Post Deadline Pitching Roundup

Like a lot of rotations around baseball, our rotation’s been chaotic all year. 10 different pitchers making a start for the Braves, and about a half dozen starting pitching options in the high minors all being potentially a call away from the big leagues. But in the last week or so, Kolby Allard was traded. Kevin Gausman and Luiz Gohara were released. Mike Foltynewicz returned from AAA and has at least given us a blip of optimism about his future. Julio Teheran has all but confirmed that the Braves should pick up his 2020 option, and Mike Soroka and Max Fried have cemented themselves in the rotation. So there’s a momentary time of clarity with the direction of the Braves’ starting pitchers throughout the organization for the first time since early in the decade. So with some consolidation going on in the organization, I thought I’d give a quick rundown on the key high minors starting pitchers: Kyle Wright, Touki Toussaint, Bryse Wilson, Tucker Davidson, and Ian Anderson.

Kyle Wright has allowed 1 ER or fewer in 5 of his last 8 AAA starts. He’s walked 2 or fewer in 7 of those 8. He’s probably got 4-5 more starts before the end of the AAA season. By that time, he’ll have had about 49 high minors and major league starts, he’ll spend the month of September in Atlanta, and I would think he’ll once again challenge for a rotation spot in Spring Training next year.

Touki has been much more erratic. He’ll have made about the same amount of high minors starts as Wright by the end of the AAA season, but he just hasn’t had a run of success at AAA the way Wright has this year. With that said, Touki also spent almost 2 1/2 months on the major league roster, so you can’t really fault him. Barring a strong run through the end of the year here and/or a strong run in Spring Training next year, I don’t know what within Touki’s last year and a half really justifies a rotation spot for next year. He’s walking 6 per 9 in 41 IP as a major leaguer with a mid-5’s ERA. It’s been in relief with an erratic workload, but I would think that even for Touki’s sake, someone would like to see him wear out AAA for a little while.

Bryse Wilson is on a similar run to Wright in July and August in AAA. He’s allowed 3 ER or fewer in 8 of his last 10 starts, 2 walks or fewer also in 8 of his last 10, and he’s another one that will have had about 45 high minors and major league starts by the end of this month. I’d think he’d have a shot at an Opening Day spot based on what he’s flashed in Atlanta, and he’s got a floor as pitcher that makes him an attractive, stable option.

Tucker Davidson wouldn’t have been on this list at the beginning of the season. He’s been towards the bottom of prospect sheets since he was drafted. And it wasn’t undeserved. He hasn’t been as young for the levels as some of the other guys, he doesn’t really have blow away stuff and he hadn’t pitched like he did, and let’s be honest, there are and were a lot of talented pitching prospects for him to contend with for attention. But he started racking up the strikeouts and keeping runs off the board in AA this year, and he finished his 21 starts in AA with a 2.03 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 110.2 IP. And he’s now earned a promotion to AAA at age 23. I’m going to reserve judgment and prognostication about him until he’s had a run at AAA. Sometimes guys will have a strong run at a certain minor league stop, and it doesn’t translate up the ladder. Plus, who isn’t striking out a lot of guys in the minor leagues nowadays?

I would think that Atlanta can afford to be a little more patient with Ian Anderson. He’s only 21 years old, and while he more than earned his promotion to AAA, he still only has about 25 high minors starts under his belt. But he was a strikeout machine in AA, and he might have the highest ceiling of any of the pitching prospects we’ve had since the beginning of The Great Rebuild. I would leave him alone for a good while so that he can refine his walk problem and be ready to stick in Atlanta when he’s called up. The Braves have not been able to do that with many of our previous pitching prospects, so hopefully the new era of contending will mean they won’t play the Gwinnett Shuttle with Anderson.

Just one final thought. The concern is that the low minors is starting to thin out. Gone are 11 prospects freed by the international sanctions. We’ve had and will continue to have a period of time where the farm will not be replenished in the international market, which will undoubtedly hurt the system overall. And now we will be drafting towards the back of the draft, so we’ll see regression there as well. The high minors is well-stocked with elite pitching and hitting prospects, the major league rotation is starting to take shape with money available to add elite talent to it, and the low minors is thinning. This is the time where a team has to figure out how it will be able to sustain a long, continuous run of contention, or it will simply have a few good seasons and be back to where they were.

If I’m the Braves, I’m looking at trading two of Bryse Wilson, Touki Toussaint and Tucker Davidson to get back some low minors lottery tickets to fill the system with. Could one of those guys traded away become aces? Sure, as is the risk with any prospect that’s up the system as much as they are, but there aren’t a whole lot of ways to fill the low minors with elite talent, and if faced with the proposition of turning those guys into relievers because there isn’t a spot in the rotation, wouldn’t you rather just grab 3-5 live arms or bats back to hedge your bet for the future?

