It should only get better.
Foltynewicz has been outstanding in his six starts so far. This is a power arm, as “Folty” has the ability to throw in the upper-90s and he doesn’t seem to lose much velocity late into games. Foltynewicz’s control has been great, which was a concern as he arrived in Atlanta. But so far, he has only 13 walks and an impressive 38 strikeouts in 36-1/3 innings.
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This kid has a chance to be very good. Forget the comparisons to John Smoltz, at least for now. But it’s not often you find a 23-year-old like Foltynewicz who has his stuff. Teams dream for power arms, and the Braves have found one.
They’ve also found a potential ace with Shelby Miller, who is only a year older than Foltynewicz. Miller has a power arm, as well, and after two so-so years with St. Louis, he is, as they say, “coming into his own” with the Braves.
There should be some concern about Julio Teheran, who is not the same pitcher this year that we’ve seen win 14 games in each of the past two seasons. His fastball location is off, but there shouldn’t be panic yet. Teheran’s stuff looks fine, so he just needs to tweak some things on his delivery and maybe he’ll win 14 again this season.
Alex Wood has also been a little more inconsistent this year compared to the past two seasons, but there’s no reason to worry much about him either. And hasn’t Williams Perez been impressive so far? The rookie has made only two starts, but he shows signs of sticking around for a while.
Plus, don’t forget about left-hander Manny Banuelos and right-hander Matt Wisler, two more young kids in Triple-A who also came over in trades last offseason. Both are doing very well in Gwinnett, and the expectation is both could be ready to compete for a job in Atlanta next spring.
That’s seven starting pitchers, and every one of them is under the age of 25. Plus, the earliest one could leave via free agency is Miller, who is under control through 2018. But don’t expect the Braves to let Miller even think about leaving.
This is pitching depth every team craves. The Braves could use a veteran to complement these young arms, and they might pursue one (David Price or Zack Greinke?) this winter. But this is what makes organizations strong, just like the Braves did back 25 years ago when they also accumulated pitching depth.
We know the Braves are going to need hitters. Well, what’s the best way to get significant offensive players? Offer pitchers in a trade. Now, we all know that these days you have to count on potential injuries. But with the Braves stockpiling young arms, they should be able to make a few trades and survive injuries and still have significant options for the rotation.
That formula worked in the early 1990s, and it can work again now. It’s all part of the process the Braves have been preaching the past several months, and we’re starting to see some results with the progress of the young pitchers.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at www.twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.