It’s been nearly three full years since Braves right-hander Mike Soroka has stepped on a MLB mound, but that’s about to change this week. Soroka, who finished in the top ten of the NL Cy Young vote in his first full season in the Majors four years ago, is set to pitch in the Braves’ series against the Oakland Athletics. With Soroka set to come back to the Braves, here’s a closer look at our fantasy outlook on the righty.
A Look at Soroka
It’s been quite the road for Braves starter Michael Soroka, who’s set to return to the Majors for the first time in almost three full years. The last game Soroka pitched in the Majors came on August 3 in the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign. In that start in Atlanta, the now-25-year-old tore his Achilles tendon attempting to cover first on a ground ball hit by then-Mets infielder J.D. Davis. Soroka would then re-tear the tendon in May 2021 walking into the team’s clubhouse. The right-hander would not pitch at all during that 2021 season that saw the Braves win the World Series for the first time since 1995.
The rehab road has been long and arduous for Soroka, who made six rehab starts last season with Gwinnett (AAA) but never progressed to the point where he would be ready for the Majors. The 25-year-old didn’t start the spring on time this year, but did see some action late before a return trip to AAA. With the Stripers, Soroka struck out 35 over 35 innings. He did own a bit of a high ERA (4.33), but a below-average .340 BABIP is a plausible explanation as to why that was the case.
Braves fans caught a good glimpse of what the former first-round pick could be in the Majors in 2019, when Soroka won 13 games and finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year vote behind Pete Alonso. After five strong starts in 2018, the Calgary native recorded a tidy 2.68 ERA and and struck out 142 batters over 174.2 innings pitched in 2019.
The name of Soroka’s game is rather straight-forward. When healthy in 2019, Soroka didn’t record a ton of strikeouts, but instead would beat hitters with command of his pitches and excellency at tunneling both his cutter/slider and changeup with his fastball and two-seam/sinker. Evidence of that can be found with his 38.9% Whiff% rate on the changeup — which differs in speed as compared to the fastball by about 10 MPH — in 2019 and a 43.8% Whiff% rate in the second half of that campaign, the latter of which was good for the top ten in the league.
Soroka doesn’t have overpowering velocity on his fastball, which sat in the 91-94 MPH range in his last start. However, good command and usage of his stuff helped him induce a ton of ground balls and made the 25-year-old an elite pitcher in 2019.
Per MLB.com, Soroka is listed as the scheduled starter for Atlanta on Memorial Day and will face the Athletics out in Oakland.
2023 Fantasy Outlook
From the Braves’ perspective, the return of Soroka could not have come at a better time. Both Max Fried and Kyle Wright are out indefinitely, while Jared Shuster and Dylan Dodd have yielded uneven results. At 31-21, the Braves do have a healthy lead in the NL East — but nothing is guaranteed at this time of the year.
Soroka struck out eight and recorded seven whiffs over six innings in his final AAA start, a good sign heading into his season debut on May 29. Even though Soroka averaged a strikeout per inning, don’t expect that, though, in the Majors.
However, his win potential he has and the command that Soroka possesses when firing on all cylinders make the 25-year-old a very tantalizing option in fantasy. If he’s available, grab him.