Either way, we loaded.

54 thoughts on “Post Deadline Pitching Roundup”

  1. Great piece, Rob. Tucker went to Driveline this past offseason and went from 89-93 to 92-97. Muller did the same but Tucker has kept the control while boosting velo.

    IMO, he’s worthy of the attention.

  2. From the end of the last thread re: Riley’s injury and what that means for resigning Donaldson…my interpretation of the “leak” info was that we definitely *want* to resign him, but doubt that we can afford him. That, along with the very low amount that was mentioned for next year’s spend, is disappointing.

  3. If that leak was accurate, the offseason is going to be very ugly from a team PR/fan reaction standpoint. It would be such a ridiculous drop in payroll that I don’t see how it could be accurate. Taken at face value, it would drop our payroll to the bottom rung of the league.

  4. Responding to Donny’s post in the last thread about not blocking rookies:

    Look, there are rookies and there are rookies. Riley definitely isn’t a sure thing. Pache really kind of is — based on his glove alone, he’s capable of being a major league starting player right now. And if he ever learns to hit, like Andrelton Simmons, he could be an MVP candidate. Blocking him would be a bad idea.

    Exhibit A for bad blocking is the 2002 Phillies. That offseason, they signed Jim Thome for six years to play first base, and David Bell for four years to play third base.

    The Thome contract wound up being a problem within two years, because of Ryan Howard — he was just a good prospect in A-ball in 2002, but he destroyed every level of their minor leagues in 2003 and 2004. However, he didn’t have a place to play until Jim Thome got hurt in 2005; the Phillies eventually had to unload him in the offseason. Ryan Howard didn’t play his first full season in the big leagues until 2006, when he was already 26 years old.

    That was unfortunate, but it’s hard to bet the farm on a guy in A-ball. The Bell contract was much harder to justify. Midway through the 2002 season, the Phillies traded their All-Star third baseman, Scott Rolen, after he forced a trade. And they got back a very good third baseman, Placido Polanco, who still had years of team control — he was arb-eligible in both 2003 and 2004. So, when they signed Bell, they shifted Polanco across the diamond to second base.

    But they had a very good second base prospect in Triple-A: Chase Utley. (Or, As Mac used to call him as a way of making him seem less fearsome, due to the way he’d terrorize Braves pitching: Ace Chutley.) Utley spent the whole year at Triple-A in 2002, and he hit .263/.352/.461. He was ready. But they sent him back to the minors for most of 2003 and nearly half of 2004, and he didn’t play a full season in the majors until 2005, when he was 26 years old.

    If Utley had gotten a starting job in the majors in 2003, he’d probably be in the Hall of Fame. As it is, the lost time will probably keep his numbers just short.

    It was a staggering case of asset mismanagement.

  5. Please shed a tear and keep a thought in your hearts for Liberty Media, whose extremely high operating profit for the Braves dipped very slightly year over year:

    The Braves’ operating profit before depreciation, amortization and stock-based compensation was $62 million for April-June, down 3% from $64 million in the same period last year. After depreciation, amortization and stock compensation, the team’s operating profit in the quarter was $36 million, down from $37 million a year earlier.

    https://www.ajc.com/sports/baseball/braves-latest-financial-results-revenue-slight-dip-profit/vEO8H29GN5CTnR4B5g0NOM/

  6. @4

    Ace Chutley
    it’s now clear he was held back unjustly
    so why should we care?
    because we too keep on forgetting there’s someone down there.

  7. I’ve got absolutely no tolerance for the org’s chatter about spend and debt when they got a sweetheart deal to build the park and the Battery out away from the city. You don’t move away from a paid-off and perfectly good ballpark in Turner Field, get a taxpayer-funded stadium out in the burbs, THEN whinge about debt, etc as the reason you can’t spend more. They are making more from the club than they made before, they just aren’t interested in spending it back into the team payroll.

  8. To be fair, they did open the wallet to get Melancon. But it is hard to whine that they made “only” 36 million.

  9. And remember for owners the operating profit is the least of it. These franchises always increase tremendously in value over time.

  10. @4 Bingo.

