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What to expect from Soroka with Braves

MLB.com @JonathanMayo

When Mike Soroka makes his Major League debut on Tuesday night in New York against the Mets, he'll be the youngest pitcher in the big leagues, and the second-youngest player at that level, behind only his teammate Ronald Acuna Jr. He might only be 20 years old, but Soroka sure doesn't pitch like it, and there's no reason to expect anything less than the usual from the right-hander for however long he's in Atlanta.

Ever since he was taken in the first round of the 2015 Draft out of the Canadian high school ranks, Soroka has shown a feel for pitching that has belied both his age and the general notion that young players from north of the border need more development time. Instead, MLB Pipeline's No. 30 prospect (No. 3 on the Braves' Top 30) has ridden the fast track, handling full-season ball extremely well in 2016, making a double-jump to Double-A in '17 look easy and knocking loudly on the big league door as an exceedingly young starter in Triple-A so far this year.

When Mike Soroka makes his Major League debut on Tuesday night in New York against the Mets, he'll be the youngest pitcher in the big leagues, and the second-youngest player at that level, behind only his teammate Ronald Acuna Jr. He might only be 20 years old, but Soroka sure doesn't pitch like it, and there's no reason to expect anything less than the usual from the right-hander for however long he's in Atlanta.

Ever since he was taken in the first round of the 2015 Draft out of the Canadian high school ranks, Soroka has shown a feel for pitching that has belied both his age and the general notion that young players from north of the border need more development time. Instead, MLB Pipeline's No. 30 prospect (No. 3 on the Braves' Top 30) has ridden the fast track, handling full-season ball extremely well in 2016, making a double-jump to Double-A in '17 look easy and knocking loudly on the big league door as an exceedingly young starter in Triple-A so far this year.

• Braves' Top 30 Prospects list | Braves prospects stats

Yes, it's only been four starts with Gwinnett, but it's hard not to notice a continuation of a positive statistical trend for Soroka. Even with the aggressive placement in 2017, Soroka has improved his ERA, WHIP and batting average against as he's moved up:

2016: 3.02 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, .244 BAA
2017: 2.75 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, .233 BAA
2018: 1.99 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, .207 BAA

And this isn't a guy who struggles to get through five innings and then is done. With a 1.9 BB/9 ratio in his career, Soroka has logged serious innings without much effort, allowing him to top 140 innings in his first full season and throw more than 150 innings a year ago. Since the start of his first full season, he's been averaging better than 5.8 innings per start, an impressive rate considering how careful teams tend to be in terms of pitch count with young developing pitching prospects.

Soroka is far more than just a command specialist. The fact he controls an arsenal of above-average-to-plus pitches is what makes him one of the better pitching prospects in baseball. Soroka is just one of five pitchers on the Top 100 (and one of six across all 30 teams' Top 30s) to have three pitches that grade out at 55 or better to go along with 60 control.

Velocity-wise, Soroka's fastball might not grade out as a plus pitch, sitting typically in the 92-93 mph range. But he commands it so well and throws it with so much sink (1.33 GO/AO in career; 2.07 so far in 2018) that it gets a 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Soroka can add and subtract to his breaking ball to give it different looks and shapes, and the upper-80s hard slider version has looked a little tighter and sharper so far this season, helping to contribute to his better strikeout rate. He knows how and when to throw his above-average changeup, and his ability to throw all three for strikes at any point in the count is a huge reason why he's been so successful.

If it's possible, Soroka's overall pitchability has been even better in 2018, as he's been setting up and putting away hitters at an even better rate. That might be attributed to just normal progression. Soroka is a student of his craft and he continues to get better at what he does.

That's why the Braves felt comfortable giving Soroka this start, somewhat ahead of schedule. If it's just one outing for now, he will likely leave the Braves, and their fan base, thirsting for more. And even if Soroka somehow struggles, he will undoubtedly take what he learns from it and be ready to hit the Braves' rotation full-time later this season.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Atlanta Braves