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Inbox: Will Wright open season with Braves?

Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers questions from fans
March 14, 2019

Will Kyle Wright's performance this spring determine where he starts the season or will he begin at Triple-A due to experience/service time issues? -- @GlennTurner62 Whether accounting for his repertoire, bravado or pitching IQ, it’s impressive to think Wright, ranked as the club's No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline, has

Will Kyle Wright's performance this spring determine where he starts the season or will he begin at Triple-A due to experience/service time issues?
-- @GlennTurner62

Whether accounting for his repertoire, bravado or pitching IQ, it’s impressive to think Wright, ranked as the club's No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline, has just one full professional season under his belt. The former first-round pick from Vanderbilt has separated himself from the Braves' other highly regarded pitching prospects and he's provided reason to believe he’ll entrench himself within Atlanta’s rotation at some point within the next couple of months.

As Wright has proven to be the most impressive pitcher in camp this year, Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Gausman have increased concerns about the rotation while dealing with their respective ailments.

Foltynewicz’s previously sore right elbow might prevent him from debuting before the Braves experience their second homestand (April 11-18). Gausman’s previously sore right shoulder hasn’t recently bothered him, but the results of his first two starts have not been pretty. Still, there’s a reason the club has piggybacked Max Fried with Gausman in both of these starts.

So Wright, Fried or Touki Toussaint might end up getting one or two more early-season starts than had been initially projected. But by mid-April, I’d expect this trio, and possibly Bryse Wilson, to be sharing Atlanta’s fifth spot on a rotating basis. This will be the last year teams can comfortably yo-yo starters between the Major League and Triple-A rosters. Starting in 2020, optioned pitchers must remain in the Minors for 15 days before replacing an uninjured player on the Major League roster.

As long as the rules remain the same as presently constituted, service time is always something to consider. Accounting for the 30 days of service time Wright gained last year, if he spends fewer than 142 days on Atlanta’s active roster this year, the Braves would secure an extra season of control. At the same time, there’s potential long-term benefits of moderating the workload of this promising prospect, who totaled 144 innings last year.

So yeah, I think Wright could become a fixture within the Braves' rotation at some point this season. But expect to see him bounce between the big league and Triple-A rosters during the season’s first couple of months.

What would be your Opening Day lineup if you were in charge?
-- @AcunaMatata2018

With the Phillies set to start right-hander Aaron Nola, I’d align the position players in this order: Ronald Acuna Jr., Josh Donaldson, Freddie Freeman, Nick Markakis, Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, Brian McCann. I’d give McCann the start to pair him with Julio Teheran, and if by chance any of you are wondering why to play Albies against a right-hander, I’ll just say there are lingering consequences to sitting somebody like Odubel Herrera on Opening Day.

While I believe it’s best to maximize Acuna’s potential plate appearance total, when toying with lineup structures, I do at least see that by placing Ender Inciarte in the leadoff spot on days when McCann is playing creates a better left-right mix in the lineup’s lower half.

My expectation is Inciarte will be in the leadoff spot on Opening Day and in most every other game the opposition is a right-handed starter. But I don’t see how to justify not having Acuna at the top of the lineup when facing a left-handed starter.

How many starts do you think Johan Camargo makes at second base this year?
-- @DanielJStaub

This is dependent on how Albies fares against right-handers, who limited him to a .161/.237/.255 slash line following last year’s All-Star break. Much has been made about his aggressive, free-swinging approach, but the primary issue seemed to be he saw fewer fastballs while batting from the left side during the second half. This is something I’m planning to evaluate in greater detail within a story next week.

Given Camargo was the club’s third-most productive offensive performer after becoming an everyday player last year, there’s seemingly a need to make sure he’s in the lineup 3-4 times per week. He’ll see time at various positions. But it’s in the club’s best interest for Albies to make the adjustments necessary to reintroduce himself to the level of success he had against right-handers in last season’s first half.

Are you concerned about Chad Sobotka?
-- @bmf395

Even if you’re not concerned about Spring Training stats, you have to be concerned when a reliever has issued two walks while completing less than an inning in three of his past four appearances. The fact there is uncertainty about A.J. Minter and Darren O’Day being available for Opening Day improves the possibility Sobotka will be on the Opening Day roster. But if he continues to struggle over the next few weeks of camp, it could be beneficial for him to spend a little more time at Triple-A attempting to regain what he had at the end of last season.

Could we see Cristian Pache as a September callup this year?
-- @kreftosmash21

Coming into camp, a September promotion seemed to be a best-case scenario for Pache. But the 20-year-old outfielder has made enough of an impression to think he might be in line for a late-summer promotion if necessary. The kid who had never homered as a pro at this point last year suddenly has a mature frame and a live bat that has generated six extra-base hits (four doubles and two homers) within 24 Grapefruit League at-bats. But before getting too excited about his ascent, remember his next challenge is conquering Double-A, where he produced a .630 OPS over 109 plate appearances last year.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for since 2001.