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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Hurston Waldrep

This may be the most unlikely outcome, but also the most exciting. Entering last year's MLB draft, Hurston Waldrep was widely considered to be in play to be a top 15 pick thanks to a fastball that sat in the mid to upper 90's and a splitter that was among the best pitches in the entire draft outside of the ridiculousness that is #1 overall pick Paul Skenes.

Command issues ultimately caused Waldrep to fall in the Braves' laps at the 24th pick and they were more than happy to scoop him up. Waldrep rewarded Atlanta's faith in him during his pro debut where the former Florida standout put up a 1.53 ERA in eight starts and made his way all the way to Triple-A Gwinnett by the end of the season.

There is a real risk in moving Waldrep through the minor leagues so fast, although him being a college arm does make it more defensible. He still walks too many batters and getting his mechanics to be more consistent needs to be a focus going into next season.

However, the Braves have already hinted that they are expecting Waldrep to help them at some point in 2024. Purely based on upside, there isn't a better option other than him beyond maybe Smith-Shawver in the organization right now and even that debate is really close. Adding him to the rotation would require a 40 man roster move which is a hurdle, but not an insurmountable one and using him as a reliever to start with also could be an option if he is needed. If Waldrep shows out this spring, expect the chatter around calling him up to only grow.

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