Latest on competition for Braves' 5th spot

4 questions Atlanta must address before the regular season

March 20th, 2021

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- While competitive spirit creates some interest in who might first fill the fifth spot in the Braves’ rotation this year, the competition Bryse Wilson, Kyle Wright, Huascar Ynoa and Touki Toussaint are waging is more a showcase of Atlanta's starting pitching depth.

Wilson strengthened his resume as he allowed just one run in an 8-2 win over the Red Sox on Saturday afternoon at CoolToday Park. Now each of the other candidates will also attempt to taste success during these latter days of Spring Training.

“We’re going to need each one of them to pitch at some point this year,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “You just hope they keep going out there, figuring things out and growing.”

To get a feel for how Wilson, Wright, Ynoa and Toussaint might be used this season, here are some questions the Braves must answer or address within the next couple weeks.

What is Mike Soroka’s status?
Soroka has been steadily passing each of the remaining tests in his recovery from right Achilles surgery. The right-hander could soon be cleared to begin pitching in games. If all goes well, he could rejoin Atlanta’s rotation near the end of April.

Who is projected to begin the season in the starting rotation?
Charlie Morton, Max Fried, Ian Anderson and Drew Smyly. Courtesy of an early off-day, the Braves have the option to not use a fifth starter until they play their sixth scheduled game on April 7.

How have the fifth starter candidates fared so far?
Wilson has allowed just three earned runs through his first four appearances (13 2/3 innings) and had issued just one walk before adding three more over 4 2/3 innings on Saturday.

Wright had seemingly righted himself during his first two starts this month. But his inconsistent command proved problematic again on Tuesday, when he hit two batters, issued two walks and surrendered three hits over 2 2/3 innings against the Red Sox.

Ynoa has had one bad inning in each of his past three appearances. The right-hander struggled at the end of his March 7 and March 12 outings and at the beginning of his relief appearance against the Orioles on Wednesday. He’s being stretched out, but Ynoa still might best profile as a reliever.

Toussaint has come out of the bullpen to make each of his four appearances, but the club has continued to stretch him out, allowing him to complete three innings in each of his past two outings. He’s allowed just two earned runs through eight innings. But his four walks are a reminder of what he must avoid this year as he attempts to finally start realizing his tremendous potential.

Who is the favorite to win the job?
Wright has the highest upside and he started to show his potential last year, when he closed the regular season strong and tossed six scoreless innings against the Marlins in Game 3 of the National League Division Series. The young hurler seems more confident and comfortable this year. But he hasn’t quite created that confidence that he is ready to encounter consistent success.

Meanwhile, Wilson has extended the optimism he created late last year. His only two regular-season starts were made during the final week of September. But Wilson impressed enough in those outings to earn a start in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series. He put the Braves a win from the World Series when he limited the Dodgers to one run over six innings that night.

If there is a need for one of these guys to make three or four starts until Soroka is ready, it seems more likely Wilson will get the nod. Wright could play a significant role at some point this year. But as we sit here in March, he seems to be the one still in need of a little more seasoning.

Up next
Max Fried will take the mound when the Braves travel to Port Charlotte to play the Rays on Sunday afternoon. Ronald Acuña Jr. is expected to be in Atlanta's lineup. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m. ET. Listen to the action live on MLB Gameday Audio.