The Atlanta Braves have one of the best rotations in baseball, starters with an even mix of lefties, righties, contact pitchers, power pitchers, and strikeout machines. The Braves rotation this year had a revolving door around the five spot, yet, they still managed to close the door on the division and secure 101 wins. Max Fried, Kyle Wright, Spencer Strider, and Charlie Morton were the bastion of the Braves pitching staff.
Despite hiccups by Ian Anderson, Jake Odorizzi, and others, the Braves had no shortage of good arms to hold the line. Examples include Bryce Elder’s complete game shutout, and Kyle Muller’s brilliant outing against the Marlins. An examination of the Braves pitching depth will greatly help in the case against signing a starter. Let’s look at the best three options the Braves have within their own system.
Mike Soroka is set to return
Mike Soroka is where we’ll start first. Soroka has already started for the Braves in years previous (2018-2020) and was dominant in his rookie seasons. 2019 was especially noteworthy for the young pitcher, who posted a 2.68 ERA in 29 games pitched. This was the closest we got to seeing what Soroka is capable of in the long term. His overall numbers are a 15-6 record, a 2.86 ERA, and 6.1 WAR. An added benefit to Soroka is his age, as he is only 25 years old. That leaves him plenty of time to develop and come into his own as a pitcher. Youth is something the Braves capture early, with examples including Spencer Strider and Michael Harris. Soroka’s only flaws come in the form of injuries. Mainly an Achilles tendon issue. His arm is fine however, and if the Braves can keep Soroka healthy, he will be a lethal man in the rotation.
Ian Anderson comes back to himself
Ian Anderson was the Braves fifth man starter for the early part of the season; and looked to continue his roll of excellence coming off the 2021 World Series. However, Anderson struggled mightily in the first half of the season. Posting the highest ERA of his career at 5.00. Anderson is much like Soroka in the fact that he is young (24) and still has lots of time to improve.
In 2021, Anderson put up a modest year; but his postseason performances are where he shined. He pitched great in the NLDS and NLCS, and also threw 5 no hit innings against a lethal Astros offense in game 3 of the world series. Anderson has the stuff to make it in the Braves rotation. He’s proven that several times in the last three years with Atlanta. Signing a starter in place of Anderson would remove the possibility of developing a young pitcher that can give you years of quality.
Bryce Elder has starter potential
Bryce Elder was a new face to the Braves this year; as the 23 year old Texas native answered the call when it was needed. Elder, while he may have only started in a handful of games to replace injured starter Jake Odorizzi, shined brightly in his few opportunities. On Aug.14, Elder pitched against the Marlins in his first start of the year, going seven innings with three hits and one earned run. Not bad for a new guy. On Sep. 3, again against the Marlins, Elder pitched to the tune of 6 innings, 2 hits, and no earned runs. Finally, on Sep. 26, Elder hurled a complete game shutout against the Nationals. The first by a Braves rookie since 1990.
Elder’s next start against the Marlins on Oct. 4 wasn’t as good, as he went five innings with four earned runs to his name. Despite the shortcomings, Elder displayed great pitching ability. He has no hit stuff that spins and moves. Just like with Anderson and Soroka, he is a young pitcher with mounds of untapped potential. Within the next year or two, it’s very possible to see Elder in a more consistent starting role.
What about the aging Morton?
Charlie Morton is definitely not the Morton of old we’ve seen in years past. However, the Braves still saw something in the veteran pitcher to sign him for a one year, 20 million dollar contract. Morton, if anything, will be on the Braves throughout most of 2023, and will retain his spot as a veteran starter. His velocity is high, he can still go 6 plus innings, and he can deliver you an 11 or 12 strikeout game.
Morton did create an issue of streakiness this past season, with good consistency being rare. Still, it would be wrong to assume Morton will come back next year and be the exact same way. So as far as I’m concerned, the Braves should only be thinking about that fifth man for now.
Downsides of signing a starter
Signing a big name starter like Carlos Rodon or even Jameson Taillon will come with a good chunk of change regardless of how well Alex Anthopoulos works the deal. It seems much wiser to work on the aforementioned pitchers already in the Braves system, and nab them while they’re young. Longer deals, less money spent, better results overall. That’s not to say Soroka, Anderson, and Elder are foolproof plans, but deciding to work on them provides a low risk, low cost, and high reward situation for the Braves.
Starters aren’t an issue for the team; and the money would be best spent on locking down the left field and shortstop positions. None of this is to say signing a starter would be a mistake for the Braves; but it’s not an issue that has to be fixed with a big deal, big money, and a big name.