Atlanta Braves mystery pitcher to start on Tuesday?

Atlanta Braves minor league pitcher Bryce Elder may be picking up the ball on Tuesday. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Braves minor league pitcher Bryce Elder may be picking up the ball on Tuesday. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

Nothing will be announced until — maybe — after tonight’s game, but the rumor mill is very active that the Atlanta Braves might call up a 2020 draftee.

Is this a good idea?  While the Atlanta Braves likely need to choose a starter for Tuesday night’s game vs. Arizona, this might not be the best pick:

Yes – it appears that an entirely non-conventional source has pegged 5th round (2020) draftee Bryce Elder as the pick for Tuesday.

First, though, let’s go through the list of reasons why this is probably a bad idea:

  • 40-man roster.  Elder would have to be added to the “40” to become eligible… and under normal circumstances, he would not have to be added for roster-protection purposes (i.e., shielding him from the Rule 5 draft) until after next season.  Heck, Drew Waters still isn’t on the 40.
  • Pitch load.  After throwing only 26 innings in 2020 (officially), Elder is up to 128.2 in the minors this season.  That’s a big transition for the 22-year-old.
    • In his college years (3 of them), he totaled 144.2 innings, with 92 of them in 2019 (adding in a short Cape Cod league stint).
  • Game durations.  He’s had 23 starts this year, averaging 5.2 innings.  That’s actually pretty good, but it also sounds like getting him through the 5th inning on Tuesday would be a monumental achievement.  It could happen, but should it?

Could the Braves pick someone else?  Right now the better candidates would be Kyle Wright and Kyle Muller, except that they are ‘off cycle’.

Muller last threw on Saturday, going only 2.1 innings.  He walked 4 and gave up 4 runs in the effort.

The next night, Wright blew through perhaps the best start he’s had as a pro… a complete game 2-hitter with no walks and 5 K’s while facing 1 batter over the minimum in 86 pitches.  That came after facing the same team 5 days earlier and getting banged around for 4 runs over 6 innings.

Regardless, neither man is available to pitch on Tuesday.

Spencer Strider is another candidate, but he pitched on the 17th and it would be a bit early for him to return.  Another factor is that he’s in AA and Mississippi might like to keep him for the playoffs this week.

So… the only real candidate is Elder, who would be on normal rest after a 1 hit, 1 run performance (4 walks, 6K) against Nashville on the 16th.   Unless you want Touki or Smyly to get the ball instead.

TUESDAY MORNING UPDATE:  The Braves are electing to go with a ‘bullpen game’:

"Mark Bowman on Twitter: “Jesse Chavez will start tomorrow. Will essentially be a bullpen game. Smyly and Toussaint will be available. If you bet on Smyly, @KevinMcAlpin will meet you to give you the keys and deed to his house.” / Twitter"

While the rumor was legit and the timing was right, the “bad idea” arguments were also very much real… never mind that starting Elder’s service time clock for a single game didn’t make sense either.

Nice pick for the Atlanta Braves

Elder was taken in the final round of the short 2020 draft, but has rocketed through the system this year, taking — until now — almost 2 months each at the A+, AA, and AAA levels.  The majors would give him his 4th uniform this year.

At each level, he has excelled:

  • High-A Rome:  2.60 ERA, 1.29 WHIP
  • AA Mississippi:  3.21 ERA, 1.00 WHIP
  • AAA Gwinnett:  2.28 ERA, 0.98 WHIP

His pitch mix consists mainly of a sinking fastball with an excellent slider.  A changeup rounds out the repertoire.

The right-hander is not going to blow batters away on heat, nor intimidate them by mere presence (he’s 6’2″, 220), but gets enough swing-and-miss (roughly 10K per 9 innings) to overcome the occasional walk (~4 per 9 innings).

He was said to have an advanced feel for pitching while in college, and that seems to have been validated by this leap through the minors.  So maybe he is the right guy to replace a couple of shaky candidates in Toussaint and Smyly?

Next. Road Trip!. dark

Sounds like we’ll know in about 24 hours.