TDG’s Triple Play: Atlanta Braves!
Your senior dynasty analysts enter the second season of the Triple Play! The regular feature breaks down an arm, a bat, and a prospect within each organization for your reading pleasure!
Mike Foltynewicz, Age: 27, SP
Analysis by: Keaton O. DeRocher
Folty Folty Throwing Lightningboltys
Originally drafted by the Astros in the 2010 draft, Foltynewicz was traded to the Braves in the deal that sent Evan Gattis to Houston. Coming up through the minors, Foltynewicz’ calling card was his with-movement fastball that sat upper 90’s and touched triple digits at times, leading MLB.com to slap a future 80 grade on it. His changeup was his best secondary pitch but his curve wasn’t far behind. Like most hurlers who rely on heat, Foltynewicz had his issues with control, constantly posting BB/9 over 4.00 all throughout the minors.
At the major league level, he was able to rein in the walks to a more realistic range, but he continued to rely on his fastball over 50% of the time, which at times became predictable to hitters. In his first three seasons at the Major League level (2015-2017), Foltynewicz struggled to the tune of a 4.85 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP. The two biggest factors in his struggles were inconsistent mechanics and relying on his fastball too often.
In 2018 Folty was able to fix both issues and have a breakout season that saw him achieve his first all-star nod. How, you ask? They often say that the most obvious answer is the simplest, and that was certainly the case with Foltynewicz. To combat his inconsistent mechanics he simplified his motion, opting to pitch exclusively out of the stretch. In his own words, it was all about “Keeping things quiet” and eliminating excess moving parts to his delivery. Similar to the simple solution to his motion, the simple solution to throwing too many fastballs was to not throw as many fastballs. He reduced his heater usage from 50% to 40% and increased his slider usage and made it his go-to secondary offering. Those two simple changes shot Foltynewicz off like a rocket in compiling an impressive season line of a 2.85 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and a career-high strike-outs-per-nine at 9.93.
Currently hampered by an elbow injury that has being ready for opening day in doubt, our own Dr. Mike spoke about Foltynewicz injury on episode 66 of Dynasty’s Child and noted he is not too concerned that it will really hold him back once on the mound again. Dr. Mike’s read from the Braves was that there was no tear and they just need time for the inflammation to subside in order to avoid issues with the surrounding tissue in his arm. Whether he misses Opening Day or not, this doesn’t seem to be an injury that will derail his 2019 season or beyond.
The biggest thing to look for in projecting if someone’s performance is sustainable is to look at the specific changes that were made. With Foltynewicz, both pitching from the stretch and mixing his pitches are very sustainable. It’s easy enough to expect then that his breakout season was no joke and those all-star numbers are repeatable going forward. Entering his age 27 season he should be an easy pitcher to rely on, especially with an organization that has maintained consistent results from its pitchers. Foltynewicz’ dynasty value is at its peak now, so there a chance you missed the window to acquire but if anyone is worried about his current injury, jump on it.
Ronald Acuna Jr., 21, Outfield
Analysis by: Patrick Magnus
The Acuna Craze That Swept The Nation
Before Vladito-mania, there was a guy named Ronald Acuna Jr., and he was at the top of the Prospect Hill. After missing time in 2016 due to a thumb injury, Acuna burnt the minor leagues down in 2017, as he mashed at from A-Ball to Triple-A. He flashed power, speed, and the ability to hit the ball to all parts of the park in the minors. Which meant he wasn’t ready for the major leagues, obviously. Cause who wants a player who’s shown all the skills necessary to succeed at the Major League level, when you can have another year of control over said player. With essentially nothing to work on in the minors in 2018, he began the year in Triple-A.
The Savior Arrives…Three Weeks into March
Miraculously, three weeks into the 2018 season, Acuna was ready for the Majors. And boy was he ever. Due to service-time manipulation and a UCL sprain, Acuna only received 487 at-bats. Yet he definitely made them all count as he slashed .293/.368/.552 with 26 home runs and 16 stolen bases. The young Atlanta outfielder was everything he was promised to be. He squared up pitches, barreling a whopping 13.4% of them, crushing them at 90.8 MPH, and posting a 46.6% hard hit rate (good for top 9% in the league). At only 21 years of age, it’s time to start dreaming about what the All-Star can do with a full season of at-bats.
