Braves: Several Spencer Strider replacements struggling early

MLB: JUN 04 Braves at Diamondbacks

At this point, all Braves fans can do is sit and hope that the second opinion Spencer Strider received revealed some positive information. We should know in a matter of days, but the reality is Strider is going to be out for quite some time, and one of the younger arms is going to have to step up.

Nobody is going to replace the consensus pre-season favorite to win the NL Cy Young. Very few people in the league could do that, but we talked all offseason about the incredible depth of the Braves starting pitching staff. Their entire AAA rotation has major league experience, but you wouldn’t know it by the early season results.

Braves Country got their first taste of a potential Spencer Strider replacement on Thursday afternoon when Allan Winans toed the rubber against the Mets, and it went about as poorly as possible. The 28-year-old gave up six earned runs over five innings and New York walloped Atlanta by a score of 16-4.

However, Winans wasn’t really next in line for the job. It just worked out that he was fully rested and ready for the opportunity. He’s already been optioned back to Gwinnett, and someone will replace him next week.

But who?

Huascar Ynoa had a promising first start since returning from Tommy John surgery a year-and-a-half ago, tossing four shutout innings. But he followed it up by failing to make it out of the second inning and letting up six earned runs. More worrisome, his fastball velocity is sitting 90-92. Prior to the injury, it was 96-99. He’s not even close to being ready to contribute.

AJ Smith-Shawver was equally as ineffective in his first start for the Stripers, giving up six runs over three innings. I’m a lot less worried about him than Ynoa, but the Braves are also still trying to build up his pitch count so he’ll be stronger towards the end of the season. I would be shocked to see him in the majors soon.

Atlanta’s other top prospect, Hurston Waldrep, who looked very impressive during Spring Training, was rocked in his first AA start as well. He couldn’t make it out of the third inning and surrendered seven earned runs. Like Smith-Shawver, the panic level with Waldrep is close to zero, but it’s also a reminder that he’s only made nine professional starts. Expecting him to contribute in Atlanta soon is wishful thinking.

There are really only three candidates to fill the void right now — Bryce Elder, Darius Vines, and Dylan Dodd. Elder has tons of experience and went through the exact same situation last year, beginning the year in AAA before quickly being called up to replace Max Fried in the rotation. He went on to make the NL All-Star team.

Through two starts, Elder has a 2.61 ERA, but he did struggle his last time out, giving up three earned runs on six hits and three walks over four innings. I would consider him the favorite to take over, and hopefully, he can take the job and run with it, but don’t count out Dylan Dodd and Darius Vines

Vines has showcased some high quality swing-and-mis stuff early in the season, and Dodd shockingly made Atlanta’s Opening Day rotation a year ago. While things didn’t pan out like he might have hoped, a year of experience can change a lot. His stuff is major-league ready and looking the part through two starts, as he’s only allowed two runs over 11.2 innings.

The positive aspect of all of this is that it is April. There’s a lot of time, and the Braves have plenty of options to fill the void. They could even add someone at the trade deadline if things get worse, but the hope is that one of these guys can get to Atlanta and take a stranglehold of the opportunity.

Photo: Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire

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