Braves: The Athletic ranks MLB’s Aces

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The Athletic recently paneled executives, analysts and scouts in an attempt to find out who are MLB’s true aces going into 2023. Every panelist was asked to give each pitcher a grade from numbers 1 to 5. If the pitcher received a 1, they would be awarded five points. If they got a 5, they would only get 1 point. They then came up with five tiers, which can be seen below.

Tier 1 (100) — The Inner Circle: The unanimous No. 1s.
Tier 2 (99.5 to 90) — Aces: The pitchers you can trust all regular season and again in October.
Tier 3 (89.5 to 80) — The Pool of Applicants: The men who might one day call themselves aces.
Tier 4 (79.5 to 60) — No. 2s and No. 3s: Those with lower ceilings, but still elevated floors. It should be noted — these guys are awesome at baseball.
Tier 5 (59.5 and below) — Guys: Everyone else. Or, in the parlance of the scouting world, “just a guy.”

There were no unanimous No. 1s in the last exercise. That changed this year. In part, because a certain star returned from injury.

So, back to that question. Who are the aces in baseball? This is our best attempt at telling you.

At tier 1, there was only one pitcher with a perfect grade of 100 — Justin Verlander. I’m not really sure what some of these panelists were thinking. Verlander is worthy of a 100 grade and very well might be the best pitcher in baseball, but who in their right mind doesn’t think pitchers like Max Scherzer, Corbin Burnes, Sandy Alcantara, and others aren’t aces? Doesn’t make much sense to me, but we continue.

All of the guys I just mentioned above appeared in tier 2, along with Gerrit Cole, Shohei Ohtani, Aaron Nola, and Jacob deGrom.

In tier 3 came the Braves duo of Spencer Strider and Max Fried, who ranked 10th and 11th, respectively. I would probably have them both in tier 2, but I’m not totally shocked they came in where they did. Fried’s consistency probably warrants him to be a bit higher, but he does lack the typical dominance you see from an ace. Strider, on the other hand, might be the most dominant pitcher in baseball. I think he will cement himself into tier 2, if not tier 1, after this season. However, because he doesn’t have a bunch of innings under his belt, that’s probably why he’s not there just yet.

Braves breakout player of the 2022 season, Kyle Wright, landed in tier 4 after winning 21 games last year. This is a group that also included talents like Shane Bieber, Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, and many other outstanding arms. Wright was fantastic last year, but there’s no reason he should be any higher than those guys after one standout season. If he can do it again in 2023, though, perhaps he could find himself in tier 3.

The final Braves starter to make the list in tier 5 was Charlie Morton. After a down year in 2022, I don’t mind where he stands. With that being said, I’ve said all offseason that I believe Morton is in for a bounce back campaign this season. He still has the potential to be a tier 4 starter, even at 39-years-old.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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