The Athletic recently paneled a group of 20 people in the baseball industry, asking the simple question, “Who are the real aces in baseball?”
Keep in mind, to even be considered; you have to be pretty recognizable. The writers took the top 60 pitchers from FanGraphs WAR list last year and added Dallas Keuchel since the former Cy Young Award winner was signed late last season also could not qualify. The people were asked to place each pitcher into four tiers — Aces, Applicants, No.2s and No. 3s, and Guys. Here’s how they viewed the Braves starting pitchers that qualified.
Unsurprisingly, Mike Soroka was the most highly regarded of the Braves starting pitchers. He was placed in Tier II with other names like Walker Buehler, Stephen Strasburg, Jack Flaherty, and Luis Castillo. Considering there were only four pitchers in Tier I, this was quite the compliment for Soroka, who was a rookie in 2019. One year of excellent work isn’t going to be enough to lift Soroka to the top Tier just yet, but if he continues to improve, it’s only a matter of time. More success in the playoffs wouldn’t hurt either. In his only career postseason start, he threw seven innings of one-run ball.
Max Fried fell to Tier III, but he’s surrounded by some pretty impressive names, considering he’s only been a full-time starter for one year. Other players in this group include Zack Grienke, Trevor Bauer, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Most evaluators seem to believe Fried has just as high of a ceiling as Soroka, if not higher. However, he’s going to have to harness his control like the Maple Maddux to realize his full potential.
Hamels was a bit further down the list, but he still finished in Tier III. The 36-year-old has proven that he still has some gas left in the tank over the last few seasons. However, he’s yet to be healthy since the Braves signed him this offseason, and it’s unlikely he will be available to start the season. It’s understandable why the organization is taking things slow with him, but Hamels won’t provide much value on the bench.
Guys who could be on this next year
Because of Foltynewicz’s nightmarish start to the 2019 season, he didn’t qualify for this list, but he ended the year with a bang and has already shown us what he is capable of over a full season in 2018. If he can bounce back this year, he certainly belongs in Tier II or III.
Newcomb has a lot to prove as a starter, but the potential for him to be on this list in the future is undeniable. However, it all depends on his control. We could be in for a Max Fried-type breakout campaign from Newk, if his late-season bullpen stint paid off.
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