FanGraphs sees the Braves starting pitching as a potential weakness in 2022

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When ESPN did their Opening Day power rankings, they put the Braves at third, but they named Atlanta’s starting pitching as their biggest weakness. In a lot of ways, I agree; there is the potential that the Braves overestimated the capabilities of their young arms and things get spicy, but they are playing a numbers game. If Mike Soroka ever returns, they have eight or nine guys that could start at the major-league level. Still, FanGraphs isn’t totally sold on this group either, ranking them 11th in their positional rankings. 

Here’s what they had to say about the Braves rotation: 

Atlanta made a lot of moves after winning the World Series, but they’re bringing back last year’s rotation without much alteration, and the odds of something going wrong are higher than they might first appear. A top two of Fried and Morton is an enviable starting point, but look higher in the rankings: they’re hardly the top duo in baseball. They’re somehow only the third-best top two in the NL East, in fact, and Morton probably can’t keep doing this forever.

But those two are still really great! The problems start with spot number three, with Anderson more boom/bust than sure thing. I believe in the stuff, particularly his discombobulating changeup, but I’m also skeptical of his command. If he harnesses his pitches, he’ll be a good third starter, but that still leaves four and five. Ynoa is a wild card; if he can keep the command gains he showed last year, he’ll make my skepticism look bad, but well… I’m skeptical nonetheless.

After that, we’re in full shrug emoji territory. Soroka has barely pitched since 2019. Wright has never had a major league season with positive WAR, though to be fair the Braves haven’t given him much rope. There are several names who might work out here, but an anchoring veteran would have made this bunch look much better. As it is, they’ll need their aces to produce and their role players to meet expectations to keep Atlanta afloat in a competitive division.

I’m a lot more bullish on the guys behind Fried and Morton than FanGraphs is. Anderson may never become an ace or anything close to it, but he’s proven to be more than reliable over the last two seasons, especially when it matters most. The young man is a cheat code in the postseason.

After Anderson, there are a lot of question marks, but there are also a lot of potential exciting answers. Wright hasn’t figured it out at the major-league level, but he’s my pick to be the Braves’ breakout star in 2022. His stuff is as good as anyone’s, and the confidence boost he should receive from his performance in last year’s World Series is enough to make me a believer.

Ynoa is also being overlooked. He was elite before breaking his hand last season, but unfortunately, he never looked like the same guy once he returned. I’m not sure what to expect from him this season, but the potential is there for something special, and remember, he’s not being asked to be anything more than a number four or five in the rotation.

If the Braves need other arms, they have a trio of options in Tucker Davidson, Kyle Muller, and Spencer Strider. The odds that all of them contribute are slim, but the Braves likely won’t need them, especially if Mike Soroka returns healthy later in the season. I’m not super bullish on the prospect of that happening, but there is a possibility that it does.

It’s fair to say the Braves rotation will be the X-factor of the 2022 campaign. There’s enough firepower for this group to be one of the best in the majors if things go right, but there’s also the potential for things to go horribly wrong, especially if one of Max Fried or Charlie Morton goes down with injury.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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