2019 a Full Season of Glorious Stats?
What can we expect from the phenom in 2019? More of the gosh-darn same thing, because he’s stupidly talented. The one area where we’ll likely see regression is his average. While he’s essentially a superhuman, the dude still struggles with breaking balls a bit, batting .260 on breaking pitches but with an xBA of .240. He fared much better against fastballs and off-speed pitches, but he did over perform on these pitches as well. Nothing drastic, but don’t go expecting him to bat .300 next year when it’ll be closer to .270.
Acuna will still bring the power and the speed stats us dynasty owners crave though. Given 600 at-bats we’re talking a good shot at him going 30/30. According to Roster Resource, he’ll be batting lead off, with a budding Atlanta offense, and strong OBP numbers. We could see 100+ runs scored here as well. Let’s just pray that this dominant force stays on the field.
While the national conversation has shifted from Acuna to Vlad Jr., don’t be mistaken: there’s room for growth here. Acuna is at this moment a top-three dynasty asset, just under fellow power/speed outfielders Mike “I’m a God” Trout and Mookie Betts. The combination of power, speed, average, and youth is incredibly valuable in today’s game. With the promise of years and years of solid production on a team that is just reaching its contention window, there’s a lot to dream on here. Acuna’s going to make all your dreams come true.
Cristian Pache, 20, OF
Analysis by: Adam Lawler
Let’s start off with a quote about the potential Brave center fielder superstar with a former Brave center fielder superstar. ‘When this kid is coming [in] at 16 years old from the Dominican Republic, and you get a coach who tells him to use his speed and hit the ball on the ground, and you do that for three years straight, it’s a tough adjustment to make,'” said Jones. “Last year, he put some good swings on the ball and hit some home runs.”
Well, half of that statement is true. Adjustments are tough to make. Sometimes, it’s hard to grow out of what you’ve come to know, especially if that skill set was developed in your most formative years. There’s another part that doesn’t hold water.
In advanced A-ball, Pache ranked 44th out of 53 qualified batters in FB rate (30%) and had a mere 9% HR/FB rate. Then, somehow, it became worse. Out of 169 batters with a minimum of 100 plate appearances, Pache’s FB% decreased to 25.3%, ranking him 156th while the HR/FB rate decreased to 5.3%.
One might say that the power doesn’t matter so long as he uses the double-plus speed to get on base. They may point to the surface level .285 average at advanced A-ball as evidence. Well, friends, I’m not sure the .311 OBP in advanced-A and .294 OBP in Double-A is good enough to assuage my concerns. I’m getting serious Billy Hamilton vibes here.
Pache Work Performances
To be clear, there is a lot of growth potential here. He started professional ball at 16. He literally still has braces. He’s in an organization with alchemists for scouts and wizards for player development personnel. Expect Pache to start the year again in Double-A. Expect him to make marginal gains. Expect him to be in Triple-A before the end of the year. Do not expect him to make it to Atlanta before the 2019 run.
Also, expect him to get plenty of undeserved pub from the big sites who have a vested interest in Pache succeeding. To put it another way: Austin Riley, Mike Soroka, Kyle Wright, and Drew Waters are far more interesting and valuable assets at this very moment. Sadly, Pache will continue to get pumped up because of his plus-plus defense, which is great for those in UZR leagues, but not so great for everyone else.
A Pache National Forest
If you own Pache, like Robert Frost, you have found yourself where two roads diverged.
To the left, you ride the spring training headlines and trade Pache before the season begins. To the right, you hold Pache harder than he can apparently hold a bat.
I hope you can see the forest through the trees. To become lost in a journey with a glove-first outfielder who might begin to control his noisy swing and muscle up is a big leap.
Right now, Jesse Roche ranks Pache as #66 in his top 500 prospects. Largely, I assume, on the Pache’s promise.
Me? Give me Jordyn Adams, Trevor Larnach, Swaggy T, and Daz Cameron plus whatever else the manager interested in Pache’s prospect pedigree wants to throw in.
Previously Covered Teams
|NL WEST||NL CENTRAL||NL EAST|
|AL WEST||AL CENTRAL||AL EAST|