Why Mike Soroka could be the key to the Braves’ success in 2023

Jul 31, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Mike Soroka (40) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 31, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Mike Soroka (40) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy-USA TODAY Sports /

Lets go ahead and get this out of the way: the Atlanta Braves are going to be a very, very good baseball team in 2023. Yes, they are going to be without the services of Dansby Swanson next season and that really stinks. I personally would not have given Dansby anywhere near what he got from the Cubs (I was consistently maxed out in my head at five years and $110 million for him), but that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t tremendously valuable to the organization nor does it mean he won’t be missed.

However, other than Dansby, the club looks very strong going into 2023 especially if Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies are healthy and play at the levels we are accustomed to seeing out them. The offense as a whole and the bullpen will be big strengths for the Braves next season and it’s hard to find a more exciting duo at the top of the rotation than Max Fried/Spencer Strider and that doesn’t include the resurgent Kyle Wright and Charlie Morton who, hopefully, continues to beat back Father Time. However, there is one player, Mike Soroka, who could end up being the key if the Braves want to make another deep run in 2023.

The 5th spot in the Atlanta Braves’ rotation is a big question mark

While the Atlanta Braves certainly aren’t short on options for the fifth spot in the rotation, it is one of the spots on the roster that is also the most uncertain. Do the Braves trust Bryce Elder against more formidable lineups? How soon could we see guys like Jared Shuster, Darius Vines, and Dylan Dodd and will they be good?

A healthy and effective Mike Soroka could end the uncertainty and risk there (albeit by introducing some risk of its own given his injury history). Soroka has had success in the big leagues in big games and probably is the third best starter on this Braves team if he is back in form. Even if he isn’t quite what he was at his peak, he is still probably the Braves best option for the fifth spot of the rotation on Opening Day if he is healthy and stretched out and it allows the Braves to evaluate some of those other guys for a while longer.

Mike Soroka is very efficient which could help the bullpen over the season

While the Braves’ bullpen is very good, there is always going to be a risk that even the deepest of bullpens will fatigue over a long season. It only takes a week’s worth of games that are very close and require the repeated use of a few high leverage guys to cause problems. It happens to every team, every season including the Braves and it feels bad when you see a guy that would normally be able to handle business in a key spot give up a key hit because he is gassed.

This is where Soroka can be a big help especially if he resembles the pitcher we knew before he went down with Achilles’ injuries. One aspect of his game that gets overlooked is just how efficient he is. He works quickly and keeps his pitch count low by knowing when he can get a guy to swing at something he isn’t expecting or to put the ball on the ground and let the defenders behind him make a play.

While Soroka won’t have big strikeout games like Spencer Strider will nor does he possess the eye-popping stuff that Strider and Fried have when they are on, he could easily be nearly as effective as those guys by pitching deep into games and letting the Braves give some bullpen guys some rest.

A Soroka comeback takes the pressure off some some other risky guys

Again, we are making some assumptions here, the biggest one being that Mike Soroka will be both completely healthy and back to normal in 2023. His rehab starts had some highs and lows, but there doesn’t seem to be anything to make us think that he won’t be ready to compete for a rotation spot in spring training.

Again, operating under the assumption that Mike Soroka grabs that rotation spot and looks like himself, that gives the Braves a lot of breathing room when it comes to their rotation. Charlie Morton has had a fine career, but his 2023 wasn’t awe-inspiring and even if you believe that he was a bit unlucky last year, he is 39 years old and asking him to not show his age is more and more unlikely as time goes on. Kyle Wright was great last season, but we have also seen him regress in the past, so relying on him to look like a potential Cy Young candidate may be a bit premature.

Ian Anderson ended up demoted to the minor leagues last year and his future with the club is in question unless he can figure out how to make his fastball play up and/or get a third pitch that he can rely on. Plus, we already talked how the guys Soroka will be competing for the fifth spot in the rotation have their own concerns and, more importantly, they could be needed if other guys get banged up or underperform.

Depth is what all MLB rotations need and if Mike is healthy and contributes, that would go a long, long way.

Mike Soroka could be the key to the Atlanta Braves success in 2023

As I said at the top, the Braves are going to be a very good team in 2023. There is just too much talent on the roster for them not to be. Not everything is going to go right, but as we saw last year…not everything has to. The Braves won 101 games with Ian Anderson turning into a pumpkin, Ronald Acuna Jr. struggling to return fully healthy, and Ozzie Albies injured for a big chunk of the season.

However, the NL East is going to VERY tough again next season with the Phillies added noted Braves killer Trea Turner and hot off of a deep postseason run and the Mets breaking spending records to re-sign most of their guys and adding Carlos Correa (probably…eventually…maybe?). A very good team is still going to need every little edge they can get.

A healthy Mike Soroka could easily be that key edge for the Braves…one that lengthens their rotation, helps preserve the bullpen over a long season, and with the upside to make the Braves’ rotation dominant which would pair very nicely with their already very strong bullpen and offense.