Braves: Predicting the starting rotation in September

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What’s wild about the Braves recent slump is it has been caused by aspects of the team that have not been affected by injury. The offense is fully healthy, yet they’ve been hot and cold over the last month. And the bullpen… do we really need to discuss that?

The Braves starting rotation, on the other hand, without Max Fried and Kyle Wright, has been elite. It’s been one of the best units in baseball by every metric. Spencer Strider has come as advertised (I know everyone expects him to toss 8 innings of shutout ball with 12 Ks every time out, but that’s unrealistic). Charlie Morton looks much more like his usual self after a forgetful 2022. Bryce Elder owns the best ERA in baseball. Jared Shuster has started to put together some quality outings, and now Michael Soroka is back in the majors. Not to mention, the Braves just called up AJ Smith-Shawver, another candidate to enter the rotation if one of these guys starts to falter.

The Braves have some quality options, and the hope is that both Max Fried and Kyle Wright return over the next few months. If that happens, a couple of these arms are going to have to find new roles or return to the minors, so I’m going to go ahead and give my prediction for how the Braves rotation is going to look coming down the stretch.

The two locks to be in the rotation, assuming they stay healthy, are Spencer Strider and Charlie Morton. Even Elder, as good as he’s been this season, could be removed if he starts to struggle (not saying that’s going to happen). It’s also obvious Max Fried will be in the rotation once he returns from the IL. That leaves five potential options–Kyle Wright, Michael Soroka, Jared Shuster, Bryce Elder, and AJ Smith-Shawver–for two spots.

The first name I’m going to cross off the list is Jared Shuster. He’s shown some promise, and I’m fine with him learning as he goes for the time being because the Braves don’t have many options outside of just thrusting Smith-Shawver into the rotation. However, I’ve never been as high on Shuster and just feel as if out of this entire group; he’s the one with the lowest ceiling.

The next guy I’m going to cross off might come as a surprise. I have a feeling it’s going to be a while before Wright starts throwing again, and it may become a situation where he’s shut down for the season. Any setback, and it feels like the Braves will shut him down. This is a lingering issue with his shoulder, which can be a pain in the ass. I also think out of all of these guys, Wright could serve as a really good long reliever, especially in the playoffs, which is very valuable. The Braves aren’t going to rush him, which might mean moving him to the bullpen for the time being.

And then there were three. I’ll go ahead and give the fourth spot in the rotation to Elder. I believe in him as a pitcher. The guy owns a 2.48 ERA over 21 appearances (20 starts). That’s no small sample size; analytics be damned. Even if he does regress a bit this season, which he will, he can still be a really solid pitcher at the backend of the Braves rotation.

That leaves Michael Soroka and AJ Smith-Shawver. To be honest, I could really see this going either way. The Braves clearly believe in AJ Smith-Shawver’s potential, or he wouldn’t be in the majors right now. His upside is ridiculous, but I think it’s a bit of wishful thinking to expect a 20-year-old with 110 minor league innings under his belt to come up, work his way into the rotation, and have success. Soroka’s the safer bet here, and even though there will be growing pains, I think he will be a really good pitcher by the end of the season, someone the Braves will want in the rotation.

2023 Braves September Rotation Prediction

  1. Max Fried
  2. Spencer Strider
  3. Charlie Morton
  4. Bryce Elder
  5. Michael Soroka

That’s a pretty damn good group if you ask me.

Photo: Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire

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