Atlanta Braves Abundance of Pitching Prospects Mean Tough Decisions Await Alex Anthopoulos

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PORT ST. LUCIE, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 23: Touki Toussaint #62 of the Atlanta Braves delivers a pitch against the New York Mets during the Grapefruit League spring training game at First Data Field on February 23, 2019 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

There has been a lot of talk the last couple of seasons over the deep, prospect-laden farm system of the Atlanta Braves. One year after being rated as the second-best farm system by MLB.com, the Braves again entered 2019 with high accolades for their bevy of young talent. Their third place ranked farm system boasts several players capable of contributing in the big leagues this season. The real strength of the farm system is bolstered by their pitching prospects.

The Braves find themselves in a unique situation. They already have a young nucleus of talent at the MLB level. Dansby Swanson is well on his way to having a breakout season. Locking up Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies on long, below-market extensions, gives the team the flexibility to make some bold moves going forward. However, the situation is complicated when you consider the bulk of their top prospects are pitchers at Double-A and Triple-A.

Overflowing With Pitching Prospects

Many expected one or more of the Braves prospects to be traded this off-season. An established top of the rotation pitcher or young outfielder were considered team needs. Instead, the team elected to go in house for pitching options. Veteran Nick Markakis has also re-signed on a team friendly deal to man right field again.

Young pitchers Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson, and Touki Toussaint already have been shuttled back and forth between Atlanta and the minors this season. Max Fried has cemented himself in the starting rotation on the heels of three solid starts. If he can avoid the blister issues that have plagued him in the past, Fried has the makeup to be a top of the rotation starter for years to come. Mike Soroka has made two appearances in the minors after being shut down in Spring Training with shoulder soreness. He appears to be ready to join the big league rotation when a spot opens up.

But Wait, There’s More

Beyond all those pitchers, the Braves also have Luiz Gohara, Kolby Allard, Ian Anderson, Kyle Muller, and Joey Wentz knocking on the door within the next two seasons. Some moves will have to be made as more guys become major league ready and need defined roles. Many of these pitchers will have long, successful major league careers. Some of them will not be with the Braves. The front office will be challenged to identify who to move, who to keep, and when to move those players to get the best value for them.

The bad news is that there is not a spot for each of these players in the majors. On a positive note, the abundance of pitching prospects allows the team to “miss” on a few and still have a formidable rotation.

Short Leash

The Braves front office demonstrated the short leash that these prospects are on when they optioned Sean Newcomb to Triple-A Gwinnett this weekend. Newcomb is a capable MLB starter but has a tendency to try to be too fine. His “nibbling” often gets himself into trouble with walks. Manager Brian Snitker told the AJC, “He just needs the consistency. I told him last night when I sent him out, it’s up to him. He’s going to have to take stock in this and make it happen consistently. We’ve seen what he can do. It’s just consistency.”

Each of these young starters is auditioning with every outing. Toussaint came in and threw six scoreless innings after Newcomb failed to get out of the second inning. Touissant is expected to get the start this weekend when the Braves face the Cleveland Indians. If he falters the carousel could start again and the Braves will take their pick of another young pitching prospect to take a turn in the big leagues. Continued development and front office dealings will go a long way to determine the Braves success this season and for years to come, and it will center around their deep pitching prospects.

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