    I don’t dislike Riley at all, but he’s not the same type of uber-prospect as Acuna was. There are legit questions with his game. So if you can re-sign Donaldson, you should. Donaldson just brings so much to this team. They could easily give Riley some more time in the OF while Pache and Waters continue to refine their game. Rushing either seems silly when you have viable options. If all 3 reach their potential, having one too many good players isn’t a bad problem to have. As this season illustrates, things happen such as guys getting hurt. I look at what the Yankees have done as another prime example. Think of where they’d be if they had moved a lot of their OF depth for the sake of only “needing” three guys…

  11. In regards to finances, I know they added some pricey relief pitchers, but next year aren’t you essentially swapping O’Day for Melancon? Kakes is off the books, as is Gausman, Keuchel and possibly McCann. How is there not money for Donaldson to be given a market contract? Dude isn’t getting a 7 yr 200 million dollar offer.

  12. @12 It’s going to be agony this offseason if we don’t try for JD/Rendon and we miss out on Cole as well.

  13. JD ≠ Rendon, in both good and bad ways. Rendon’s younger and could make $200M more than JD does this winter.

    I love what Josh has done for us this year but how many years would we want to bring him back for? He’s turning 34 this offseason and coming off some serious leg problems – plus it’s not like we can shift JD to an easier position on the defensive spectrum, as our corner outfield will be full, and Freddie’s our first baseman for life.

    That said… his bat speed really looks good to me, and there’s this:

    Statcast’s expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) metric — which takes a comprehensive look at quality of contact (exit velocity and launch angle), walks and strikeouts — lists Donaldson right behind reigning MVP Christian Yelich as the NL’s most dangerous overall hitter since June 1.

    Highest xwOBA in NL, since June 1
    Min. 150 PA (95 NL hitters)
    1. Yelich: .425
    2. Donaldson: .415
    3. Anthony Rendon (WSH): .408
    4. Cody Bellinger (LAD): .403
    5. Max Muncy (LAD): .399
    MLB 2019 avg. xwOBA: .319

    If we could get him for 2/$50 I’d be ecstatic. 3/$75 could be what he deserves but I don’t see the Braves going there. I’m torn in my mind about how much I’d want them to be willing to spend. I have shades of Dan Uggla’s torrid second half in 2011, before his career fell apart.

  14. Regarding JD:
    Not that I believe it after the year he’s having, but there were legs to a rumor that the Braves signed Donaldson for a 1/23MM deal with a handshake agreement to essentially take it to a 2/41MM deal as JD would accept a QO.

    Silver lining in the Riley injury is if he’s out for the year, he could be 60-day DL’d and open up a 40-man spot.

    And Evan Gattis is still a free agent. His dingers would be a sight to see with the new ball!

  15. Speaking of O’Day, will he pitch for the Atlanta Braves in 2019?

    It’s weird how little news there is about him, to the point where most people probably forgot he exists.

  16. I love JD and if he’d sign a 2/$50 I think you have to do it. He’s basically recreating his MVP season, so it’s not like what he’s doing is some outlier, and he’s done it while going through the pains of learning a new league.

    Reading the tea leaves, I think Riley is out for the season, not sure how long a tear in that ligament puts him out for into next year, if at all. A second opinion is usually only requested if the first one is “you’re screwed, kid.”

  17. @16 Getting JD for a second year at $18M would certainly be a good deal for the Braves. But, handshake or not, someone will offer him more than that. My guess is that handshake included the QO if he did NOT outperform his $23M.

    I also think the Braves have no intent of ever going more than two years for a premium 30+ yo FA. Sure they’ll sign Acuna/Albies for 20 years for pennies, but when the AAV gets over $20M, they won’t commit more than 2 years.

    Even so, JD at 2/46 might just be worth it. By then Freddie will need a new contract and will be expected to take a home team discount.

    Can anyone say Riley’s defense in the OF would be any worse than Kakes? I kinda see next year’s OF – especially if JD returns – as Riley, Pache, Acuna. Can anyone see them letting Pache and Inciarte fight for CF? Something has to give in the OF.

    The best teams integrate one or, at most, two star rookies into their roster every year. Pache has got to be one. Maybe you can consider Riley another (esp if he is out til next year due to injury). But the other would be a pitcher.

    Catcher becomes our biggest offseason worry. I don’t see both (maybe either) TFlow and BMac coming back. And I don’t see either AJax or Contreras ready to be a starter.

  18. I hope they’ll be flexible enough to go more than 2 years on Donaldson if needed, given they’ve seen him all year, and the history he and AA share. Two years is probably perfect, but I’d hate to see them bow out over one more year. They won’t contend for premium FA if it’s a firm 2 yrs or less mindset.

