The Braves were telling the truth in November. They did not want to trade Andrelton Simmons. But when the Angels said they would trade their top prospect, left-hander Sean Newcomb, for Simmons, the Braves had no choice but to say yes to the proposal.
It’s hard to find left-handed starting pitchers with potential like Newcomb, who is rated as the 19th best overall prospect (and the third best left-handed pitching prospect) in baseball by MLB.com. Newcomb is 22 years old and is likely one year away from making an impact in Atlanta.
Fans that have watched this Atlanta franchise for decades will remember the 1980s, when the Braves struggled to find a quality southpaw for the rotation.
Look at these notes on how left-handed starters performed for the Braves in the 1980s:
- Left-handed starters for Atlanta in the 1980s: 96-141, 4.30 ERA
- In four of the 10 seasons, the Braves had just one lefty pitcher make starts
- Only two LHP posted 10 or more wins as a starters in the 1980s: Zane Smith (15-10 in 1987) & Tom Glavine (14-8 in 1989)
- From 1980-1985, the highest number of games started by all LHP was 31 in 1983 (Ken Dayley 16 GS and Pete Falcone 15 GS)
(HERE is the complete list of Atlanta's left-handed starting pitchers in the 1980s)
Of course, things changed when Glavine took over the rotation and went all the way to Cooperstown. Now, he’s the standard bearer when it comes to pitchers who take the mound for Atlanta and throw with their left hand.
The chance to acquire a left-hander with Newcomb’s potential was just too good to pass up. He’s been compared to Jon Lester, a top-lefty starter in the game.
But when will Newcomb be ready to join Atlanta’s rotation?
Well he has made just seven starts in Double-A, so the Braves will likely want him to go back to Double-A to start the 2016 season. He was very successful last season, as he posted a 9-3 record and a 2.38 ERA in 27 starts, with 168 strikeouts in 136 innings pitched with three of the Angels' affiliates.
Newcomb did walk 76 batters, so he needs to improve his control just a bit. That’s something he can work on with his new set of pitching coaches in the minor leagues.
The fastball is in the 92-95 mph range, but he has reportedly popped it up to 98 mph. The curve is solid, with his changeup still needing more work. Newcomb is a big-bodied pitcher, which has helped people believe he can be an innings-eater in a rotation.
And, did we mention, he’s left-handed.
There is no reason to rush him, but Newcomb can make it complicated if he does well in Mississippi. The Braves believe he is not far away, so even if they give him a full year in the organization, he could be ready to go to start the 2017 season. Again, with the Atlanta rotation fairly packed right now, the Braves don’t even have to make room for Newcomb until he is 100% ready. But at the latest, Newcomb could crack the rotation in the first day of Sun Trust Park.
A year from now, we should be wondering if the Braves need to make room in the packed rotation for Newcomb. He could be that close.
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