In a surprising turn of events, the Atlanta Braves designated right-handed starting pitcher Mike Foltynewicz for assignment this week. This news came after he was battered by the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night.
In that last start, Folty conceded six earned runs on four hits and four walks while striking out three in 3.1 innings of work. His fastball velocity, which was averaging 96.8 mph in 2018 and 94.9 mph last season, plummeted to 91.1 mph on Monday, prompting the Braves’ front office to make the decision.
Foltynewicz was an All-Star just two seasons ago, and because of that, some people have suggested that the Yankees should take a chance and bring him to New York. I wouldn’t think that’s a particularly good idea, however.
Yes, Folty was excellent in 2018. That year, he went 13-10 with a 2.85 ERA (3.37 FIP) in 183.0 frames and 31 starts. He had a fantastic 9.93 K/9 and accumulated 3.8 WAR, per FanGraphs.
And yes, he managed to come back strong (2.65 ERA, 3.77 FIP, 8.58 K/9 in 57.2 innings) after the Braves demoted him in late June because of his poor performance (6.37 ERA in 59.1 frames through June 22). But there is also the memory of that fateful start in the winner-takes-all, loser-goes-home Game Five of the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
That night, Folty was chased off the game after just 0.1 innings of work, allowing six earned runs before Atlanta could even take the bat for the first time.
All in all, Foltynewicz’s profile is full of red flags, and the Yankees shouldn’t be experimenting at this time of the year on a guy that could very well be injured.
Red flags all over
Forget last year’s demotion and the nightmarish playoff night (he did have a strong performance on Game Two, to be fair). We are talking about a five-plus mph drop on his fastball velocity since the 2018 campaign.
Of course, since we don’t know what exactly is going on with him health-wise, there is a slight chance that his issue is just mechanical and/or related to strength or conditioning, in which case, the Yankees do have people in the organization that can help him regain his form in Matt Blake and Eric Cressey. But you don’t lose five miles per hour overnight unless you are hurting, not while you are 28 years old.
The Braves clearly decided they have had enough of Foltynewicz and are giving the youngsters, notably Kyle Wright, a chance to earn a rotation spot. If he falters, they have guys like Toukii Toussaint, Ian Anderson and company.
The Yankees might be tempted to salvage Folty’s career, and if he is not injured, they might just have the necessary resources to do so. But since they, too, have lots of interesting young arms ready for whenever the club calls them—remember Clarke Schmidt, Mike King and Deivi Garcia, just to name three?—they should take a similar path than that of the Braves.