This continues my series where I grade the first half of each Braves player, moving on to a group of players that has done a tremendous job without two of their top horses — Max Fried and Kyle Wright. If you missed any previous parts to this series, follow the links below.
Before the season, I predicted Spencer Strider would win the NL Cy Young. He suffered the first rough stretch of his career after a blazing start, but he’s come out the other side even better and was named an NL All-Star. However, my expectations for him are higher than everyone else, so he doesn’t quite get an A for his first half performance.
Elder didn’t even begin the season on the major-league roster, but injuries forced him into the mix after just a week, and all he’s done is run with the job and establish himself as an All-Star. Nobody could have predicted that. Elder was one of the brightest storylines of the first half of the season. We’ll see if his success is sustainable, but as far as the first half is concerned, he deserves the highest grade possible.
Morton gets a lot of flack from the fan base, but it is underserved. He may not be the 1 or 2 that he once was, but for one year, $20 million, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better veteran free agent. He owns a 3.43 ERA — the second-best mark on the staff, ahead of Spencer Strider — and is striking out 10.3 batters per nine innings.
Fried may have only made five starts, but he looked like the best pitcher in the National League during them, boasting a 2.08 ERA. The Braves can only hope that’s the guy they are getting when he returns.
Shuster hasn’t looked like he’s quite ready for the majors, and I’m not sure he ever will be. His ceiling isn’t very high, and he currently sports an even 5.00 ERA. The Braves have tossed a number of starters, and I feel all of them can contribute successfully now and in the future, except for Shuster.
Like Fried, Wright only made five starts and has spent multiple stints on the IL. However, unlike Fried, I don’t think he was ever healthy, suffering the same injury twice. For that reason, I can’t even give him a grade for the first half.
It’s also difficult to give Soroka a grade, given he’s only made four starts. There have been some ups and downs, but the thing every Braves fan should be focusing on is the fact that he made it back to the majors and is progressing in a positive direction. That’s enough to earn a good grade from me.
Smith-Shawver has four major-league appearances, three of which were starts. Again, that’s not a very large sample size to give a grade, but let’s look at the entire body of work. This is a 20-year-old that began the season in High-A! Now, he’s in the majors and having success. That’s one of the most extraordinary rises I’ve ever seen in my life.
Photo: Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire