LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Though the uncertainty surrounding the Braves' starting rotation has created legitimate cause for concern, the upcoming season might provide the organization a chance to grow even more comfortable with what lies ahead in the future, once many of their highly regarded pitching prospects are given a chance to evolve, as Matt Wisler and Mike Foltynewicz have since the end of last season.
The strides made by Wisler and Foltynewicz stand as two of the most encouraging developments the Braves witnessed during Spring Training. By the end of April, both may join Julio Teheran in an Atlanta rotation that could assume multiple looks this season.
"We have guys who are close and have real high upside," Braves general manager John Coppolella said. "You see the light go on eventually, but it takes different people time to reach that level of comfort, and I think we've seen that this year with Foltynewicz and Wisler."
Few will predict the Braves to reach the postseason or even log a winning record in 2016. But after watching the progress and development made by some of the club's young starting pitchers over the past six weeks, I'm willing to make the bold prediction that the starting rotation will post a sub-3.50 ERA after the All-Star break.
While it is understandable that this ambitious projection might draw some odd looks, Spring Training has provided reason to be optimistic about how Atlanta's rotation might look as the season progresses.
If all goes according to plan, the seemingly rejuvenated Teheran and Wisler will be in the rotation throughout the year. Bud Norris and Jhoulys Chacin could provide the rotation some veteran presence during the early part of the year, but there's a strong possibility that neither will finish the season with the Braves.
As Foltynewicz has gained a mature mound presence and improved his arm slot, he has made it clear that he may still rise toward the ceiling he possessed when he entered 2015 as Atlanta's top pitching prospect. Foltynewicz could join Atlanta's rotation by the end of April, after he completes his recovery from the blood clot that sidelined him in September and limited him during the offseason.
Prospect John Gant's surprising success during Spring Training has drawn attention from scouts and positioned the right-hander as another potential early-season addition to the rotation. But the Braves will also have the option of going that route with Tyrell Jenkins or Aaron Blair, the pitching prospect who seemingly left the strongest impression on Atlanta's coaches over the past month.
Top pitching prospect Sean Newcomb needs time to mature and harness his command. At this time, it might be ambitious to project him to reach the Majors before September. But if the southpaw starts to throw strikes on a consistent basis, he could experience a rapid rise that would allow him to prove why MLBPipeline.com ranks him as fourth-best left-handed pitching prospect in the game.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.