ATLANTA -- With just one Minor League season under his belt, Bryce Elder has generated a rise that could soon carry him to a spot within the Braves’ big league rotation.
As Elder tasted success at three different levels this year, he showed why the Braves were excited to take him in the fifth round of the 2020 MLB Draft. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound right-hander impressed during his collegiate career at the University of Texas and won the 2021 Phil Niekro Award, which is annually given to the top Minor League pitcher within Atlanta’s system.
“Coming into , I knew he had it like that,” Braves catching prospect Shea Langeliers said. “He has the mentality to be a really successful starting pitcher and he’s not afraid. When he’s on the mound, my job is really easy because he knows what he’s doing out there.”
Langeliers, who was taken with the ninth overall pick in 2019, and Elder crossed paths while growing up and while playing collegiately for Baylor and Texas, respectively. Now, the two stand as potential future stars in Atlanta.
Described as a bulldog by a scout in September, Elder showed his competitive nature while producing a 2.75 ERA over 25 starts at three levels this year. The 22-year-old right-hander posted a 2.21 ERA over seven starts for Triple-A Gwinnett.
“I’m pleased with where we’re at, and I’m going to try to continue on that path,” Elder said.
Elder has accelerated his path toward the Majors while passing every test this year. The 22-year-old hurler handled Class A Advanced hitters while posting a 2.60 ERA over nine starts for Rome. He struggled, allowing five earned runs in his pro debut on May 4. But he then produced a 1.79 ERA and limited opponents to a .292 on-base percentage in his next eight outings.
While producing a 3.21 ERA in nine starts for Double-A Mississippi, Elder put himself in the discussions for the 2022 season. He showed better command and with the help of his plus slider, he improved his strikeout rate near the end of his stint at this level.
Elder was promoted to Gwinnett on Aug. 20 and extended his success against Triple-A hitters. Command-wise, he showed some fatigue near the end of his first pro season. But, he still limited opponents to a .143 batting average during his seven starts for the Stripers.
Looking toward the 2022 season, Kyle Wright, Tucker Davidson, Touki Toussaint, Kyle Muller and Huascar Ynoa are all candidates to fill Atlanta's two currently vacant rotation spots. Elder will come to camp looking to show how soon he might join this list.
“I think I need to make each pitch a little better and not try to do too much,” Elder said. “Just do the right things and slowly get better.”