Atlanta Braves: Which Braves pitcher will perform the best in 2023?
By Eric Cole
Just a quick look at the projections going into the 2023 season confirms our suspicions that the Atlanta Braves are in a very good spot going into this season. The offense understandably gets a lot of love as they are a dynamic and deep bunch. However, the Braves starting rotation is pretty loaded as well. Sure, the fifth spot is an open competition, but when Charlie Morton could easily be the team's fourth best starter when it is all said and done...that is a good place to be.
However, there is a real debate as to which starter will end up being the most productive on the team. Max Fried is coming off a run at the Cy Young, Spencer Strider was among the most dominant pitchers in the league until he got bit by the injury bug at the end of the year, and Kyle Wright's breakout season and Charlie Morton's track record of excellence can't be ignored either.
We decided to get together as a staff and give our predictions. In an attempt to remove some amount of subjectivity, I posed the question as "which Braves pitcher will have the highest WAR by the end of the season?" You are welcome to argue amongst yourselves about things like pitcher wins and "veteran presence", but that isn't what we are talking about here. Enjoy!
Eric: Max Fried is probably the safest bet here, but I am going to go with Spencer Strider. Not only do WAR calculations love strikeouts (which Spencer is very good at getting), but he will also have a full season as a starter this go around and he was the most productive Braves pitcher in the rotation on a rate basis on the mound. If he stays healthy, he could win the Cy Young this year.
Sam: I do believe with the new rules, we will see a surge in offense, which will see ground ball pitchers seeing a drop off in production. With that in mind, I am going to go Strider over Fried since he is more of a strikeout pitcher, which WAR favors.
Fred: Strider: As Sam said, WAR - particularly fWAR and WARP- favors strikeout pitchers: Fried posted a 5.9 rWAR, 5.0 fWAR, and 3.5 WARP, while Strider posted 3.7, 4.2., and 4.6.
Chase: I think we’re going to see most of us go with one of Fried or Strider. While I do think Strider is going to strikeout more guys this year, which favors him in WAR, I’m going to pick Fried on this one. I just think Fried keeps getting better, he’ll flirt with Cy Young once again and his price tag will just keep going up.
Mitchell: I’m too high on Spencer Strider to say otherwise. He was able to maintain his ridiculously high K% while reducing his BB% down the stretch, and while I don’t think he’ll have the same homer suppression skills, I still think we could see a 7 WAR season from our favorite mustache-rocking starter. I think 10 months from now, we’re looking at Spencer Strider as a Cy Young finalist.
Trent: Max Fried is my favorite player so I will stick with Fried as my choice here. I think Max is as steady as they come at the top of the rotation and will once again lead the Braves rotation.
Davis: Despite pitching 54 less innings than Max Fried in 2022, Spencer Strider fell only 0.1 fWAR shy of the Braves ace’s total. Strider’s 1.83 FIP and 2.30 xFIP, which both surpass Fried’s figures from 2022, along with his affinity for the strikeout, make him my runaway favorite to lead the staff in WAR in 2023.
Colin: I want to say Max Fried, as he is coming off of a season where he posted a 2.48 ERA and was a runner up for the NL Cy Young Award. However, I think that Spencer Strider will take a huge leap in 2023. In his rookie year, Strider put up an impressive 2.67 ERA and became the fastest pitcher in a long time to reach 200 strikeouts in a single season, doing so in 130 innings pitched. Expect Strider to have a similar, if not better, season coming into 2023.
Matt: Spencer Strider. I’m all in on Strider in 2023 to have a similar season, if not better, to his 2022 rookie campaign, with Max Fried, who should also be a Cy Young candidate, also a potential option as well.