3 dark horse candidates for the last spot in the Braves' Opening Day rotation

The Braves' open spot in their rotation is going to be a hot topic during spring training in 2024
Jun 25, 2023; Omaha, NE, USA; Florida Gators starting pitcher Hurston Waldrep (12) throws a pitch
Jun 25, 2023; Omaha, NE, USA; Florida Gators starting pitcher Hurston Waldrep (12) throws a pitch / Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports
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Allan Winans

With so many starting pitching options available to them last year, it was pretty surprising when the Braves called up Allan Winans to make his major league debut in July. He wasn't among the Braves' top pitching prospects at the time and not many fans were even aware of him at all.

Selected in the Rule 5 draft before the 2022 season from the Mets, Winans is another guy that doesn't throw particularly hard, but just knows how to pitch and who has some strong secondary offerings. His 5.29 ERA in six big league starts doesn't inspire the most confidence, but those numbers are skewed by a couple bad starts and he still struck out more than a batter an inning in the bigs in 2024.

Helping his cause, Winans is also already on the 40 man roster. Once any guy is on the 40 man, adding them to the active roster is relatively trivial when it comes to logistics. If Winans comes out in spring and is pitching his brains out, Atlanta wouldn't have to make any corresponding roster moves and, again, this team is very willing to let the best man win these sorts of competitions.

Is such an outcome likely? Probably not. Elder has more experience with a similar profile and Smith-Shawver has significantly more upside given the quality of his stuff. However, Winans has already beaten the odds to even make it to the big league at all, so don't count him out.