At the beginning of the month, I predicted what the starting rotation will look like in September. A lot has changed since then. AJ Smith-Shawver has really entered the conversation, and so has Kolby Allard after a stellar season debut. However, I’m staying strong with the five I picked originally.
AJ Smith-Shawver has the potential to be a frontline starter for the Braves for a long time, but at just 20-years-old, it’s a lot to expect him to be a permanent member of the rotation. That’s not to say it’s out of the realm of possibilities, but we’ll talk more about him later.
Kolby Allard’s first start was impressive, but I’m going to have to see a lot more from him before I’m convinced he can be a trustworthy starting pitcher. Jared Shuster shouldn’t even be in the conversation, and I’m not convinced Kyle Wright will be healthy and ready to be the pitcher he was a year ago at any point this season, which brings us to Michael Soroka.
I’ve said all season that Soroka’s stuff is not the issue. It’s about harnessing his control and building confidence, which will come with time. In his last three starts in Gwinnett, he’s allowed just three runs to score and nearly tossed a no-hitter last week. Last night, Soroka had one bad inning, but I saw enough to keep in the rotation, and I think he’ll only get better.
On to the bullpen, and this is where things get very difficult to predict, so let’s start with the locks.
Obviously, Chavez and Lee’s spots are health dependent, but their injuries aren’t serious, so I’m expecting them to be back after the All-Star break. Their spots should be secure, and even though Collin McHugh has been inconsistent this season, I don’t see a scenario where the Braves let him go to another team. That leaves three spots, and the Braves have a plethora of options to choose from.
The first opening I’m going to give to Kirby Yates. After a shaky couple of months, he has turned back the clock in June, striking out 18 over his last 11 innings with zero walks. Control has been his issue since returning from injury. As long as he limits his walks, he’ll have a spot in the Braves bullpen.
This is where it gets really tough, so I’m going to start eliminating some people. Michael Tonkin has been a vital piece of the Braves bullpen in long relief, but he’s probably the first one on the chopping block. Then, I’m saying goodbye to Ben Heller. It’s a great story, and his stuff belongs on a major-league roster, but this bullpen is loaded, and there’s a chance the Braves add to it at the trade deadline.
By my estimation, that leaves Joe Jimenez, Nick Anderson, and AJ Smith-Shawver for the final two spots. I’m taking Anderson, because he’s been too good to leave off to this point, and then I’m going with Jimenez. Like Yates, Jimenez had some struggles to begin the season, but the velocity is back up, and he’s looked much better over the last month. I do think Smith-Shawver could work his way into the mix, whether it be as a starter or a reliever, but I’m leaving him off for now.
Here’s the full staff:
- Max Fried
- Spencer Strider
- Bryce Elder
- Charlie Morton
- Michael Soroka
- Raisel Iglesias
- A.J. Minter
- Collin McHugh
- Jesse Chavez
- Dylan Lee
- Nick Anderson
- Kirby Yates
- Joe Jimenez
Which player did I leave off that you think will be on the roster in September?
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire