Atlanta Braves’ Spencer Strider tops list of MLB's 150 best starters

Atlanta Braves flame-throwing righty Spencer Strider topped last week’s pre-season projections for the league’s best starters. After finishing fourth in 2023, Strider's an early favorite to win this year's Cy Young.
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Spencer Strider topped Eno Sarris' list of the league's best starters.
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Spencer Strider topped Eno Sarris' list of the league's best starters. / Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
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Pitching Plus provided the data for Eno Sarris’ rankings in the list published in last Thursday’s The Athletic.  While Sarris created the rankings for those involved in the upcoming fantasy (subscription required) baseball drafts, the Pitching Plus data tells us a great deal about pitcher performance.

What’s Pitching Plus?

Pitching Plus is a group of statistics that tells how good a pitcher’s stuff is (Stuff+) and how well the pitcher locates it (Location +). Pitching+ isn’t a direct combination of Stuff+ and Location+.

Pitching+ looks at the data as well as when and how the pitcher uses his pitches in specific counts and situations and assigns a value based on how successfully the pitcher uses his stuff. All three stats use 100 as league-average.

You’ll find more complete information on all three stats in the Fangraphs’ glossary,

Stuff+ provides the date to create an ERA and K-rate projection for each pitcher. Last year’s projections were the most accurate among all popular projection systems and played a part in Sarris' ranks, as did injury grades.

…(injury) ratings consider how old a pitcher is, how many days a pitcher has been on the injured list in the past two seasons and in their career, as well as their fastball velocity, as velocity is the biggest single stressor on an elbow ligament. Pitchers were given a grade from A to F…

Atlanta Braves pitching projections

A quick calculation explains why Sarris provided a top-150 list – 30 teams, five pitchers = 150 – and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that four of the five NL East teams have at least four starters in the top 150.

Strider tops Sarris’ list, Max Fried is 25th, Chris Sale is 38th, Charlie Morton is 53rd, Reynaldo Lopez checks in at 107th, and Bryce Elder sits at 130th.

Both Sale and Morton are older and have a recent history of injury that earned them an F injury grade. Herewith the list, including projections for unranked starters we’ll see sometime during the season.

  • Strider 185 IP, 2.64 ppERA, 34.9 ppK%
  • Fried 169 IP, 3.62 ppERA, 23.1 ppK%
  • Morton 165.1 IP4.12 ppERA, 25.3 ppK%
  • Sale 139 IP, 4.35 ppERA, 26.3 ppK%
  • Elder 147 IP. 5.11 ppERA, 16.9 ppK%
  • Lopez 99 IP. 3.65 ppERA, 28.6 ppK% 
  • Smith-Shawver 96 IP, 5.13 ppERA, 28.6% ppK%
  • Dodd 37 IP, 5.53 ppERA, 16.4 ppK%
  • Ynoa 111 IP, no other projections shown because he didn’t pitch in 2023.

The Rest of the NL East

The Marlins have five starters ranked from 22nd to 77th and a sixth at 148th. The Mets have five in the list of 150 and two more in the top 168. However, three of those arms have a significant injury risk - Severino, Manaea, and Megill.

The Phillies have four, two with a severe injury risk (Wheeler and Walker), and little showing as depth behind them. The rebuilding from the ground up Nationals have two pitchers in the top 150, Gore and Gray.

That’s A Wrap

I expect Strider to challenge for a Cy Young this season and look for Fried to have an outstanding walk-year performance. Questions about the health of Morton, Sale, and to a lesser degree Fried, remain.

The Braves have to hope Lopez can successfully work as a starter and Elder doesn’t fade as the season wears on because there’s not much quality depth behind them.

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