LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- General manager Alex Anthopoulos has spent the past few weeks better acquainting himself with the rich prospect crop he inherited when he joined the Braves in November. But his first introduction to Mike Soroka actually occurred when the highly touted young pitcher was still in
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- General manager Alex Anthopoulos has spent the past few weeks better acquainting himself with the rich prospect crop he inherited when he joined the Braves in November. But his first introduction to Mike Soroka actually occurred when the highly touted young pitcher was still in high school.
As a member of the Canadian Junior National team, Soroka spent a couple of weeks as a high school junior and senior working out at the Blue Jays' Spring Training complex in Dunedin, Fla. He initially caught Anthopoulos' eye with a side session completed while working out with some of Toronto's prospects who were participating in the Instructional League in 2014.
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Soroka seemed to truly enhance his Draft stock six months later, while completing a pair of innings against a Blue Jays Spring Training lineup that included Russell Martin, Chris Colabello and Dalton Pompey. His first inning was relatively clean, but the second inning was marred by a slew of errors made by the high school teammates who played behind him.
"To his credit, as much as they kicked the ball behind him, he didn't react or pout," said Anthopoulos, who was the Blue Jays' GM from 2009-15. "He kept his composure. That's the kind of stuff you want to see. He just stayed professional the whole way."
The Braves took Soroka with the 28th overall selection in the 2015 Draft. They chose not to wait to take him with their next pick (41st overall) because there was a genuine concern the Blue Jays would have snared him with the 29th pick.
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Rated as Atlanta's No. 4 prospect and baseball's No. 31 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Soroka possess an athletic 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame and a four-pitch arsenal that is highlighted by a heavy sinker. The 20-year-old right-hander doesn't necessarily have a "wow" pitch like some other elite prospects. But courtesy of a disciplined and mature approach, he seems to have above-average intangibles across the board.
"When I watch [Soroka's] bullpens, it doesn't look like a 20-year-old throwing a bullpen," Braves right-hander Brandon McCarthy said. "This isn't to knock any of the other guys I haven't watched as close. But it was well commanded. Everything was where he wanted it to be. He had a routine. Watching him in the weight room, he is a guy that looks like a guy that is a big league rotation guy that just has it together."
Making his second career Grapefruit League appearance during Thursday's 5-2 split-squad win against the Tigers, Soroka experienced the thrill of getting Jose Cabrera to look at a called third strike. The Braves prospect notched two strikeouts and induced four groundouts over two perfect innings. He will likely open this season with Triple-A Gwinnett, but could be deemed Major League-ready at some point this year.
"I haven't seen much of him [pitching] yet, but in terms of the kid, makeup and everything you hear, yeah he's a professional," Anthopoulos said. "In our player meetings, just based on the questions he asks, he's a cut above everybody else. He's just sharp and he strikes me as a guy who is looking to get better any way he can."
Looking back at childhood pictures that show him pitching with his left hip leaning toward the plate and his body staying above the rubber, Soroka believes his sound mechanics might have come somewhat naturally. He has benefited from the tutelage of former Braves reliever Chris Reitsma. But Soroka's greatest asset seems to a disciplined approach that he attributes to a will to win.
"I've just fallen in love with success and you don't want to change anything," Soroka said. "You want to keep doing everything you can to keep building from there."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.