Mike Foltynewicz Likely to Debut Friday, Here is What to Expect
With Trevor Cahill failing to impress in the Atlanta rotation, Fredi Gonzalez opted to utilize him as a long reliever yesterday which will make him unavailable for Friday’s contest against the Reds. As of now, no announcement has been made about who will be the starting pitcher Friday, but the best guess is that it will be Mike Foltynewicz as he is scheduled to pitch that same day for triple-A Gwinnett.
Foltynewicz was acquired from Houston this offseason in the Evan Gattis trade and is currently either the second or third best prospect in the system depending on which list you are reading. The Braves wanted him to win a rotation spot out of the gate, but they decided he needed a bit more seasoning and the sent him down to Gwinnett just before the season began. His stats in four triple-A starts include 21.2 innings pitched, 30 strikeouts, 10 walks, and a 2.08 ERA. Currently, Foltynewicz is the triple-A leader in strikeouts.
The command of his pitches is still an issue, as 10 walks in 21.2 innings is not a very attractive rate, but his ability to strike batters out at a very high rate helps mitigate this problem. Where Foltynewicz does not struggle is with velocity. The tall right-hander is an intimidating presence on the mound and averaged 96.8 miles per hour on his fastball in his brief major league stint last season.
In the short term I expect relatively brief outings due to Foltynewicz’s high strikeout and walk rates. He will likely throw a good deal of pitches that will not let him get as deep into games as one would like. Working with Roger McDowell will be a good help for “Folty” as he has shown a history of helping prospects and relievers tap into their potential when healthy. I think if you are one of the many who suffered a serious injury to a starter this week, grabbing Foltynewicz ahead of his debut could be a gamble worth taking. The high strikeout potential is very appealing and although he will not be playing on a good team, I took the advice I am giving after losing Brandon McCarthy and Masahiro Tanaka this week and picked Foltynewicz up prior to Friday’s start.
Long term is a bit murkier for Foltynewicz. The Braves do not have many highly touted bullpen prospects, but they do have a number of high quality starting pitcher prospects on the cusp of reaching the majors. Foltynewicz will need to impress in the rotation soon if that is where he will be long term. It is still very possible that Foltynewicz ends up being a late inning reliever. As an owner of Foltynewicz in a dynasty league, I would much rather him end up being in the rotation, but I am not entirely opposed to him becoming the team’s closer of the future given his high strikeout potential and 100 mile per hour fastball. Either works for me, and I think that being a fallback option makes him a very attractive trade target in long term leagues before his season debut tomorrow as well.