Now that Orlando Arcia has seemingly been given the keys to the SS position to start the season, the biggest question left to answer in Braves Grapefruit League play is who starts the season as the Braves 5th starter.
One of the strengths of this year’s Braves team is undoubtedly its major league ready starting pitching depth. We’ll likely see most/all of the likes of: Ian Anderson, Michael Soroka, Bryce Elder, & Kolby Allard. Coming into the season it wouldn’t have been absurd to say this was the pecking order. This alone would be considered good 5th starter depth. But all of these pitchers have either already been demoted to minor league camp or will start the season on the IL.
The two candidates left vying for the 5th rotation spot are a pair of quickly rising lefties: ’20 first rd pick Jared Shuster, & ’21 third rd pick Dylan Dodd. It is the rise of these two, who two months ago would’ve likely been at the bottom of the pecking order in the list above, that takes the Braves starting pitching depth from good to elite.
Who ya got?
Shuster is currently ranked as the Braves #1 prospect. I feel he currently profiles as middle of the rotation ceiling. His fastball is good, not great, as is his command of it. When he locates his plus secondary offerings, he cruises. When he doesn’t, he grinds. His current spring line is: 18.2 IP, 1.45 ERA, 18 SO, 0.59 WHIP.
Dodd, because he only has one full year of pro ball under his belt, is just now cracking the top 10 of Braves prospect lists. But there were Braves insiders who saw him traverse three levels last year who weren’t surprised that momentum has carried over and throughout Grapefruit League play. I think he projects a bit like a left-handed Bryce Elder 2.0. His stuff is better than Elder’s, featuring four seam fb that touches 96-97, but the secondary offerings seem to currently lack what might be considered wow-factor by scouts. His trademark is a hard-nosed aggression that isn’t afraid to attack the strike zone relentlessly- something true of Elder as he was ascending the minors before he got away from it after his fb began getting hit in the majors. His current spring line stands at: 18 IP, 2.00 ERA, 20 SO, 1.06 WHIP.
With so much depth, it may behoove the Braves to play the hottest hand in regards to their 5th starter spot. They’ll assuredly want to feature Anderson and Soroka at points if they’re performing to their ceilings. If that is indeed the strategy, it’d seem to point to Shuster to start the season, who also has the benefit of having more minor league experience than Dodd. Regardless, both pitchers have positioned themselves to make their debuts at some point this season. Proving there are still some promising gems in the Braves last-ranked farm system.