Here are the in-house options for the Atlanta Braves’ last rotation spot
The off-season is in full swing, meaning speculation about which players the Atlanta Braves will round out the 40-man roster with is plentiful. Among the multiple holes on the roster the Braves’ front office must fill, including shortstop and left field, is a fifth starter to fill out the rotation. Let’s look at the options.
How are the Atlanta Braves going to fill out the rotation?
Many fans want the Braves to go after a high-profile starter like Jacob deGrom or Carlos Rodon, but with the limited cap space the Braves have left due to large contracts for Charlie Morton and Marcell Ozuna as well as bigger gaps to fill (again, like shortstop), there is a high possibility the Braves will look to save money on the fifth starter. This means the Braves could use one of the starters they already have tucked away within the organization.
While this may not be ideal for many fans, the Braves have plenty of viable options in the organization that could be made the fifth starter. Here is a rundown of all the options the Braves have in-house.
If you asked me who I think is most likely to be the fifth starter out of all the in-house options come Opening Day, the answer would be Bryce Elder. The 23 year old pitcher from the University of Texas was already given a few opportunities to start during the 2022 season and he took full advantage.
Bryce started his 2022 and spent most of his 2022 season in Gwinnett and posted a 4.46 ERA with the Stripers in Triple-A. Strangely, Elder really began to shine once he was brought up to the majors.
Elder pitched in 10 games this past season with the Braves, nine of those being starts, and posted a 3.17 ERA and a 3.78 FIP through 54 total innings. Elder also showed improvement from the first few starts to his last few. Through his first four starts, Elder gave up 10 earned runs and there were certainly some command issues. In his final five starts in the 2022, Elder only gave up six earned runs despite throwing 13.2 innings more in his last five starts compared to his first four.
Interestingly enough, Elder was also the only Braves starter to throw a complete game in 2022. It came against the Nationals, in which he struck out six and only walked one in a shutout.
Elder’s expected ERA (xERA) was a 4.25, an indicator that his results might have been a bit better than what they should have been. However, his hard hit percentage and barrel percentage were both around the 75th percentile in 2022 proving his success could still be sustainable. Bryce isn’t a flamethrower and won’t breakdown a hitter with a nasty breaking ball, but the soft contact he induces has proven to be invaluable in today’s league.
Kyle Muller, the 6’7 lefty, currently ranks as the Braves’ top prospect. Like Elder, Muller spent most of the 2022 season in Gwinnett. Muller made 23 starts with the Stripers in 2022 and posted a 3.41 ERA and a K/9 of 10.6.
Muller did find himself starting a few games with the Braves this year, but they did not go well at all. He made three starts with the Braves in 2022 and gave up 11 earned runs through a total of 12.1 innings. In those 12.1 innings Muller gave up eight walks and 13 hits.
Though Muller’s time in the majors during 2022 wasn’t great, his time with the Braves in 2021 were much more indicative of the player he is. Muller threw in nine games in 2021, eight of those were starts. Muller posted an ERA+ of 105 in 2021, significantly better than his 52 ERA+ in 2022.
Almost all of Muller’s expected stats were worse in 2022 than 2021, but with only three starts in 2022, that could be drawn up to a small sample size.
Getting Kyle Muller to have a successful, full season will be a bit of an uphill battle, but he definitely has the tools to be a great starting pitcher in the MLB.
Out of every single player on the Braves in 2022, Ian Anderson might have had the most disappointing season on the team. Anderson started the year as a key piece in the Braves’ starting rotation, but he quickly descended to Triple-A, something no Braves fan was expecting.
After Anderson’s great rookie season in 2021 in which he posted a 3.58 ERA through 24 starts and finished fifth in NL rookie of the year voting, an even better 2022 season for him was expected. However, his time with the Braves in 2022 was for from that.
In 2022, Anderson started 22 games and finished with a 5.00 ERA during those games. He was also one of the worst starters in the league when he was with the Braves. What’s more concerning is that he pitched even worse once he was demoted to Gwinnett.
In Gwinnett, Anderson tallied a 5.40 ERA through four starts and only made it through 21.2 innings. With the weaker competition, it was expected Ian could get his rhythm back, but instead he found himself in a bigger hole.
His 4.27 xERA in 2021 and 4.37 xERA in 2021 indicate that 2021 might have been the fluke year, not 2022. Ian’s expected slugging percentage and barrel percentage both were significantly lower in 2022 than 2021, something you wouldn’t expect considering his 2021 season was his best season.
The stats are conflicting and Anderson’s disappointing 2022 season makes his future outlook with the Braves unclear. With that being said, Ian Anderson has proved he can be a successful starter and is a viable candidate for the Braves’ final starting spot.
Though he has become almost a myth at this point, Mike Soroka should be fully healthy for the start of the season for the first time since 2020. Soroka’s return to the Braves has been highly anticipated for Braves fans, primarily because of his incredible rookie season.
In Soroka’s 2019 season, his only full season of his career, he threw 174.2 innings and tallied a 2.68 ERA and a 3.45 FIP. HIs impressive season not only earned him an All-Star nod, but he also finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting and sixth in NL Cy Young voting.
After his incredible 2019 campaign, many thought Soroka was well on his way to becoming one of the best pitchers in the league. But in just his third start in the delayed 2020 season, Soroka tore his Achilles, sidelining him for the rest of that year. Many were disappointed, but excited for him to return in 2021. Sadly, that was not his fate.
While walking to the clubhouse in June of 2021, Mike Soroka tore his Achilles once again, sidelining him for another year. After the second tear, it started to feel like Soroka was never going to pitch in a major league game again.
2022 saw Soroka’s return to pitching professionally, although it was just in the minors. Soroka made one start in Rome and dominated. He struck out eight of the first nine batters he faced. After his great start he was promoted to Gwinnett to finish his rehab assignment.
Soroka made five starts in Gwinnett and posted a 6.43 ERA, though could have been reasonably expected given how long he had been out and how many adjustments he had made. Soroka did finish his rehab assignment and was cleared to return to the Braves, but the Braves’ front office elected for him to stay in Triple-A to finish the year.
Soroka should have a full off-season to gear up for the 2023 season which should be beneficial for a pitcher who has lacked playing time for over two years. While Soroka might be the biggest question mark out of the bunch, he also is arguably the most talented and will definitely be in the race for the final spot.
It was announced right before free agency started that the Braves traded Jake Odorizzi to the Rangers in exchange for Kolby Allard. Allard, who was drafted 14th overall in the 2015 draft by the Braves, has not performed very well in the limited time he spent in the majors.
Allard has accumulated a career 6.07 ERA over 232.2 innings and 5 years in the majors. That amount of innings over a five year span shows his inability to stay in the major leagues.
Almost all of Allard’s expecting stats point to the fact that Allard has largely been a disappointment in the MLB since being drafted as a first round pick. His one saving grace are his consistent low walk rates. It also helps that he throws with his left hand considering that Max Fried is the only lefty in the starting rotation right now. He would definitely be a project and was mainly traded for to save some money on the Odorizzi contract, but Kolby Allard is a possible option for the fifth starter spot.