Opening Day is right around the corner, and ESPN has provided us with a bold prediction and breakout star for the Atlanta Braves. The first is their “best bet,” which I wouldn’t really call a bold prediction, considering Spencer Strider is my pick to win the NL Cy Young this year. He’s one of the most electric pitchers in all of baseball, and Jeff Passan of ESPN believes he could lead the league in strikeouts at +1200.
What’s the best bet: Spencer Strider to lead MLB in strikeouts at +1200. His 13.8 strikeouts per nine last year were the second most for a starter with at least 130 innings. If he comes close to replicating that with more bulk, he’ll win in a landslide.
Strider could very well lead the league in strikeout rate. The reason I favor his NL Cy Young odds even more is strikeouts have a lot to do with innings pitched. As good as Strider is, he’s never thrown more than 132 innings in a season, and the Braves aren’t going to be eager to push him to throw much more than that given his injury history. They want him healthy for October and beyond. On top of that, because Strider strikes out so many batters, his pitch count often rises quickly, preventing him from going very deep into games. However, as he continues to gain experience, I expect that to change.
For the Braves breakout star in 2023, Passan stuck with a common thing amongst national media outlets, expecting Jared Shuster to establish himself in the majors.
Who’s next: Even if Jared Shuster doesn’t start the season in the major leagues, he is Atlanta’s closest big league-ready prospect and has pitched himself past Ian Anderson and Mike Soroka and into the mix for the fifth spot with another command-first left-hander, Dylan Dodd.
Shuster is a safe bet. He’ll begin the season in Atlanta, and I expect the Braves to give him a decently long leash. It will be difficult for guys like Bryce Elder, Michael Soroka, and Ian Anderson to re-enter the rotation if he experiences success, but Dylan Dodd shouldn’t be counted out either. He’ll get a crack in the starting rotation to begin the season as well, and if he outperforms Shuster, he could end up getting the longer look.
It’s also possible the Braves breakout star doesn’t come from the starting rotation at all. Vaughn Grissom may not have made the Opening Day roster, but if he performs well in Gwinnett, it’s only a matter of time before he’s back at Truist Park. His ceiling is extremely high, and if we’re looking for a smaller breakout candidate, Nick Anderson could be a stud in the bullpen. Prior to injuries derailing his career, he was an elite relief arm for the Rays. Anderson could end up being a pivotal piece to Atlanta’s bullpen in 2023.
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