LAWRENCEVILLE — The closer the Braves fall to the bottom of the NL East, the more their focus will shift to prospects acquired in a barrage of offseason trades.
One of the top prospects is right-hander Matt Wisler, who came to Atlanta in the trade that sent closer Craig Kimbrel to San Diego on April 5.
Wisler, 22, is gaining momentum at Triple-A Gwinnett, where he was just named the International League’s pitcher of the week. He was 2-0 while allowing a combined two runs in two starts last week.
Wisler is young, but president of baseball operations John Hart won’t rule out a promotion to the majors this season. The Braves already have called up Mike Foltynewicz, obtained from Houston in the Evan Gattis trade.
“I think if they show signs they’re ready, it never hurts to get them up and get some experience that first year,” Hart said Wednesday. “I think kids are impressionable, especially a guy like (Wisler). If the time is right and we think it’s in his best interest as well as ours, we’ll take a look at him.”
Foltynewicz replaced Trevor Cahill in the rotation. Wisler and Manny Banuelos, acquired in the offseason from the Yankees, may join Foltynewicz this year.
Banuelos, a left-hander, has a 2.89 ERA in seven starts at Gwinnett.
The team’s need for help in the rotation became more obvious with Thursday’s news that Mike Minor is out for the season following shoulder surgery.
Eric Stults is 1-4 with a 5.36 ERA and three straight losses and could be the next starter to be replaced.
The offseason exodus of established players was dramatic. Kimbrel, Gattis and outfielders Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, and Melvin Upton, among others, were traded.
Most of the players obtained by Atlanta were prospects. One exception was right-hander Shelby Miller, who was acquired from St. Louis for Heyward and has been Atlanta’s top starter.
The Braves are building toward their 2017 move to their new suburban stadium, but Wisler doesn’t plan to wait two more years to make his mark in the majors.
“I know I was brought over to help this team win, so sometime this season that will be the goal, to get up and help the Braves turn it around and get some winning seasons going,” Wisler said Wednesday.
Wisler was San Diego’s top prospect. Hart said the Braves asked for Wisler when they traded Justin Upton in the deal that brought another top pitching prospect, Max Fried and Jace Peterson, who is hitting .284 as Atlanta’s starting second baseman.
Hart again asked for Wisler when he offered Kimbrel. This time the Padres agreed.
“Obviously, it was cool the Padres thought highly of me and it was really good knowing the Braves really wanted me,” Wisler said. “I think that’s really cool.”
Some players would press when trying to prove they deserved to be traded for a star. Gwinnett manager Brian Snitker said Wisler is different.
“I don’t see it affecting him one bit,” Snitker said. “I see a kid just focused on his next start.”
Second baseman Jose Peraza might already be in Atlanta if not for the emergence of Peterson. Peraza was ranked as the Braves’ top prospect after hitting .325 with 25 stolen bases at Double-A Mississippi in 2014.
Peraza, from Venezuela, is hitting .311 at Gwinnett.
“In the last three weeks he has been settling in and his confidence is coming,” Snitker said. “He’s like ‘I can play here. I can do this.’”
A surplus of middle infielders could help the Braves find help for the bullpen.
“It is a good problem to have,” Hart said. “Depth certainly plays into our favor in this one as tough as we are going with our lack of depth in our bullpen. It’s nice to have some depth in some other areas.”