Atlanta Braves 2023 season in review: Darius Vines' efforts encourage

Former seventh-round selection Darius Vines showed signs of promise throughout the past year.

Chicago Cubs v Atlanta Braves
Chicago Cubs v Atlanta Braves / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

Darius Vines made his impressive MLB debut on Aug. 30 at Colorado. Coors Field is obviously no easy place to pitch. In fact, there’s arguably no more difficult place to pitch in all of the big leagues, but that didn’t seem to faze the 25-year-old righty in the least.

That evening in Denver, Vines recorded his first MLB win, allowing just two runs on four hits and a walk while striking out five across six innings. He would go on to make his next three appearances for the Braves in long relief before getting one last start during the final week of the regular season.

Vines did not show the same level of comfort pitching out of the Braves’ bullpen, but he displayed his readiness to work as at least a spot starter at the highest level once again on Sept. 27 against the Cubs. On that Wednesday, opposite a team battling for a playoff spot, Vines surrendered three runs (two earned) on four hits with five strikeouts and two walks.

Overall, Vines logged 20.1 innings in the bigs this past season, managing a 3.98 ERA (4.07 xERA), 1.08 WHIP, and 14-to-7 K/BB ratio. Those numbers go along with a stellar 2.37 ERA and 1.10 WHIP he posted across 49.1 innings at multiple levels of the minors in 2023. The MLB strikeout total Vines put up is low, but there is evidence to believe he can improve in that area.   

Vines struck out 49 batters at a solid 25.3-percent rate in the minors this past summer. He went on to put up even better swing-and-miss stuff in the Arizona Fal League, where he punched out 23 batters in 16.1 frames at a 32.4-percent clip. Vines even earned AFL Pitcher of the Week honors for a performance back in late October.  

The lower innings total for Vines in 2023 came largely as the result of shoulder inflammation that nagged him in the early months of the campaign. He turned in 111.0 and 140.2 innings respectively over the previous two years, however, so stamina is not necessarily something the Atlanta brass is concerned about regarding Vines’ progression to full-time major leaguer.

With the way things stand at present, Vines figures to have a shot at competing for the fifth spot in the Braves’ rotation during this upcoming spring training. A spot in the bullpen could also be in the cards should he come up short of a role in the starting staff. A four-pitch mix with good command and the ability to remain effective over multiple innings should serve him quite well in either role going forward. Vines could be a key part of the Braves’ pitching depth in 2024.