Braves: It’s time to give Spencer Strider a look as a starter

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Despite some early season struggles, I’ve remained adamant that there is a lot to like about the Braves rotation. We already know what to expect from Max Fried, Ian Anderson, and Charlie Morton. Unless injury strikes, all three of them will be high quality options at the top of the rotation. After that, there were question marks to begin the season, but already, several worthwhile options have emerged.

I was high on Kyle Wright to begin the year, naming him my candidate to be the Braves breakout star in 2022. So far, he’s making me look like a genius, giving up just two earned runs and striking out 15 batters over 11 innings. The sample size is minuscule, so I’m not going to give myself too much credit yet, but I do think it’s fair to say that he will be a solid contributor all season, at the very least.

For the final spot in the rotation, it looks like the Braves have two rookies that could fill the void. Bryce Elder has made two starts and looked more than serviceable, recording a 4.50 ERA over ten innings. I wouldn’t be opposed to giving him a few more opportunities, but the one that excites me is Spencer Strider. He appeared in relief of Elder yesterday and shut the door on the Padres lineup for the final 3.2 innings, giving the Braves several chances to win.

Unfortunately, the bats couldn’t get the job done, but that doesn’t take away from the dominance Strider has shown early on. His meteoric rise up the Braves system continued by making the Opening Day roster, and he’s giving the front office every reason to keep him in Atlanta once the rosters shrink back down to 26 men. So far, Strider has only been used in long relief, tossing nine innings and surrendering just one run while striking out 11. The bullpen may end up being where he’s best served in the short and long-term, but it feels like giving him an opportunity as a starter has always been the Braves original plan.

I do have some concerns about Strider going deep into major-league games because of his pitch repertoire. He primarily features a fastball/slider mix, throwing his changeup just 5% of the time. However, there is something to be said about how effective his fastball and slider have been to this point. Strider has only given up three hits, which have all come off his fastball. Opponents’ batting average versus the pitch is a measly .130, and nobody has yet to even record a hit against his slider, which has a whiff percentage of 56.3% That’s elite level stuff that I think he’ll be able to get by with as long as he reels in the walks. Strider already has six of them in nine innings this year, which isn’t going to cut it for long against major-league clubs.

Next time through the rotation, I expect Strider to start a game. What Bryce Elder has done in his two starts has been promising, but I never thought he was going to be a staple of this team for the entire season. He still needs some seasoning in AAA, a place where he’s only made seven starts. The Braves should also be looking to find a new role for Huascar Ynoa if he doesn’t perform well tonight against the Dodgers. He looked abysmal his last time out, and it might be time for him to spend a stint in Gwinnett or make a move to the bullpen.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire




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