The Braves had one of the most dominant rotations in baseball last season. Max Fried finished second in the Cy Young thanks to a career year. Kyle Wright eclipsed 20 wins amid a breakout campaign. Spencer Strider threw like the best pitcher in the league when he joined the rotation. And Charlie Morton was as good of a fourth starter as any in the league. Only the Brewers pitching staff accrued more fWAR (15.0) than the Braves (14.7), and with Atlanta essentially choosing to run it back with the same group, FanGraphs is projecting them to finish in the same position next season.
Projected '23 starting pitcher WAR (via @fangraphs):
12.7 LAA NYM
12.2 LAD SD
11.7 BOS TOR
11.5 SF SEA
9.8 STL CIN
8.3 TEX DET
— Codify (@CodifyBaseball) November 27, 2022
Fried finished second in the NL Cy Young race behind Sandy Alcantara. The Braves southpaw posted a career-best 2.48 ERA, 2.70 FIP, and 5.9 WAR. He’s quickly established himself as one of the elite pitchers in the game and probably the best lefty on the planet. Fried is the ace of the staff, but Strider might already be a more dominant pitcher.
The NL Rookie of the Year runner-up had a historic season in which he broke a slew of records. Strider became the fastest pitcher to reach 200 strikeouts, breaking Randy Johnson‘s record, the first pitcher in MLB history to strike out 200+ batters without giving up 100 hits, and the franchise leader in strikeouts in nine innings or less. Strider has an argument for the nastiest stuff on the planet, reminiscent of Jacob deGrom, which is why the Braves inked him to a six-year extension worth $75 million guaranteed.
Wright was a complete revelation this past season. He posted 21 wins to only five losses with a 3.19 ERA over 30 starts and 180.1 innings. Over his previous four seasons, Wright pitched in 21 regular season games, posting a 2-8 record with a 6.56 ERA. He’s earned the coaching staff’s trust and will likely slot in behind Strider and Fried in future seasons.
Morton, the veteran of the rotation, had an up-and-down season. Still, you’re sitting pretty when a player like Morton is your fourth starter. His patented curveball is one of the most unhittable pitches in baseball when it’s on, but unfortunately, Morton struggled mightily throughout the season with his control. Still, in his defense, he was coming off a broken leg, so a full, healthy offseason could be what the doctor ordered. A 4.34 ERA isn’t impressive, but there were moments throughout the season when we saw vintage Charlie Morton.
The fifth and final spot of the rotation is up for grabs. It’ll be the most competitive position battle on the roster, as a slew of arms are fighting for just one spot. Bryce Elder is an option; he pitched 10 games this past season, posting a 3.17 ERA and 3.78 FIP through 54 innings. Kyle Muller is another. The towering lefty made 23 starts with the Triple-A Stripers in 2022 and posted a 3.41 ERA and a 10.6 strikeout per nine. After experiencing a down 2022 campaign, Ian Anderson is looking to get back to the 2021 version of himself. Mike Soroka and Kolby Allard round out the group, vying for the final spot in the rotation.
It’ll be interesting to see who separates themselves. One thing is clear: the Braves will once again have a dominant starting rotation.
John Adams/Icon Sportswire
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