ATLANTA -- Andrew Albers proved successful with Triple-A Gwinnett, and he has given the Mariners what they needed in two starts since he was acquired from the Braves for cash considerations on Aug. 11.But the soft-tossing, 31-year-old left-hander wasn't a logical fit for the Braves, who are at the stage
ATLANTA -- Andrew Albers proved successful with Triple-A Gwinnett, and he has given the Mariners what they needed in two starts since he was acquired from the Braves for cash considerations on Aug. 11.
But the soft-tossing, 31-year-old left-hander wasn't a logical fit for the Braves, who are at the stage of their rebuild where they are providing opportunities to young starting pitchers who have a legitimate opportunity to provide value in Atlanta for years to come.
"We have made it a priority to give opportunities to our young players," Braves general manager John Coppolella said. "Four of our five starting pitchers are 26 years old or younger, and the other one is a knuckleballer."
As Albers went 12-3 with a 2.61 ERA over 26 appearances (17 starts) for Gwinnett, some Braves fans wondered when he might be promoted to the Major Leagues. But other than a possible relief role, there wasn't a fit for him in Atlanta.
Albers did prove victorious Monday, allowing four runs (three earned) over five innings of a 6-5 win over the Braves. But he certainly wasn't overpowering, as he produced a 83.1 mph average velocity over 88 pitches and a 87.8 mph average with his four-seam fastball.
Once the Braves had fallen out of legitimate playoff contention by the end of July, they began focusing on their future and evaluating external opportunities for veteran Minor Leaguers like Albers, who would have been a better fit for the 2016 Braves, a team that needed the likes of Lucas Harrell and Josh Collmenter to eat innings.
Because their abundant pitching crop has started to mature and blossom, the Braves no longer need to rely on Minor League journeymen. They have added Sean Newcomb and Lucas Sims to their rotation within the past two months, and there is a possibility a few September starts will be given to Luiz Gohara, the highly touted left-handed prospect the Braves acquired in the January trade that sent Shae Simmons and Mallex Smith to the Mariners.
MLBPipeline.com ranks Gohara as the 92nd-best prospect overall, the 8th-best left-handed prospect and the 8th-best Braves prospect in their talent-rich system. He started this year at Class A Advanced and could realistically end it in the Majors.
As the Braves spend the season's final two months evaluating Newcomb, Sims and possibly Gohara, they will get a better feel for where they might stand when they enter Spring Training, with the understanding there is a chance two of their other top young pitchers -- right-hander Mike Soroka (MLBPipeline's 38th-best overall prospect) and lefty Kolby Allard (25th) -- could join the rotation next year.
Albers stands as a good fit for the Mariners, who are willing to ride his hot hand as they fight for a postseason spot. But as a well-traveled hurler whose fastball tops out around 88 mph, there wasn't a place for him in Atlanta.
"Andrew did a great job for us in the Minor Leagues," Coppolella said. "He was deserving of a Major League opportunity, but we are committed to our young players. We chose to work with Andrew and his agent, and the team that showed the most interest was Seattle."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.