A lot of things have to happen for a baseball team to win a World Series. A team must have it’s front office/management, pitching, and position players all on top of their game to win the piece of metal (thank you Rob Manfred) that is the ultimate aspiration for every franchise to begin each season. In this three part series, I will examine what the Braves will have to do to win the World Series.
You can find part 1 on the front office and management here
and part 2 on the position players here
Maple Maddux maintains his success
Mike Soroka was fantastic for Atlanta last season, finishing 2nd in NL Rookie of the Year voting, earning some Cy Young votes, and producing a sparkly 2.68 ERA. Despite entering his second full season in the major league and being only 22, Soroka is considered the safest arm in the Braves rotation entering the 2020 season and will be expected to anchor the staff for Atlanta. These may be lofty expectations for the young Canadian, but Mike’s calm and cerebral makeup should give Braves fans confidence that he can live up to them. Mike came into spring training talking about improving his four-seam fastball to use as a viable fourth pitch, which could make him even better. Given Mike’s ability to keep the ball in the ballpark and to induce a timely ground ball when he needs to, Soroka should be able to produce another great season for Atlanta, even if his ERA regresses some.
I wrote a deep dive into why I think 2020 could be a big season for Max Fried, which you can read here. The bird’s-eye view is that Max has top notch stuff and has room to grow, on top of some positive regression he should be due for. Max needs to tap into this potential and take the next step this season if the Braves want to achieve their World Series aspirations. Fried needs to become more than just a solid starting pitcher and be someone the Braves can rely on to start a game in the postseason.
Another arm steps up
Even if Mike Soroka continues to be what he was last season and Max Fried takes a step forward, the Braves will need at least one more pitcher to step up and be someone they can rely on for a postseason start, as well as pitching effective innings in the regular season. There are a number of candidates to fill this role.
One such option is Cole Hamels, who was effective before getting injured for the Cubs last season. Unfortunately, Hamels will begin the 2020 season injured after experiencing some shoulder discomfort right before spring training, but if he comes back healthy he should be able to provide some solid innings for Atlanta.
Mike Foltynewicz is another option to be a great pitcher for the Braves in 2020, despite being somewhat of an enigma recently. Folty was fantastic in 2018, but started 2019 so badly that he got sent down to triple-A. After he came back from Gwinnett, Folty put together a number of good starts, but infamously imploded in Game 5 of the NLDS. After all of this volatility, Folty remains a guy with tremendous potential if he can develop the ability to control his emotions and be consistent.
Beyond these veterans lie a plethora of young pitchers with immense potential. This group includes but is not limited to Sean Newcomb, Kyle Wright, Ian Anderson, Touki Toussaint, Tucker Davidson, Jasseel de le Cruz, and Kyle Muller. Newcomb and Wright are both strong candidates to start the season in the starting rotation, while any of the others could reach the majors sometime this season. All of these arms have substantial to contribute for the Braves in 2020 and beyond, and could put them over the top in 2020.
If the in house options fail to meet expectations, there could be pitchers available on the trade market such as Mike Clevinger that the front office could look to make a move for to bolster the rotation for a postseason run.
Bullpen meets expectations
Alex Anthopoulos made it a point to create a strong bullpen this offseason, signing Will Smith and re-signing veterans Chris Martin and Darren O’Day. These offseason signings combined with strong in-house options such as Mark Melancon, Luke Jackson, and Shane Greene should form a potent and deep bullpen. On top of this impressive top 6, there are a number of other options with substantial upside to flesh out the bullpen such as A.J. Minter, Sean Newcomb, Phil Pfeifer, Patrick Weigel, Tucker Davidson, and Touki Toussaint, among others. Overall, this bullpen should be a huge asset to the Braves in 2020 especially in light of the new rules the MLB will be implementing this season, which I discussed in an article here.