Braves have plenty of talent to throw at '24

January 8th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Mark Bowman's Braves Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Before looking at the abundance of MLB-ready arms the Braves will bring to Spring Training, let’s recognize that we will still say, “You can never have enough pitching” at some point this season.

Still, before the baseball gods have some fun by extending their annual tradition of testing every team’s pitching depth, it’s pretty impressive to look at how talented and deep Atlanta's pitching staff could be. 


Projected members: LHP Max Fried, RHP Spencer Strider, RHP Charlie Morton, LHP Chris Sale, TBD

Fried and Strider will enter the season as legit National League Cy Young Award candidates. Morton is certainly capable of providing 150-plus innings, and the Braves will use their great depth to help Sale in his attempt to remain healthy throughout the season.

Why isn’t Bryce Elder listed? General manager Alex Anthopoulos recently said the 2023 All-Star will be among those who comes to Spring Training fighting for the fifth spot. This is an age-old practice. It really doesn’t benefit the team or the player to have him assume he has a spot after just one good season.

Sale totaled 48 1/3 innings over a three-season span (2020-22) and then compiled 102 2/3 innings over 20 starts last year. The Braves acquired this 34-year-old veteran to be an October asset, so 130-140 innings seems like a decent regular-season target.

Limiting Sale to five innings during early-season starts seems likely. Could this tax Atlanta's bullpen? Let’s revisit this question when we look at the depth of the relief corps. There’s also an abundance of optionable fifth-starter candidates who could help create extra days of rest when necessary.

Top fifth-starter candidates: Elder, RHP Darius Vines, RHP AJ Smith-Shawver, LHP Dylan Dodd, RHP Allan Winans, RHP Huascar Ynoa
Wild cards: RHP Reynaldo López, RHP Ian Anderson, RHP Hurston Waldrep

Ynoa is coming back from Tommy John surgery, and he shouldn’t be a rotation candidate at the start of the season. Anderson recovered from the same procedure last year and won’t be ready for Atlanta until June or July. Waldrep will be given time to strengthen the promise he’s created since he was taken in the first round of last summer’s MLB Draft.

As I mentioned above, Elder seems to be the obvious favorite for the fifth spot much like Michael Soroka and Anderson were entering last year’s camp. Soroka came to Spring Training with a right hamstring strain, and Anderson and Elder were optioned with two weeks left in the Grapefruit League season. 

Anderson underwent TJ surgery a month later and Elder went from being Triple-A Gwinnett’s Opening Day starter to an All-Star. Have you ever heard, “You can never have enough pitching”?

By the time Atlanta began its second regular-season game last year, Fried, Anderson, Soroka and Kyle Wright were all either on or nearing an injured-list stint. Jared Shuster and Dodd provided some valuable starts, and Elder truly prevented the season from becoming a disaster.

López has a chance to be one of the Braves’ top relievers this year. But by stretching him out throughout Spring Training, Atlanta has another starting-pitching option. López could be insurance, or the decision could be made to have him eat innings in April to ensure the likes of Elder, Vines, Smith-Shawver, etc., don’t exhaust the five options they have during the course of a season.


Projected locks: RHP Raisel Iglesias, LHP A.J. Minter, RHP Pierce Johnson, RHP Joe Jiménez, LHP Tyler Matzek, LHP Aaron Bummer
Wild card: López

Throw López in as a lock and then look at how impressive this is. The hope is that Matzek returns to where he was before he underwent TJ surgery on Oct. 12, 2022. But if he or Dylan Lee need additional time to distance themselves from their recent injuries, the additions of lefty relievers Bummer and Ray Kerr could be even more valuable.

Other 40-man roster candidates: RHP Daysbel Hernández, RHP Jackson Stephens, Ynoa, Lee

Stephens seems like a good fit for the Josh Tomlin-type role of long reliever/bullpen comedian. Ynoa might be best utilized as a starter, but like Hernández, his powerful right arm could be a plus in the 'pen. Lee’s shoulder issues plagued him all of last year. If he’s healthy, he’ll benefit the bullpen at some point this season.