LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Braves’ decision in the offseason to sign Bartolo Colon (43) and R.A. Dickey (42) didn’t stem from a sudden urge to connect with an older generation of fans. It was because two of their touted prospect pitchers, Aaron Blair and Matt Wisler, showed in 2016 that they just weren’t ready for the majors yet.
Blair: 15 starts, 2-7, 7.59 ERA.
Wisler: 26 starts: 7-13, 5.00 ERA.
So the focus is off the two kids for now. But not really. Colon and Dickey are short-term fixes, and there’s no guarantee the two and/or Jaime Garcia will make it through this season free of old ailments. There’s obvious interest in how well Blair and Wisler fair this spring.
Blair’s first outing came Sunday. It was a mix of bad and good. The bad: He faced 10 batters in two innings and allowed three hits and walked two. The good: He twice pitched out of jams, allowing a run-scoring single to former Brave Evan Gattis in the third inning before inducing an inning-ending double play and then stranded two more base runners in the fourth on a strikeout and a ground out.
“I was kind of thinking that’s something I couldn’t do last year,” Blair said. “I’d get in trouble with a walk and a base hit and it would all kind of fall apart. So walking out of the inning with just the one run and getting the double play when I needed it, that was a huge.”
The Braves’ top seven starters, subject to change, probably look like this now: Julio Teheran, Colon, Garcia, Dickey, Mike Foltynewicz, Blair, Wisler.
In 2016, Baseball Prospectus rated Blair as the Braves’ second best pitching prospect and fourth best prospect overall behind shortstop Dansby Swanson, lefthander Sean Newcomb and shortstop Ozzie Albies. As we’ve learned, however, prospects are just prospects until they have proven themselves at the next level.
“Some of these guys they come real hyped and you have to give them time to grow,” manager Brian Snitker said. “He got out of some damage. He probably wasn’t as crisp as he’d like to be but we can build on that.”
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