ESPN's Kiley McDaniel on Ian Anderson

Bill Shanks

For the Braves to win the National League East for the third season in a row, the starting rotation must do better this season. They have two teams in the division with outstanding rotations – Washington and New York. Plus, the Phillies have added one of the biggest free agent starters on the market in Zack Wheeler, so the division could be decided by the rotations.

Atlanta passed on Madison Bumgarner and instead went with the one-year option of Cole Hamels, who is 36 years old but should be the perfect veteran to lead the rather young group of talented starting pitchers. As for the other veteran presence, the Braves must hope Felix Hernandez somehow returns to his All-Star form, or they must hope Sean Newcomb can at least be as effective as a starting pitcher as he was in 2018.

Will the Braves get good Mike Foltynewicz in 2020 or bad Mike Foltynewicz? If he can be as good as he was in 2018 and in the second half of last season, the Braves could have just as good a rotation as the Nationals or Mets. But if Foltynewicz goes back to Triple-A, the Braves could be in big trouble.

Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson will likely return to Triple-A Gwinnett to start the season. If they get another shot in Atlanta, they cannot afford to do as poorly as they did last year in their four starts. It’s time for Wright to step up and live up to his potential he had when the Braves selected him fifth overall a few years ago.

Here is how Atlanta’s rotation stacks up with the other teams in the National League East.

ATLANTA BRAVES
Last year’s Rotation ERA: 4.20 – 12 in MLB and 7 in the NL
Gone from last season: Julio Teheran (33 starts), Dallas Keuchel (19), Kevin Gausman (16), Josh Tomlin (1)
Returning Starters: Max Fried (30), Mike Soroka (29), Mike Foltynewicz (21)
New Starting Pitchers: Cole Hamels (27 with the Cubs), Felix Hernandez (15 with the Mariners)
Candidates: Sean Newcomb (4), Bryse Wilson (4), Kyle Wright (4), Touki Toussaint (1)
Competition: Newcomb and Hernandez will have the inside track on the fifth starter’s job. Newcomb is returning from the bullpen, where he had a 3.04 ERA in 51 games last season. Will the new team and new league help get Hernandez back on track?
NOTES: The potential for improvement in Atlanta’s rotation could depend on Foltynewicz, who had a 6.37 ERA in his first 11 starts last season. Then, after a stint in Triple-A Gwinnett, Foltynewicz had a 2.65 ERA in his final 10 regular season starts of the season. Which Foltynewicz will show up in 2020?
AGES on Opening Day: Hamels (36), Hernandez (33), Foltynewicz (28), Newcomb (26), Fried (26), Wright (24), Soroka (22), Wilson (22)

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