Braves would have pitching options to evaluate in shortened season

Under the watch of manager Brian Snitker, pitcher Kyle Wright delivers a pitch working from the mound during spring training on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, in North Port, Fla.

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Under the watch of manager Brian Snitker, pitcher Kyle Wright delivers a pitch working from the mound during spring training on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, in North Port, Fla.

If a 2020 season happens, it will be an important opportunity for the Braves to evaluate their pitching.

Along with their championship pursuit, the Braves are still sorting through their abundance of youngsters. Many of those talents were positioned to spend most of the season in the minors; that will no longer be the case.

While it’s not official, there won’t be a minor league season. If there’s an MLB one, active rosters could be expanded to 30, with a 20-man “taxi squad.” Those 20 players will be available to be activated any day.

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The Braves' rotation mostly is set: Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Mike Foltynewicz and Cole Hamels. Felix Hernandez appeared to make the team in the now-lost spring training, and he'll probably be given a chance in the rebooted campaign as well. Sean Newcomb will also factor into that equation.

The Braves are deeper than most clubs. Right-hander Kyle Wright had an impressive spring while competing for the last rotation spot. He’ll become even more important under the new format. Wright, 24, is trying to cement himself in the bigs. Should he perform well across what would be a unique season, the Braves would feel more comfortable penciling in Wright for the 2021 rotation.

Newcomb was transitioning back to a starter role during spring training, though he excelled in the bullpen a year ago. He’s a wild card in the pitching mix, but that’s a good thing: Of all the Braves’ dual starter-reliever options, it’s logical to feel best about Newcomb.

Bryse Wilson and Touki Toussaint have bounced between the majors and minors the past two seasons. Neither has Wright's pedigree, but both have flashed enough to give reason for hope. Neither, however, has done enough to be considered anything more than a project.

Wilson is trying to lessen his reliance on the fastball. Toussaint is trying to refine his command. Both players would play bigger roles in the new season than they likely would've under normal circumstances. They're capable of spot starts and bullpen work.

The Braves have years of contractual control with both players, but it does feel like they’re inching closer to make-or-break territory. At least as far as their futures with this team are concerned.

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Ian Anderson, the team's top pitching prospect, was expected to debut this season. It's very much a question now. We don't know how MLB will handle service time, but Anderson should qualify as one of the Braves' better pitching options. It's logical to think he would be part of the taxi squad.

Wright, Wilson, Toussaint and Anderson give the Braves starter and reliever options. They already were sitting pretty with the latter, heavily investing in their bullpen last winter in hopes it would change their postseason fortunes. It doesn’t take even a glance at other franchises to know the Braves are well-equipped with relievers.

Mark Melancon, Shane GreeneWill SmithChris MartinDarren O'Day, Luke Jackson and Josh Tomlin were bullpen locks. That's four former All-Stars among seven pitchers, for those keeping count.

In a revamped season, pitchers such as Jeremy Walker and Grant Dayton could be more valuable than they otherwise would’ve been. Tucker Davidson and Jasseel De La Cruz, a pair of prospects, are on the 40-man roster and could play roles.

Among the Braves’ other options: A.J. Minter (LH), Philip Pfeifer (LH), Chad Sobotka, Jacob Webb, Patrick Weigel and Huascar Ynoa are on the 40-man. Thomas Burrows (LH), Kurt Hoekstra, Connor Johnstone, Chris Nunn (LH), Kyle Muller (LH), Ben Rowen and Chris Rusin (LH) were in big-league camp a couple of months ago.

In other words, the Braves won’t be scrambling for pitching options if there’s a season. For many of those pitchers, it would be an audition for the chance to earn more innings in the future.

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