Cole Hamels might not be ready for the start of the 2020 regular season.
The Atlanta Braves are shorthanded, and that’s an understatement. With Nick Markakis and Felix Hernandez sitting out thanks to COVID-19 concerns, and Freddie Freeman having contracted the virus, Atlanta suddenly isn’t looking like much of a threat to the Washington Nationals in the NL East.
Rotation depth didn’t look like much of a problem heading into Spring Training this past March, but after Hernandez’s decision and a looming shoulder injury to veteran Cole Hamels, the Braves rotation is rather unpredictable at the moment.
What might the Atlanta Braves rotation look like to start the season?
If Hamels doesn’t start the season healthy — which is looking more and more likely by the day, especially since he hasn’t started throwing live batting practice — Atlanta’s rotational depth could be tested.
The top of the Braves rotation is still relatively solid, with Mike Soroka and Max Fried leading the way. Mike Foltynewicz will hope to rebound from a disappointing 2019 season, in which he pitched to a 4.57 ERA. After Folty, however, is even more uncertainty, even if only for a few spot starts.
Per the Braves official depth chart, Sean Newcomb and Kyle Wright should be expected to step in. Newcomb’s had success when called upon, and took on a bullpen role with Atlanta last season, hence his 55 appearances. His 3.16 ERA is formidable, and considering his starting experience, he should take on one of the final two spots. Wright, meanwhile, is more of a project. His major league appearances haven’t resulted in much success despite what the Braves think of their 24-year-old pitching prospect. Even should he receive the opportunity, he won’t have a long leash.
If you’re looking for a dark horse, the Braves top pitching prospect is Ian Anderson. At 22 years old, he could be ready to take on a greater role in a shortened season, and allowing him to compete with Wright, who’s just two years older, would be a nice introduction to the major league level.