The Braves have never been afraid to turn to a less experienced and notable player. They’ve shown time and time again. There are countless examples, but the most recent is the unlikely Spring Training performances of a couple of prospects — Dylan Dodd and Jared Shuster.
Coming into the Spring, the Braves expected one of Mike Soroka, Ian Anderson, or Bryce Elder to claim the final spot in the starting rotation. Soroka has dealt with a lingering hamstring injury, which has effectively guaranteed his chances of beginning the year in Triple-A Gwinnett. However, the other two were surprisingly demoted recently after several lackluster outings. Granted, Elder’s were much less discouraging than Anderson’s.
On the other hand, Dodd and Shuster have everyone’s eyes on them. Brian Snitker called the former the most impressive player this Spring, which isn’t surprising. The 2021 third-rounder has been nearly perfect, allowing five hits and no runs over 8.1 innings while fanning 11. And Shuster has been shoving as well.
Most recently, Shuster looked great against the Red Sox, where he surrendered three hits and issued a walk while recording seven strikeouts in four-plus innings. What was very encouraging about his outing was his ability to get out of a bases loaded jam. In total, the 24-year-old southpaw has allowed just one run over 12.2 innings this Spring.
Both pitchers have a real chance to contribute at the major league level this season. Unlike other clubs, the Braves won’t hold them back because of a lack of experience, draft status, or any other trivial excuse. When their prospects are ready, Alex Anthopoulos doesn’t hesitate to push them through the system — something Bobby Cox implemented.
“I used to tell guys, ‘Bobby [Cox] doesn’t care what round you were drafted, how much money you got with a bonus.’ He just wants somebody to come up and help him win games, no matter who you are, where you’ve been or how you got here,” Brian Snitker said. “I think [Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos] identifies with that too.”
The Hall of Fame manager’s lasting impact on the franchise cannot be understated. The Braves have an ironman attitude when it comes to playing games that started with Chipper Jones, handed down to Freddie Freeman, and is presently woven into the fabric of the organization’s culture. Cox’s willingness to turn to unlikely contributors has also remained a standard practice.
Now, Shuster is a former first-round pick and arguably the top prospect on the farm, but he was certainly a dark horse to make the Opening Day roster. However, Dodd is a different story as a former third-round pick out of Southeast Missouri State University with minimal expectations. The Braves have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to pitching; Jared Shuster and Dylan Dodd are just the latest products of the best-run organization in baseball.
Photographer: Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire
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