  19. Always a good idea for the pitcher to swing at the first pitch when the opposing pitcher is having trouble finding the strike zone

  20. Shaping up to be an early night. Not that it really mattered, but what in the heck was Keuchel doing before he was supposed to hit with the bases loaded? Doesn’t look like we were ready to play tonight, particularly Keuchel

  21. Coming into tonight, the Marlins have scored 404 runs in 2019, lowest in all of baseball. Even against this team, another eight-run (at minimum) showing by the Braves’ pitching staff.

    But really, the entire team looks like they weren’t ready to play, judging by how mystified the bats look against the Marlins’ terrible starter.

  22. Is there any reason to leave him in? We brought up Walker just for this purpose. Please replace Keuchel, for crissakes!!!

    I have no idea why they left him in for Castro and Anderson. Just stupid.

  23. This gives the leaker some more credence.

  24. Ryan @16: Yeah, why the heck is Evan Gattis unemployed right now? He could have given a team 25-30 homers.

  25. @DG
    I think the tale of Gattis is likely a combo of a few things. He had a bloody awful 2nd half last year and also completely stopped catching. I’m sure he was offered a few MiLB deals but knowing him, I’m sure he was good just walking away from the game.

    I think he’s unofficially officially retired… but I’d love to see him smash off the bench in the Braves postseason! What a story that would be.

    Did you know he used to be a janitor? 😂

  26. Alex Wood, Kevin Gausman and Lucas Sims pitched in order for the Reds tonight. Only Sims’ line in the box score didn’t suck.

  27. All the American League contenders have better hitters than Gattis at DH and the couple of teams who don’t are tanking and want to play younger options.

  28. All you WAR experts, Lonnie Smith notched an 8.8 in 1989. Has there been anyone with a higher rate on the Braves since then?

  29. according to BRef;
    ’91 Glavine 9.2
    ’95 Maddux 9.6 (strike shortened season!)
    in ’94 Maddux also had 8.7 in a very short strike season
    so only pitchers beat Lonnie.
    for position players only two have passed even 8.0 WAR. The closest anyone has come has been JD Drew’s 8.3 in ’04 and Andruw had 8.2 in ’00.

  30. Seasons like the one Lonnie Smith had (1989, 8.8 bWAR) and Nick Markakis (2008, 7.4 bWAR) are the reason I still take WAR with a healthy bit of salt. Each had remarkable seasons (.300/.400/.500 slash lines), and both obviously played some good OF defense. The thing that stands out about these seasons is that they did something defensively that season that caused a full 2 points of dWAR which obviously boosted their total bWAR. Marcus Giles also had a similar season in 2003 (7.9 bWAR) where it all came together offensively and defensively.

    It just seems a little bit odd for a player to flash 2 dWAR defensive value like that and then never do it again in the following seasons. In fact, that was the only good defensive year for Smith and Kakes going by dWAR.

  31. Thanks for your answers, everyone. Is there a list I can look at for all-time Braves WAR? Individual seasons, that is. I’m just trying to stack up where Lonnie’s ’89 season stacks up against the best in Braves history.

  32. @4 I really do appreciate the response. I didn’t want to let it pass by without acknowledgement since I’m rarely on in the evenings.

    I can understand making room for certain can’t-miss prospects. That’s easy enough for me to understand. No team would want to block Christian Pache by going out an acquiring a player that would directly do so. I take issue with DOB’s insistence that retaining a guy at 3B would push a questionable talent in Austin Riley to the OF and that, in conjunction with Waters, Acuna, and Kakes, would block Pache… ergo Josh Donaldson most likely will be and should be let walk.

    That’s bull honky. Build the best team available to you. Before I even read about the leaker on Reddit, I was reading some scout talk that I take with a bigger grain of salt than the other scout talk I share that Josh Donaldson intends to finish his career with the Braves and absolutely loves this team and has never played on a team like this one that is so close knit. They claim Donaldson has stated he will accept less to stay and has already communicated it to AA. The same source said that Keuchel feels the same and that this team apparently feels an awful lot like Houston’s in terms of the team chemistry. It’s aid that Keuchel’s odds of staying, though, aren’t nearly as high.

    So, contrast that with the leaker, who I happen to think deserves more cred than the other stuff I read (but not my other scout source, mind you, he’s got just as good a record IMO), you’d have to believe that Donaldson will be a good value extension for this team. If he is willing to take a 3-year deal with options, I don’t see how you pass up on that for the likes of Riley and Waters because your outfield is full of Pache, Acuna, and Neck. You figure it out if you’re the GM, you keep your potential league MVP at 3B, and you start trading rookies like Riley and Waters.

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