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Braves’ Potential Pitching Rotation to Start 2020

Atlanta Braves pitching lineup

The Braves continued their rise to the ranks of serious title contenders in 2019. Their season culminated in an NLDS appearance after winning the NL East. Their rival Washington Nationals would go on to claim the Commissioner’s trophy, however.

The 2019 offseason was a tumultuous one, with lots of roster turnover. Brian McCann retired, Josh Tomlin and Julio Teheran left, among others. Their biggest pitching signings came in the form of “King” Feliz Hernandez, who is a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer who may be past his prime, and a resurgent Cole Hamels.

Here is a look at what the Braves’ pitching rotation may look like if the season is not cancelled due to COVID-19.

1.) Mike Soroka

The Braves have a brand new ace in Mike Soroka. In 2019, the 22-year-old started 29 games and collected an ERA of 2.68 while striking out 142. He is the clear choice for the top of the lineup as he won 13 games last season and lost only four.

Braves pitching rotation
Soroka is the Braves’ newest ace. (Image courtesy of Sportsnet)

Aside from his campaign last year, teams do not have a lot of tape on Soroka. He broke into the majors in 2018, pitching and starting in only five games. His coming-out party in 2019 saw him earn his first All-Star appearance, along with a sixth-place finish in Cy Young voting and a second-place finish for Rookie of the Year.

Simply put, this guy may be the real deal for Atlanta.

2.) Max Fried

Fried was given a large amount of innings for the first time in his baseball career last year. In 30 starts, he went an impressive 17-6 with an ERA of 4.02 and 174 strikeouts. Before 2019, he had not even appeared in more than 14 games in a season.

The Braves have trust in their young pitcher, even if he had to undergo Tommy John surgery shockingly early in his career (2015). With an improved lineup, Fried can continue to be a double-digit winning pitcher. His ace-status will be contingent on his ERA reducing, but, again, 2019 was his first season as a full-time starter.

3.) Mike Foltynewicz

2020 will be Mike Foltynewicz’s fourth year of significant starting opportunities, and his seventh in the MLB overall. In 21 starts with the Braves last year, he posted an 8-6 record with an ERA of 4.54 and 105 strikeouts.

Braves pitching rotation
Foltynewicz should fit nicely in the middle of the rotation. (Photo by Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports)

He started last season on a down note, after missing what was supposed to be his Opening Day start due to an elbow injury. But he returned to the lineup for 21 games. This season is also his second consecutive year on a one-year contract with the Braves, both of which almost needed arbitration.

Foltynewicz is still more or less coasting on a fantastic 2018 campaign, where he collected an ERA of only 2.85 in 31 starts. While he was seen as the Braves’ ace going into 2019, he fits best in the middle of the rotation in 2020.

4.) Sean Newcomb

Newcomb had a complicated 2019 season. After starting in 30 games in 2018, he bounced from the rotation, to the minors, to the bullpen, back to the rotation and then was forced back into relief after a head injury.

He is expected to return to a full-time starter in 2020, after posting a 3.16 ERA in 68.1 innings of combined starting and relief work last season. His youth suggests he has room to improve if given the innings he needs in the rotation.

5.) Felix Hernandez/Cole Hamels

“King” Felix Hernandez finds himself on a one-year minor league deal with the Atlanta Braves in 2020. This comes after he reached free agency in 2019. This season will mark his first-ever season in a uniform other than the Mariners’.

His steady decline since 2014 more or less forced Seattle to move on from their former ace. Hernandez started 15 games in 2019, going only 1-8 with an ERA of 6.40. Regardless, the Cy Young winner and six-time All-Star could find a spot in the lineup if Cole Hamels’ shoulder soreness continues.

Cole Hamels had a resurgence with the Chicago Cubs last year that earned him a one-year, $18 million contract. He was scheduled to be reevaluated in April due to a shoulder injury, as stated above. If the season takes place, he will absolutely crack the lineup, but his status is up in the air as of now.

Featured Image courtesy of Ted S. Warren/AP Photo

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