OXON HILL, MD – 2017 spring training is still 2 months away, but Braves manager, Brian Snitker, is already optimistic about the new names in his pitching rotation for the upcoming season. Veterans R.A. Dickey (42), Bartolo Colon (43) and Jaime Garcia (30) certainly bring experience to the table. The veteran trio has a combined 41 years of major
league experience, and had all 3 of those guys been in the Braves rotation a year ago, they would have finished 1st (Colon; 191.2 inn), 3rd (Garcia; 171.2 inn) and 4th (Dickey; 169.2 inn) on the team in innings pitched for the season. Julio Teheran, who led the team in that department, finished with 188 innings.
Had it not been for a lat injury to Teheran in July of last year, he most likely would have reached 200 innings for the season. 200 innings is viewed as a benchmark for starting pitchers, and it’s a goal of Teheran’s to reach that plateau every season. In fact, he accomplished that in 2014 and 2015. So let’s assume Teheran, who will turn 26 in January, has a typical Julio Teheran season. That would mean about 32-35 starts, and about 210-220 innings logged in 2017. That would be a big step in the right direction for him and the team. Mike Foltynewicz logged 123.1 innings in 2016, and there is no doubt that Folty is ready to go above and beyond that in 2017. So let’s also assume he is able to reach somewhere around 160 innings this season. That leads us to the 3 new additions: Colon, Dickey and Garcia. Let’s assume each of those 3 do about what they did a year ago…………..’IF’ all of that comes to fruition, and you don’t see any major injuries (yes, fingers crossed because that’s a really big IF), then you’re talking about a rotation that gives you just north of 900 innings of combined work in 2017. That would be more than Teheran, Wisler, Foltynewicz, Blair, Perez, Norris, De La Cruz, Jenkins, Gant and Weber combined for in 2016.
“When we had our meetings at the end of the season, getting starting pitching was our focus. We didn’t want to rush the young guys and force feed them, so we knew we needed innings. Pretty much everybody that was targeted by the organization we pretty much got” Snitker said this morning. He went on to say “We were looking for guys who could bridge a gap so our young guys could get more time to develop, and not have to rush them into a situation they’re not ready for.” In 2016, the Braves had no choice but to pitch younger, less-experienced guys in situations they probably weren’t ready for. It showed, as the Braves finished 24th in the big leagues in team ERA, 23rd in strikeouts, 25th in runs allowed and 25th in walks. If you wanted to know why the Braves lost 93 games in 2016, the mound would be a great place to start. The hope is that more innings from the starters means a lighter work load for the bullpen. If that happens, and the offense blisters the ball they way they did in the final two months of the season, the 2017 Braves just might sniff a .500 season. “If these starters are out there for extended stays and are covering the innings that we expect them to cover, we’re going to be very competitive and we’re going to win a lot of games” Snitker said of his new rotation. The health of the staff is absolutely vital.
In conclusion, spring training 2017 will be unique in the sense that there aren’t multiple jobs to be won in the rotation. In fact, unless something unpredictable happens, the rotation seems to be set 1-5. Teheran, Colon, Garcia and Dickey are all considered to be locks for the rotation. “We’re going to break camp with 1 young guy” John Hart said of his rotation. He went on to say that “Folty is the young guy we favor for the 5th spot at this point.” As things stand right now, the Braves intend on Matt Wisler, Tyrell Jenkins, Aaron Blair and other young starters to begin the season in the minor leagues as they need more time to develop. In the case of Wisler and Blair, “They need more time to develop a finishing pitch” Hart stated. “You’re going to have injuries, and it usually takes at least 9 to 10 starters to get through season. Those young guys will get their chance in 2017, but when that time comes, it is definitely time for them to take that next step.” So when it comes to the rotation, so long as there are no spring injuries, expect a rotation of Teheran, Colon, Garica, Dickey and Foltynewicz. And as Snit confirmed, the feeling is that more innings and more consistency from the starters will lead to a lot more wins in 2017.
Ben Ingram – Atlanta Braves Radio Network