Three most noteworthy Braves Spring Training developments

MLB: SEP 06 Cardinals at Braves

The Braves are smack dab in the middle of Spring Training, as Opening Day is set for March 28th against the Philadelphia Phillies. There weren’t a ton of questions about this Atlanta team heading into this season, but there are several notable things that have jumped out through the first three weeks in Florida.

Spencer Strider‘s new pitch

For my money, Spencer Strider was already a top three pitcher in baseball at the end of last season. While the ERA may not have been as low as he would have liked, he’s striking out batters at a rate we’ve never seen before from a starting pitcher, and it doesn’t take a baseball expert to recognize the stuff is a level above the rest of the league.

What makes it even scarier is Strider is just dipping his toes in the water. He only has 52 major league starts under his belt. Strider is going to improve just with more experience, but if he can fine-tune some of his secondary offerings, I’m not sure anything will stop him from winning several Cy Young awards.

That’s what we are seeing early on in Spring Training. Up to this point in Strider’s career, he’s almost exclusively used two pitches — fastball and slider — mixing in a changeup to left-handed batters from time to time. The off-speed offering has actually been really effective for Strider, despite the minimal use. Opponents hit just .122 with a .184 slugging percentage off his changeup last year, and now he’s looking to add even more firepower to his repertoire.

Over the offseason, Strider’s been toying with his slider, which eventually led to a curveball. He’s been throwing it a ton during Spring Training with a ridiculous amount of success. This is the time to try things out and see if they work. I don’t imagine Strider is going to replace his slider with the curveball, but it looks like something we could get a good look at this season. Imagining Spencer Strider with a four-pitch mix that he can turn to in any situation is simply not fair for the rest of the league.

Pitching depth, pitching depth, pitching depth

While Spencer Strider’s new weapon is the talk of Braves Spring Training, it’s really been the entire starting rotation that has impressed. Chris Sale looks as good as he has in a long time. Charlie Morton shoved in his first appearance of the Spring. AJ Smith-Shawver‘s velocity is up a couple of miles per hour with an improved changeup. Hurston Waldrep tossed two scoreless innings in his Spring Training debut, featuring his nasty split-finger offering and a heater that touched 99 MPH, and Reynaldo Lopez looks like he’s ready to be a starting pitcher again if that’s where the Braves want him to start the season.

It’s Spring Training, so results should be taken with a grain of salt. But in terms of top end talent and depth, I’m not sure there’s a better rotation in baseball.

Ken Giles resurgence

The Braves pitching depth extends to their bullpen where they have 11-12 guys competing for just eight spots. As we approach Opening Day, that competition is beginning to narrow down, and it’s becoming more and more likely veteran Ken Giles will earn a roster spot. The former closer has four strikeouts over two scoreless appearances, and the stuff looks impressive. There’s still some work to be done, but Giles is clearly at the forefront of the competition for the final spots in the bullpen.

Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire


Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: