The Braves announced that they’ve designated left-hander Jesse Biddle for assignment on Wednesday and placed center fielder Ender Inciarte on the 10-day injured list due to a lumbar strain. Biddle’s 40-man roster spot will go to top prospect Austin Riley, whose previously reported promotion has now been made official. Atlanta also recalled Touki Toussaint from Triple-A Gwinnett to round out tonight’s series of roster moves.
Biddle, 27, gave the Braves 63 2/3 innings of 3.11 ERA ball with 9.5 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, 0.85 HR/9 and a 55.6 percent ground-ball rate in 2018, but virtually nothing has gone right for the southpaw so far in 2019. Through 15 appearances and a span of 11 2/3 frames, Biddle has served up seven earned runs (and another four unearned runs) on 18 hits and 10 walks with 11 strikeouts. As I noted last week, Biddle’s struggles were compounded by the fact that he’s out of minor league options, thus preventing the Braves from merely optioning him to Gwinnett to sort things out. Given the team’s win-now status, a move of this nature felt almost inevitable.
Given last season’s success and the fact that he’s a lefty who still pumps fastballs at an average of 94.1 mph, it’s possible that another club will take a run at correcting the control issues that have torpedoes Biddle’s season. Hard-throwing lefties in their mid-20s that have had some degree of MLB success are hard to come by, after all, and if a team can straighten Biddle out he’d be controllable all the way through the 2023 season.
As for the other moves, Riley will step into left field with Ronald Acuna Jr. shifting into center field in place of Inciarte. The 22-year-old Riley had already slugged a ridiculous 15 home runs on the season and has more broadly been one of the best hitters in all of minor league baseball. He’ll likely get some work at his natural position, third base, on days when Josh Donaldson gets a breather.