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Why the Braves gave up on Mike Foltynewicz after just one 2020 start

The Braves designated right-hander Mike Foltynewicz for assignment Monday night shortly after his first start of the 2020 season — a clunker in which he allowed six earned runs in 3 1/3 innings.

The move felt sudden on a couple of levels. Foltynewicz is 28 and just two years removed from receiving Cy Young votes, meaning there is a reasonable chance of him pitching at a very high level again at some point. Even if he didn’t perform particularly well this season, he would have been an inexpensive option to bring back via arbitration for 2021. He also was given just one outing to prove himself this campaign.

That said, Atlanta did have its reasons for letting Foltynewicz head elsewhere. He was out of minor league options, meaning the team could not take him off its active roster without designating him for assignment. The club is also competing in perhaps the toughest division in baseball in a 60-game sprint and cannot afford to wait for Foltynewicz to get back on track. Each game this year is the equivelant in value to about 2.7 in a normal season; giving up an essential sweep once a turn through the rotation is not an acceptable outcome.

Plus, Foltynewicz did not throw single a pitch harder than 92.9 mph in Monday’s loss against the Rays, a steep decline from his average of almost 95 mph last year.

His DFA leaves him a talented-but-wobbling under-30 pitcher available to the rest of the league.

Snitker on Folty: “After the last couple outings in (Summer Camp), we wanted to give it a go here and it was the same. We didn’t see enough increase in the velocity. That’s who he’s been. He’s been a stuff guy for the entire time we’ve had him. The stuff hasn’t been there.”

— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) July 28, 2020

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While preseason projection systems don’t account for possible velocity losses, Foltynewicz was supposed to have an OK year by the ZiPS (4.19 ERA) and Steamer (4.86 ERA) models on FanGraphs. He also wasn’t publicly placed on the chopping block before this start.

It’s likely Foltynewicz will get several more chances elsewhere to prove his worth considering the 2.85 ERA he posted over a full season in 2018.

The Braves, meanwhile, are considering activating one of their top prospects or rolling with temporary options in the coming weeks.

Snitker on whether it’s too soon to expect a prospect like Ian Anderson or Tucker Davidson to be an option: “They’re in the 60-man pool, so all those guys are definitely in play.”

— David O’Brien (@DOBrienATL) July 28, 2020

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