It’s finally here! The Atlanta Braves’ pitchers, catchers, and some other eager players have reported to North Port, FL to begin Spring Training.
Pitchers and catchers are set to arrive first because pitcher-catcher bonding is important. If your pitcher and catcher aren’t comfortable with each other or don’t have a good understanding of what pitch is being thrown and the location of it, that is going to cause some serious trouble in a game. Communication for catchers and pitchers is why Spring Training is so important and why they arrive a week early.
Spring Training will be especially important for catcher Sean Murphy. He is who Atlanta got out of their three-way trade with the Oakland Athletics and Milwaukee Brewers. Just a few days after this trade, the Braves signed Murphy to a 6-year $73 million deal. He will join Travis d’Arnaud behind the plate for the Braves. He could also be used as a Designated Hitter if Marcell Ozuna does not start to perform better than he has the past couple of seasons. It’s safe to say there’s multiple roles Murphy can fill for the Braves.
With d’Arnaud and Murphy behind the plate, it’s time to take a look at the Braves’ starting rotation. Atlanta has a solid starting rotation, that is, if everyone can pitch the way we know they are capable of pitching. Charlie Morton had a down year last season. He still got a good amount of wins, but they were a struggle. The same goes for Ian Anderson. He was sent down to triple A twice last year because he had a hard time commanding any of his pitches. We know that Ian can be a very good pitcher – we saw this first hand in the 2021 Postseason – he just has a tendency to throw WAY too many pitches. Max Fried wasn’t a sharp as we’re accustomed to seeing last season either, but he still came through when the Braves needed it the most.
The two most surprising Braves pitchers in the 2022 season were Kyle Wright and rookie Spencer Strider. Wright had 21 wins last season. That’s crazy! He was Mr. Consistent for Atlanta, and when he was pitching we knew he was going to give a quality start. He seemed so comfortable on the mound, had such a dominating presence, and maintained control of his pitches. These things helped make him such a good pitcher.
Spencer Strider started out in the bullpen last season. But then, after the Braves coaching staff saw the velocity he had on his pitches and the command he had while throwing so fast, not to mention his strike-out-rate, they moved him into the starting rotation and there was no looking back. In just 131.2 innings he struck out 202 batters! He definitely belongs in the starting rotation and has proven how good he can be.
Last but not least, Mike Soroka. Soroka hasn’t pitched since the 2020 season when he tore his ACL during a game in August. It was heartbreaking to see a young pitcher like him, who had such good potential, go down with an injury like that. Then, he tore his ACL again in 2021 walking into the dugout. So, he hasn’t pitched in a major league game in 2 1/2 years. It will be exciting to see if he has the same command on the mound as he did before he was injured.
With all this to consider about these pitchers, it’s time to talk about how the rotation will be stacked. I think the Braves should start with a 6-man rotation at the beginning of the season so they have more guys available and can work their way into the season, eventually moving to a 5-man rotation.
Here’s how I think it would look:
- Max Fried LHP
- Kyle Wright RHP
- Charlie Morton RHP
- Spencer Strider RHP
- Ian Anderson RHP
- Mike Soroka RHP
Ian Anderson and Mike Soroka can easily be switched in their rotation spots. If the Braves start with a 5-man rotation these two will “compete” for that fifth spot. It will all depend on how comfortable Soroka feels on the mound and how Anderson’s command is.
One thing to note about Anderson is the pitch clock. He can take a LOT of time in between pitches. He will shake off a lot of signs and go through his windup multiple times just to throw one pitch. I’m sure the Braves coaching staff will be working with him during Spring Training to get adjusted to the pitch clock and it will be interesting to see how he does.
It’s so exciting to have baseball back, and I can’t wait to see what goes on in Spring Training for the Atlanta Braves and into the 2023 season!