There is so much to say about the rotation. The rotation is the linchpin of everything the Braves have been doing since November 2014. The rotations of the past few seasons have seen the disappointment of Top 100 prospects like Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair, the collapse of Bartolo Colon, the slowed development of Mike Foltynewicz, the inconsistency of Julio Teheran, and the encouraging success of Sean Newcomb, Max Fried, and Luiz Gohara. The rotation is the most variable thing for the 2018 team. The floor is frighteningly low, but the ceiling is higher than any rotation the Braves have had this decade. And while the Opening Day rotation is more impressive than in years past, the unit has the potential to get even better as the year goes along. This segment is on the 3 locks to make the rotation as of now: Julio Teheran, Brandon McCarthy, and Mike Foltynewicz.
What an enigma. Mike Foltynewicz is now 26 years old. He’s made 65 starts now for Atlanta after being used exclusively in relief at the major league level for Houston. You have to start wondering if we’re the suckers. It wouldn’t be the first time a pitcher took into his peak seasons to get his career moving in the right direction, but it doesn’t happen very often.
Folty at one point was a top prospect. After the 2014 season, Baseball America ranked him the Astros’ #3 overall prospect (hey, Rio Ruiz is #8!). But at the time, there were still concerns about his ability to stick as a starter. But there has always been optimism with Folty’s big fastball, sometimes wipe-out slider, and his dominant performances from time to time. Really smart people seem to think that he’s almost there like all the way back in 2016. But in 385 career innings, he has a 4.87 ERA. But while 385 innings is a sizable sample for a young pitcher, it’s still hard to give up on the talent. After all, he’s produced some incredible outings:
I wonder if the Braves know that three of his best outings have been on the road against AL teams. At any rate, it would be hard to give up on an arm that incredible. But the Braves are clearly not sold. In a move that was heavily scrutinized by most, both local and national, the Braves took Folty to arbitration over $100K. Was it the $100K that the Braves really wanted? Obviously not, as the Braves undoubtedly knew that it would cost almost $100K anyway to perform their role in the arbitration process. The only logical conclusion I can reach is that the Braves were looking to make a statement or prove a point to Folty. Maybe they wanted to go in the room. Maybe they wanted an arbiter to side with the Braves as a case was laid against Folty that he just wasn’t as good as he thought he was. Who knows? But the Braves have squabbled over $100K exactly one time, and it was with Folty. There has to be something behind that.
So what’s going to happen this year? No, seriously, I’m asking you what is going to happen. Could he put in another average season? Could he be in the bullpen by July to make room for a more talented pitcher? Could Mike Foltynewicz turn the corner and string together more of the aforementioned dominant starts to become the staff ace?