Braves: Examining how every potential replacement for Mike Soroka pitched in 2019

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With Mike Soroka going down for the season on Monday, someone will have to fill his spot in the rotation, beginning on Saturday. The Braves will probably wait a few days to make that announcement, but there are several potential options, from high-powered prospects to journeyman veterans. Here are all the potential candidates and how they performed in 2019.

*I’ll also include what they’ve done in 2020 if it applies.

Bryse Wilson

Wilson has had a few short stints in the majors and even began last season in the starting rotation. But after a couple of rough outings, he was quickly demoted to Gwinnett. With the Braves, he appeared six times (four starts), posting a forgetful 7.20 ERA in 20 innings. Most of the damage by opponents was done the second time through the order. Wilson’s fastball could fool them once, but his underwhelming secondary stuff resulted in little success. Those second and third offerings were likely the focus of his offseason, but we haven’t had the opportunity to see much of him in 2020, outside of a few spring training outings.

With the Stripers, however, Wilson was highly productive. He recorded a 3.42 ERA in 121 innings, averaging almost a strikeout per inning. Wilson also cut down on his walks, issuing just 26 of them. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Braves gave him another look as a starter in place of Soroka, but he won’t last in Atlanta very long if those secondary pitches haven’t improved.

Tyler Matzek

If the Braves wanted to go the bullpen route and potentially stretch someone out, Matzek might be their best option. The 29-year-old has had one of the oddest baseball careers to this point and been a true underdog story this season for the Braves, tossing 5.1 innings of scoreless ball with a ridiculous nine strikeouts.

Matzek, a former first-round pick by the Rockies, last appeared in professional baseball (not counting independent leagues) in 2016. He pitched in the majors the year before, making five starts for the Rockies and recording a respectable 4.09 ERA. However, his 5.95 FIP and 7.8 BB/9 suggested he was extremely fortunate, and he completely fell apart in the minors after being demoted with a terrible case of the yips. The Braves think they have helped him fix those, and so far, it looks like it. Atlanta could at least try him out as an opener, and if he succeeds in that role, possibly attempt to stretch him into a starter full-time.

Josh Tomlin

Another potential bullpen candidate that could open games and perhaps even be stretched into a starter is Josh Tomlin. He’s not the flashiest arm, but he’s been damn productive over the last two seasons for the Braves.

Last year, Tomlin accrued 1.0 WAR out of the pen, recording a 3.74 ERA in 79.1 innings. Anytime Brian Snitker needed someone to eat innings after a poor start effectively, he not only did that but also gave the team a chance to win. So far this season, he’s been just as efficient. Tomlin’s yet to give up a run or a walk in 6.2 innings and has a ridiculous FIP of 0.30. His 0.7 BB/9 during his time with the Braves is the most attractive aspect of using him as a starter.

Jhoulys Chacin

The Braves DFA’d Chacin after a rough outing on Friday against the Mets, but he was outrighted to Gwinnett once nobody claimed him. It might have been unlikely for the Braves to add him back to the 40-man roster, but after Soroka’s injury, he’s an option again.

2019 was a miserable year for Chacin. He began the season as Milwaukee’s Opening Day starter, but after 19 starts, they decided to part ways with him altogether. The Red Sox picked him up late in the year, but he was even worse for them, posting a 7.36 ERA in six appearances (five starts). However, before 2019, Chacin was a reliable option, recording a 3.69 ERA in 67 starts and logging over 370 innings in 2017 and 2018 combined. The Braves could use an innings eater like that this year, but in 2020, Chacin has looked much more like the 2019 version of himself. Through two appearances, he has a 7.20 ERA. However, it is a small sample size of just five innings.

Tucker Davidson

As far as prospects who have yet to make their major league debut, Tucker Davidson is my best bet to last in the rotation this year. The 24-year-old lefty burst onto the scene with an unbelievable 2019, which started in Mississipi, where he posted a 2.03 ERA in 21 starts. The Braves promoted him to Gwinnett for the last month of the season — a jump a lot of young pitchers struggle with initially, but not Davidson. He posted a 2.84 ERA for the Stripers in four starts, and he’s looked equally as impressive throughout both Spring Trainings. If the Braves really want to make a push in October, one of their young pitchers will have to break out. Davidson could be just the guy to do it.

Ian Anderson

This is the arm everyone wants to see, but Anderson is probably the least likely on this list to start on Saturday for Soroka. The Braves top-ranked pitching prospect has ace potential, which can be seen by the 147 strikeouts and 2.68 ERA he posted last season in Mississippi as a 21-year-old, earning him a promotion to Gwinnett for the final month of the season. But unlike Davidson, Anderson struggled for the Stripers, recording a 6.57 ERA in just five starts (24.2 innings). Walks were his most significant issue, as he gave out 18 free passes, but he also surrendered five long balls. It’s a small sample size, but it doesn’t seem like he’s quite ready to make the jump, and the Braves probably don’t want to risk destroying his confidence so early in his career. Anderson is the type of pitcher they hope to have in Atlanta for 10+ years, along with guys like Mike Soroka and Max Fried.


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