Alex Anthopoulos has placed emphasis on starting pitchers in recent seasons after seeing the club struggle in that area in years past. He’s continued to bolster it each offseason, regardless of the personnel turnover, and it’s paid dividends. The Braves starting rotation remains one of the most elite in baseball.
The top-end talent is apparent, and its aces can go toe-to-toe with any in the MLB. Max Fried and Spencer Strider are 1A and 1B. Fried is the best lefty on the planet, finishing second in the NL Cy Young race, boasting a career-best 2.48 ERA, 2.70 FIP, and 5.9 WAR in 2022. Strider was the fastest pitcher to record 200 strikeouts, breaking Randy Johnson‘s record. He struck out over a third of the batters he faced and became the first pitcher to record 200 strikeouts without giving up 100 hits.
The middle part of the rotation is more than solid. Kyle Wright recorded an eye-popping 21 wins to only five losses with a 3.19 ERA over 30 starts and 180.1 innings. Charlie Morton struggled in 2022, but it’s fair to blame the combination of his broken fibula that he suffered during the 2021 World Series and the MLB lockout, which prohibited him from rehabbing with the team, as a reason for the letdown. In his first 12 starts, Morton posted a 5.67 ERA and only went at least six innings twice. In the next 19 starts, Morton posted a 3.63 ERA, 10 of which he went at least six innings.
However, what makes it one of the best rotations in baseball is the depth, which MLB.com recognized as the sixth-best in the majors.
After missing more than two years due to multiple Achilles tendon tears and soreness in his pitching elbow, Mike Soroka is set to return in 2023 and will compete with Anderson for the No. 5 spot in the Braves’ rotation this spring. Anderson had a rough 2022 season, but he’s shown he can excel at baseball’s highest level, registering a 3.25 ERA, a 136 ERA+ and a 3.80 FIP in 30 starts across 2020-21. The 24-year-old also owns an eye-popping 1.26 ERA in eight postseason starts.
Elder posted a 3.17 ERA in 10 games (nine starts) for Atlanta as a rookie last season, though most of his success came in his final five starts (1.65 ERA), all of which were against the Marlins or the Nationals. The 23-year-old had a 4.46 ERA over 105 innings with Triple-A Gwinnett in 2022.
The site included Mike Soroka in the club’s top-five starting pitchers, which is why he isn’t listed with Anderson, Elder, and Allard. Still, I think all should be grouped as depth pieces.
Anderson is my bet to begin the year as the fifth starter. People forget how dominant he was during the Braves’ World Series run. He owns a 1.26 ERA over 35.2 postseason innings. I have a ton of faith in Anderson to figure it out; he possesses too much talent not to.
Elder has been consistent at all levels. With the Braves, he posted a 3.17 ERA, and his last five starts were eye-popping, recording a 1.65 ERA and 2.41 FIP. Elder also struck out over nine batters per nine innings. Five of his starts did come against the pedestrian offenses of the Marlins and Nationals, but he’s still primed to pitch significant innings in 2023.
Alex Anthopoulos has stated multiple times that the club expects as many as ten different pitchers to start games for the Braves this year. Considering injuries are expected, I don’t think that number is hyperbole. The Braves will have to rely on all of these guys at some point; thankfully, the rotation is as deep as any.
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