Atlanta Braves Prospect Scouting Report: Bryce Elder

HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 22: The game ball is left on the mound prior to Game One of the 2019 World Series between the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals at Minute Maid Park on October 22, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 22: The game ball is left on the mound prior to Game One of the 2019 World Series between the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals at Minute Maid Park on October 22, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

A series taking a look at some of the top prospects in the Atlanta Braves farm system — we focus on right-handed pitcher Bryce Elder. 

This is the start of a series of articles I plan to write leading up to the 2022 season where I break down top prospects in the Atlanta Braves farm system.

If you listen to my New Year’s Resolution podcast at Locked on Braves, then you know one of my goals was to dive deeper into prospects — especially Braves’ prospects.

Over the past week I’ve been going back and watching a lot of minor league games from 2021, and my main focus this week has been Bryce Elder.

The big righty was my favorite pick from the shortened 2020 MLB Draft. A late bloomer at Texas where they have a knack for developing pitchers.

It seemed like he was on the verge of breaking out in 2020 before the college baseball season was shut down. Then Atlanta went over slot to sign him in the fifth (and final) round.

He was more than impressive in his first season of pro ball crossing three levels from High-A to Triple-A with a combined 2.75 ERA in 137.2 innings (25 starts) with 155 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.104.

And he was consistently good at every level with a 2.60 ERA at High-A, 3.21 ERA at Double-A, and 2.21 ERA at Triple-A.

The only real glaring concern is that the BB/9 rate jumped up to 4.9 at Triple-A. That could be due to facing more Major League-type hitters, or fatigue considering this was by far the most innings he’s thrown before.

I went back and watched a couple of his starts for Gwinnett to see just what made him so good in 2021, and to see if that will be sustainable at the big league level.

The Pitch Mix

He’ll throw four pitches pretty consistently in a fastball, slider, curveball, and change-up.

The fastball is not an overwhelming pitch at 90-93 MPH, but with his big 6-foot-2 and 220-pound frame, it appeared to really sneak up on hitters in the outings I watched. It also appears to have some sink, breaking back into right-handed hitters.

It’s the slider that everyone raves about, and for good reason. A mid-80s offering with good horizontal break that he commands with ease.

He also throws a curveball with more 12-6 break.

But it was the change-up, which is a developing pitch for him, that caught my eye. It has some really nasty fade that drops down and in to righties. The criticism of that pitch for him is that it doesn’t move like that consistently, but in the outings I watched it was a very effective pitch.

That’s four above-average pitches that he does a great job of commanding in and around the zone.

The Ceiling

I mean this as no disrespect because — as I’ve mentioned — I love Bryce Elder. But for me, his ceiling is as a number three starter.

However, what I love about him and why I was excited when the Braves drafted him, he has a very high floor.

It would surprise me if he isn’t at least a number four starter in the big leagues for several years.

For me, his stuff isn’t overpowering enough to be a top of the rotation starter.

But it is good enough for him to be able to get out Major League hitters consistently and throw a lot of innings. Plus, his delivery is so effortless and easy to repeat — that’s why it seems so easy to at least project him as a backend starter.


Nobody really came to mind when thinking of comps for Elder. Obviously, when I see somebody with that big body type and frame I think of Lance Lynn, but they throw very different pitches.

Just looking at some current pitchers around the league, Kyle Gibson was one that stuck out. They throw similar pitches at similar speeds and their arms actions are pretty similar.

But Gibson is taller and thinner at 6-foot-6, 215 pounds, and throws exclusively from the stretch.

Zach Eflin is another solid comp with the pitch mix, but again, Eflin is taller at 6-foot-6 and has much more break on his sinker and not as much break on his slider.

Those are the best I could come up with just looking at current pitchers, but I’m not sure either are great comps. If you have one in mind let me know in the comment section below.

Projecting His Numbers

You never know how prospects are going to adjust to the big league level. We’ve seen several times now in recent years pitchers who dominated at Triple-A but then just can’t get over that mental hurdle in the big leagues — Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson are two that immediately come to mind.

But just based on what we’ve seen from Elder (albeit in one pro season), I see him being a 3.80 ERA pitcher with 1.250 WHIP, 8 K/9, and 3 BB/9.

With his frame, you also expect him to be a workhorse that consistently throws 170-plus innings. However, he still has to work up to that as 137.2 innings in 2021 is by far the most he’s thrown.

Before that, the most innings he’s thrown in a year was 91.2 in 2019 between college and summer ball.

At his best, I could see him have a 3.20 or 3.50 ERA season, pitching like a number 2 at times but mostly a number three.

When Does He Play for the Braves

Many believe he’ll compete for a rotation spot to start the 2022 season. And while I definitely think he’ll be in the mix, he remains a longshot unless there are several injuries.

Again, he’s only played one season of pro ball and is still just 22 years old (will turn 23 in May).

While I think he could do it (pitch for the Braves in 2022), I also hope Atlanta adds another arm to the middle of the rotation this offseason and Elder isn’t needed.

The best path for him would be to start the year at Triple-A and see if he can build on his 2021 season and prove it wasn’t a fluke.

If he does that and a starter is needed later in the Braves’ 2022 season I could see him making his debut.

Next. Roster Projections with Acuna and Soroka. dark

But I think 2023 is when we see him start to become a mainstay in the middle of the Atlanta rotation.