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

The Braves appointed righthanded Mike Foltynewicz for assignment Monday night shortly after his first start of the 2020 season – a clunker in which he gave up six earned runs in 3 1/3 innings.

The move suddenly felt on a few levels. Foltynewicz is 28 and only two years away from receiving Cy Young votes, meaning there is a reasonable chance that he will pitch at a very high level again someday. Even if he didn’t perform particularly well this season, he would have been a cheap option to bring back through arbitration for 2021. He also got just one outing to prove himself this campaign.

That said, Atlanta did have reasons to move Foltynewicz elsewhere. He had no minor league options, meaning the team was unable to remove him from his active squad without assigning him for assignment. The club also competes in arguably the toughest division in baseball in a 60-game sprint and can’t afford to wait for Foltynewicz to get back on track. Each game this year equals approximately 2.7 in a normal season; giving up an essential sweep after a spin through the rotation is not an acceptable result.

Additionally, in Monday’s loss to the Rays, Foltynewicz did not throw any throws faster than 92.9 mph, a sharp drop from his average of nearly 95 mph last year.

His DFA leaves a talented but wobbly pitcher under 30 available for the rest of the league.

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Although preseason projection systems do not account for potential speed losses, Foltynewicz would have a good year with the ZiPS (4.19 ERA) and Steamer (4.86 ERA) models on FanGraphs. He was not publicly placed on the chopping block before this start either.

It’s likely that Foltynewicz will get some more opportunities elsewhere to prove his worth given the 2.85 ERA he posted over a full season in 2018.

In the meantime, the Braves are considering activating one of their top perspectives or rolling with temporary options in the coming weeks.

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