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Atlanta Braves player review: The next wave

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Luiz Gohara and Max Fried were impressive during their short stint in the majors

Atlanta Braves v Miami Marlins Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Our final entry in our review of the Atlanta Braves starting rotation takes a closer look at three young pitchers who are on the rise and two others whose opportunities may be slipping away.

Luiz Gohara

Luiz Gohara 2017 Stats

Name W L ERA GS IP K/9 BB/9 FIP WAR
Name W L ERA GS IP K/9 BB/9 FIP WAR
Luiz Gohara (A+) 3 1 1.98 7 36.1 9.66 2.48 1.99
Luiz Gohara (AA) 2 1 2.60 (12G, 11GS) 52.0 10.38 3.12 2.52
Luiz Gohara (AAA) 2 2 3.31 7 35.1 12.23 4.08 3.54
Luiz Gohara (ML) 1 3 4.91 5 29.1 9.51 2.45 2.75 1.0

The Braves acquired Luiz Gohara in a trade that sent Mallex Smith and Shae Simmons to the Seattle Mariners. Gohara began the season in at High-A and rapidly ascended through the system before spending part of September with the Braves.

Gohara has always shown a lot of strikeout potential but has been held back by control and injury issues. He put all together in Atlanta’s system and improved his strikeout rate at each stop in the minor leagues. Gohara put up a 2.51 FIP and was worth 1.0 fWAR in just five starts with the Braves. He was very unlucky (.366 BABIP-against, and some notably bad defense behind him in five starts), leading to an overly-inflated 4.91 ERA. However, he gave Braves fans something fun to watch in September. His FIP- was 64, placing him seventh among all starters with 20 or more innings in 2017, and he elicited the 10th-highest whiff rate from opposing batters among that group.

His performance in September should put him in position to go to spring training and compete for a spot in Atlanta’s opening day rotation.

Max Fried

Max Fried 2017 Projections/Stats

Name W L ERA GS IP K/9 BB/9 FIP WAR
Name W L ERA GS IP K/9 BB/9 FIP WAR
Max Fried (ZiPs) 4 5 5.03 17 77.0 6.78 5.38 5.32 -0.1
Max Fried (Steamer) 0 1 5.15 2 9.0 6.71 5.81 5.29 0.0
Max Fried (Actual) 1 1 3.84 (9G, 4GS) 26.0 7.62 4.15 4.81 0.1

The Braves were aggressive with Max Fried, opting for him to skip High-A and begin the season at Double-A Mississippi. There, Fried battled blister issues and a back injury that hampered him and eventually landed him on the disabled list. Once he returned from the DL, he took off again and looked more like the pitcher that had helped lead Rome to a South Atlantic League title the previous season.

Atlanta surprised everyone by calling up Fried on August 5. They initially had him operate out of the bullpen but he did manage to make four starts. He put up a 3.44 ERA, allowing seven earned runs over 18.1 innings as a starter. Don’t be fooled by his very high walk rate in his first major league stint: half of his walks came in his first three outings out of the bullpen, and he was stingy with the free passes from there on out.

Fried figures to be part of a large Spring Training competition for a rotation spot although a start at Triple-A isn’t out of the question either.

Lucas Sims

Lucas Sims 2017 Projections/Stats

Name W L ERA GS IP K/9 BB/9 FIP WAR
Name W L ERA GS IP K/9 BB/9 FIP WAR
Lucas Sims (ZiPs) 6 8 4.79 21 94.0 8.90 5.94 4.93 0.2
Lucas Sims (Steamer) 1 1 3.83 (15G) 15.0 10.06 4.90 3.92 0.1
Luke Sims (Actual) 3 6 5.62 (14G, 10GS) 57.2 6.87 3.59 5.07 0.2

Lucas Sims finally made his major league debut in 2017 where he made 10 starts and four other appearances out of the Braves’ bullpen. Sims has generally paired a high strikeout rate with command issues, and therefore a high walk rate. For example, his strikeout rate was 24.1% at Triple-A in 2016, but he also had a ghastly walk rate of 15.4% that year. In 2017, he improved the former to 28.1%, and made huge gains in the latter, knocking it down to a respectable 7.7%. Unfortunately, his short stint in the majors saw a lack of a translation of that success to the big leagues, as his strikeout rate fell to just 17.3%.

He made 10 starts without his stats looking too hot, and was better in his relief appearances. While Sims only made four appearances as a reliever, that may be where his future is at the major league level, given the amount of young arms that Atlanta has advancing through their system. Sims figures to go to Spring Training and be in the rotation mix but an early shift to the bullpen wouldn’t be very surprising either.

Matt Wisler

Matt Wisler 2017 Projections/Stats

Name W L ERA GS IP K/9 BB/9 FIP WAR
Name W L ERA GS IP K/9 BB/9 FIP WAR
Matt Wisler (ZiPs) 10 12 4.59 29 170.7 6.80 2.64 4.51 1.1
Matt Wisler (Steamer) 6 9 4.72 21 122.0 7.09 2.86 4.54 0.8
Matt Wisler (Actual) 0 1 8.35 1GS 20G 32.1 6.12 3.62 5.20 -0.1

Matt Wisler started 26 games for the Atlanta Braves in 2016 but now it looks like he may be on the outside looking in and that a change of scenery may be in order for the one time prospect.

Wisler shifted from a starter to a reliever in 2017 and although he put up a respectable 3.56 ERA and 3.62 FIP at Triple-A, he had no success in the majors with the Braves. Used mostly as a mop-up reliever, Fried struggled posting an 8.32 ERA and a 5.20 FIP. He allowed 17 hits and 11 earned runs in 6.1 innings in September.

If Wisler is still around come Spring Training then he will be trying to just keep himself on the radar for a bullpen opportunity. Anything more than that at this point just seems far fetched.

Aaron Blair

Aaron Blair 2017 Projections/Stats

Name W L ERA GS IP K/9 BB/9 FIP WAR
Name W L ERA GS IP K/9 BB/9 FIP WAR
Aaron Blair (ZiPs) 6 9 4.78 26 139.3 8.14 3.88 4.60 1.1
Aaron Blair (Steamer) 1 2 4.76 5 26.0 7.36 3.80 4.68 0.2
Aaron Blair (AAA) 7 9 5.02 25 127.1 7.35 3.96 4.23
Aaron Blair (Actual) 0 1 15.00 1 3.0 9.0 15.00 10.49 -0.1

Like Wisler, the numbers game may be starting to work against Blair who wasn’t very impressive at Triple-A and only made one appearance for the Braves in 2017. He made 25 starts at Gwinnett and posted a 5.02 ERA and a 4.23 FIP. However, he has allowed 64 earned runs in 73 career innings at the major league level.

The one thing Blair has going for him is that the Braves haven’t really gave him an opportunity as a reliever. But like Wisler, he seems to be running out of chances. Still, the Braves haven’t seemed particularly interested in giving him major league innings despite his prospect pedigree. With just 73 major league innings under his belt, there’s a chance that Blair can still come out and pitch quality innings if given the opportunity.