When the 2015 season started, the Gwinnett Braves had a pretty good rotation. Williams Perez was the only homegrown Braves pitcher, with three players that had been acquired in offseason trades – Manny Banuelos, Mike Foltynewicz and Matt Wisler.
All four were solid prospects with great potential. And now, all four have made at least some contribution at the big league level for the Braves.
Thursday night Banuelos made his big league debut, subbing for the injured Perez. Banuelos allowed just two hits in 5.2 innings before leaving with cramps in his calf and fingers. He did not walk a batter and struck out seven. The Braves won the game over Washington with a base hit by Cameron Maybin in the 9th inning.
Wisler has made three starts and has an ERA of 2.60. Perez has made eight starts (along with three relief appearances) and has an ERA of 2.88. Foltynewicz made nine starts before being sent back to Gwinnett for more seasoning. He had a 5.19 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 52 innings of work.
Overall, the four young pitchers have made 21 starts for Atlanta. They are a combined 9-3 with a 3.48 ERA, 123 hits allowed in 121.2 innings.
Banuelos looked very composed and showed tremendous mound presence. He had a very impressive changeup and an occasional curveball that showed glimpses of the pitch that had Banuelos as one of the top prospects several years ago for the Yankees.
Banuelos will likely get at least one more start in the Atlanta rotation. The Braves are trying to limit his overall innings this season, as he’s really in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, which he had in 2013.
These four pitchers give the Braves tremendous depth, as they join Julio Teheran, Alex Wood and Shelby Miller as Atlanta’s starting pitchers. That’s seven guys who can start. Again, the preference for Banuelos is for him to be limited for the rest of the season. But he showed Thursday why the Braves might count on him for the 2016 rotation.
The Braves are eventually going to need more offense, and these four pitchers might allow for a major trade. They might not be involved. Instead, the Braves may feel so comfortable with their potential that they trade one of their more established veterans – Miller, Teheran or Wood.
It might not happen until the offseason, but a trade is inevitable. These kids need to pitch. There are already rumors out the Braves have told other teams that they will make a pitcher available for a bat. So it’s going to be interesting moving forward seeing how quickly a trade will be made.
This is the best depth the Braves have had in the rotation in some years, and the best part of it is all seven are under the age of 25. They are in the catbird seat to continue making moves to improve the team, and it’s all because of the pitching depth that has been accumulated.
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Banuelos impressive in debut
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