On Monday, I rolled out Part 1 of a three-part series meant to delve into what the Braves would look like if all of the organization’s originally signed/drafted players were on the team right now (using only players currently still active). As I mentioned in the first post (covering the Braves’ lineup), this series stems from the excellent work ESPN’s Bradford Doolittle did last week when he did this for all 30 teams, even handing out ratings and compiling a league-wide power ranking. For more details on exactly what this exercise is striving to accomplish, be sure to skim over Part 1, as I would like to avoid a 300-word disclaimer since there’s a lot to unpack below.
Let’s get started with the Braves’ starting rotation:
- Mike Minor
- Charlie Morton
- Mike Soroka
- Julio Teheran
- Adam Wainwright
The starting rotation leaves some mixed feelings. Despite the Braves’ unprecedented success at drafting and signing young pitchers, it does seem like the organization could’ve done a better job holding on to some of their pitching talent.
Although, it would be unfair to totally blame the Braves for parting ways with Mike Minor, as at the time he seemed stuck in mediocrity, going 38-36 with a 4.10 ERA in five seasons with the team. The Braves non-tendered Minor in December of 2015, during a time in which there was still a lot of uncertainty about the lefty’s recovery from shoulder surgery, given he missed all of the 2015 season and parts of the year prior. Even so, once cut from the Braves, Minor quickly caught on with the Royals, spending 2016 in the minors before pitching in 65 games with the big league team as a shut-down reliever (10.2 K/9, 2.55 ERA, 2.2 WAR) in 2017.
Minor parlayed one of the best seasons of his career into a 3-year, $27 million deal with the Rangers that following offseason, where he recently enjoyed 2.5-WAR and 4.2-WAR seasons in 2018 and 2019, respectively. It would be nice to have Minor, but I’m not sure you can blame the Braves for moving on from him when they did. He apparently needed a change in scenery. It happens.
Charlie Morton’s revitalized career is similar to Minor’s, though Morton received far less of a look in Atlanta. The Braves traded Morton to the Pirates in 2008, along with outfielder Gorky Hernandez and pitcher Jeff Locke, in exchange for outfielder Nate McLouth. Morton struggled for numerous years after, until putting together a then-career year (3.1 WAR) with the Astros in 2017, followed by an impressive 6.1-WAR season as a 35-year-old with the Rays in 2019. Meanwhile, McLouth had that one really good season in 2009 (though parts of it were with Pittsburgh) when he hit 20 home runs and slashed .256/.352/.436 for 3.2 WAR. Twelve years later, that trade still doesn’t look great for the Braves, but again, how can you blame them for moving a player that took a decade to morph into the top-of-the-rotation starter he is today?
However, the Adam Wainwright trade… that’s quite a different story. After being a first-round pick in the 2000 MLB Draft, the Braves moved Wainwright to the Cardinals in December of 2003 (before he ever reached the majors) in exchange for outfielder J.D. Drew and catcher Eli Marrero. St. Louis also received pitchers Jason Marquis and Ray King from the Braves. Without even looking at the other two players the Cards received in that package, the Redbirds have benefited from 40+ WAR from Wainwright over the last 14 seasons, including 162 wins and 2,000+ innings. Yeah, let’s just leave that one right there.
Moving on, I don’t think anyone can blame the Braves for letting go of Julio Teheran this offseason (after nine durable seasons). Teheran totaled 1,360 innings in Atlanta, ending his tenure last season with an overall 77-73 record and 3.67 ERA. His most impressive accomplishment during his time as a Brave, though, was his ability to eat innings every year, averaging 150+ innings per season (including seven-straight seasons of 30+ starts from 2013-19). The Angels signed Teheran this past December to a one-year, $9 million contract.
Lastly there’s 2019’s breakout star Mike Soroka, who thankfully the Braves held onto after drafting him 28th overall in the 2015 MLB Draft. Although, not trading Soroka was a rather easy decision (even during the rebuild years), given the Canadian righty put together quite the dominant minor league career before breaking into the majors. In five seasons of development on the farm, Soroka carried a remarkable 2.84 ERA with eight strikeouts per nine and a ridiculous walk-rate of 1.9 BB/9. Credit the team for not pulling an Adam Wainwright or Charlie Morton with him… even if the decision to keep him was a no-brainer.
Just like in Part 1, regarding the Braves’ lineup, the team has had its fair share of blunders. Just imagine all of those years the Braves could’ve featured a Wainwright or Morton in the starting rotation, instead of guys like Freddy Garcia or Aaron Harang (though the latter did have a solid age-36 season in 2014 with the Braves). The team could’ve had much more depth and consistency, for sure, but perhaps they wouldn’t have been able put themselves in a position to draft the guys they have now (just look at how incredible of a draft the Braves had in 2016).
Regardless, the organization has quite the current setup, featuring a plethora of young starting pitchers (and potential relievers) right on the cusp of contributing at the major league level. Like any team, there have been a few mistakes along the way, but not only have the Braves worked through theirs, they’ve also built a powerhouse in regards to producing elite arms.
Check back for more as I’ll conclude this series Wednesday with the final part. We’ll examine the Braves’ bullpen, and I’ll also share with you Doolittle’s team ratings as well as how the Braves fared in his overall power rankings.
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