Braves: Could Spencer Strider begin the season in the starting rotation?

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I have to admit, this is never something I thought I would be saying this close to the start of the season, but there is a real chance that Spencer Strider is apart of the rotation come Opening Day. The 2020 fourth-round selection out of Clemson turned heads in his first professional season, earning his way all the way up to the major leagues. In the final two series of the season, Strider appeared twice for the Braves in relief, and I thought there was a chance they would put him on the postseason roster.

Understandably, the Braves decided to hold off, but Strider has picked up right where he left off in Spring Training. He made his second appearance yesterday, holding the Blue Jays hitless over 2.1 innings. Strider did walk a couple but also struck out two. However, Spring Training is rarely about the numbers, it’s about working out the kinks, and there’s one thing I saw yesterday from Strider that has me believing he can begin the season in the rotation.

Even after a tremendous first professional season, the consensus among prospect gurus was that Strider would most likely be a bullpen piece. Given his pitch arsenal at the time, the thought process was understandable. Strider was mostly a two-offering pitcher, featuring a hard fastball and wipeout slider. That was enough for him to dominate in the minors, but that won’t fly as a starting pitcher in the majors. Strider needs to develop a confident third offering if he ever wants to reach his full potential as a starter, and it looks like he’s finding one early this Spring.

Take a look at this changeup he threw yesterday:

If Strider can mix this pitch in with his fastball/slider combination, there’s little doubt he will be a force to be reckoned with at the major-league level. Given his pitch style, I still think he’s a long-term bullpen piece, but I understand why the Braves want to see him as a starter first. He’s much more valuable in the rotation, and there’s a chance he’s on the Opening Day roster if he can string together a couple of more high-quality outings this Spring Training.

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