Podcast: Interview with Braves' Soroka

January 27th, 2018

The following is an excerpt from this week's Pipeline Podcast, in which Tim McMaster, Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis talk to Braves right-hander Mike Soroka before he is announced on the Top 100 Prospects list. To listen to the show in its entirety, visit the MLB Pipeline Podcast page.
Tim McMaster: Mike, probably no surprise to you that a lot of your fellow Braves prospects will be on this Top 100 list, and I will tell you right now, you are among them. You're the only one that knows for sure that you're in the Top 100. But we wanted you to take a guess where you're going to land Saturday night.
Mike Soroka: I've actually never been asked that question before, so I'll have to think about that.
Jim Callis: Are you worried that Braves fans are going to say you ranked yourself too low?
Soroka: Maybe. I'm debating whether to go with an aggressive guess or not, but I talked to Jonathan a little bit, and he had mentioned to me about the top 10 right-handed pitchers list. He still mentioned to me that I was in the top third, so I'm going to say around 33.
Callis: Pretty close.
Jonathan Mayo: We won't divulge too much, but that's pretty good deduction skills by you.
McMaster: I will say this, one more from me, and then the other guys can kind of take over from this interview. But I just want to know, do you pay attention? I know you're going to be watching on Saturday night as far as seeing where your teammates fill in and all that kind of thing, but from a personal standpoint, how much do you pay attention to these kind of rankings?
Soroka: Obviously, we see it. I think anyone would be lying if they were present on social media and said they didn't see it. I'm not going to deny that, but as far as what you put into it, it's all up to you. If you said you're among some of the best of the best in the Minor Leagues, then that's an honor. At that point it's almost nitpicked to death, and you guys spend a ton of time on it. It's something cool to see, but also some cool motivation to hear as well.
Mayo: At the end of the day, obviously, you can be ranked high and not end up being a good big leaguer and rank low and end up being a superstar. It doesn't really matter. But Braves fans, to their credit, they have bought all in to the rebuild and having one of the best farm systems in baseball. Jim and I hear it frequently, we'll say, and passionately from Braves fans about how guys are ranked. How does that filter down to you as a player, just in terms of how many fans in Atlanta or Braves fans around the country, wherever, know who you are, know who Kolby Allard is, know Ronald Acuna? I mean, the excitement for you guys to get to Atlanta seems almost at a fever pitch.

Soroka: Yeah, I know. Like you said, they've put a lot into their rebuild, and they put a lot of media into that as well. A lot of exposure into the farm system. Braves fans are awesome. They always have our back. Like you said, I know you guys hear a ton from them, and that's awesome to know that they're as involved as they are. It's exciting for us as well. I know I can speak for most of the other guys as well. They just want to get there and then prove they're worthy in Atlanta and hopefully for a long time. It's pretty exciting to be there. Obviously, we hear the buzz as well around Minor League stadiums, around Spring Training, even talking to guys that have been there for a while before. It's been a big jump in fans among Minor League prospects with the Braves over the last couple years, so that's awesome.
Callis: Mike, I wanted to ask you about the 2015 Draft. Leading up to that, did you have an expectation that you were going to go in the first round? Obviously, velocity isn't everything, but at the amateur level, it seems like that's a big focus when people are looking at pitchers. While you have a good fastball, you weren't Hunter Greene. But did you have an inkling you were going in the first round, or was that somewhat of a surprise when it happened?
Soroka: I can't say I've ever really expected it, but coming out in 2015, I was kind of under the radar as it was, mainly because I never really attended many of the big showcases. I went to Area Codes and then Jupiter, and that was pretty much it. But I was fairly exposed among scouts, through the East Coast especially because we were always down in Florida with Team Canada. Like you said, I came out throwing 3-4 mph harder than I had the year before. I kind of had some help from Chris Reitsma and Paul Quantrill, kind of tweaked a little things, brought up the arm angle a little bit, and it kind of all took off.
One thing that I know with my fastball, even though the radar may not say as much, in talking to a lot of guys that have been there for a long time, and there's almost this unknown presence to a well-intended fastball with 100 percent conviction that is just immeasurable. I've always kind of chased that as opposed to a number on the radar gun. That extra life on the baseball that you can't see necessarily from the stands. It's something that hitters say they just don't see. Some call it an invisi-ball. I think if I can keep that intent with my fastball, the numbers don't really matter to me. As far as when the Draft happened, I think it just went up and up and up. My expectation was that I was going to college coming into that year. And then obviously things took off a little bit, and we found out pretty soon that that was a definitely possibility for me to go in the back end of the first round.