Braves: Grading Jared Shuster’s MLB debut

ECJ230402006 ATL WAS

Yesterday had the opportunity to be an exciting day for Braves Country. The Braves took on the Nationals looking for a sweep to open the season, and they had rookie Jared Shuster on the mound making his MLB debut. Unfortunately, not much went right for Atlanta on Sunday. Shuster found trouble in the first inning, the Nationals took advantage, and the Braves bats were quite all afternoon.

Washington opened up the ball game with back-to-back singles on just a few pitches, and that seemed to rattle Shuster. He walked the next batter to load the bases, and then an RBI single gave Washington a run before an out was even recorded, but the damage was just beginning. Shuster walked the next batter on four straight pitches and then walked in another run on just five pitches. It was the start of nightmares for a rookie making his MLB debut, and the bullpen was already tossing, but what happened next should give Shuster some hope going into his start against the Padres on Friday.

The 2020 first-round pick out of Wake Forest was able to get an infield fly, followed by a sacrifice fly and a groundout to end the inning while limiting the damage to four runs. He then pitched 3.2 more innings of scoreless ball after that, giving up just three hits the rest of the way.

A scoreline of 4.2 innings and four earned runs is far from the worst MLB debut ever, especially considering the way it began. Brian Snitker even said he was probably just one batter away from being pulled in the first inning, so the fact that he was able to settle down, get out of the jam, and continue pitching into the fifth inning without allowing any more runs is impressive. It’s something to build off going into his next start, but he won’t be facing an offense as dormant as the Nationals, which is arguably the worst in the league.

The Padres will present a much more difficult test, and if Shuster can’t find the strike zone, he won’t make it out of the first few innings. On Sunday, I think we saw a much more clear version of what Shuster offers. His ceiling is probably a back-end starter, but he might be better suited for the bullpen. He sits in the low-90s with his fastball and features a good change-up with a slider that still needs some work.

In Spring Training, Shuster’s control was not an issue, but the sample size was small and there wasn’t nearly as much pressure on him. His walks have been an issue in the past, and that’s something he’ll have to improve upon greatly if he wants to stay with the big-league club. Not only was Shuster giving up way too many free passes to the Nationals, but most of his misses were uncompetitive. That’s not going to work at this level, especially against better offenses.

It’s one start, so it’s fair to chalk up the performance to nerves, and the Braves don’t have much of a choice but to give Shuster more opportunities because of all the injuries they are dealing with in their rotation. He didn’t have his best stuff, but he battled admirably. However, if his control doesn’t improve significantly moving forward, Shuster’s first stint with the major-league club will be a short one.

Grade: D

Photo: Charles Brock/Icon Sportswire

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