After rough go-arounds for Braves pitchers Ian Anderson and Bryce Elder, Atlanta reportedly optioned the two down to Gwinnett (AAA) to the start the 2023 campaign. Both were candidates to crack the Braves rotation for this season, so who could be the beneficiary? Well, it may be a former first-round pick from 2020.
A Look at Anderson and Elder
We’ll start off with RHP Ian Anderson, who never really seemed to get his bearings this spring. Anderson struck eight over 7.1 IP in Grapefruit League action, but walked eight and yielded two home runs. This comes off the heels of a very difficult 2022 campaign, in which Anderson posted the third-worst BB/9 (4.37) rate in all of MLB (min. 100 IP). Only Royals LHP Kris Bubic (4.39) and Blue Jays LHP Yusei Kikuchi (5.21) owned worst walk rates.
Command proved to be too much of an issue for the young right-hander in 2022, and that remained the same in the spring.
Bryce Elder, meanwhile, gave up eight earned runs over 11.2 IP in four Spring Training games. The 23-year-old right-hander put up impressive numbers in his rookie season, in which he struck out 47 batters and recorded a 3.17 ERA over 54 innings. Not to mention, Elder played a key role in locking down the NL East for the Braves in the last month of the regular season. The right-hander’s 1.75 ERA from September 1-October 5 sat in the top 15 in all of MLB (min. 25 IP).
It’s fair to expect Elder back in the Majors at some point in 2023. But, that won’t come at the start of the season. So, who could join Max Fried, Kyle Wright, Spencer Strider, and Charlie Morton in the Braves rotation.
What it Means
With Anderson and Elder both headed to Gwinnett to start 2023 and Michael Soroka out, it does appear that this could pave the way for someone like LHP Jared Shuster — who has been lauded by Braves management — to crack the Opening Day roster.
Shuster — who we ranked as one of our top ten fantasy prospects entering the 2023 season — didn’t appear to be an option for the Braves rotation when Spring Training began in February. However, a strong spring has changed that. The 24-year-old struck out nine in his first 8.2 IP of work in Grapefruit League action, and has pitched to the tune of a 1.04 ERA. Hitters are just batting .074 off the left-hander.
Shuster owned one of the most coveted arms in the 2020 MLB Draft, thanks to a plus heater that could hit the upper-90s. That’s not Shuster’s game anymore, as he’s been sitting in the 92-94 MPH range in spring action. However, he does play it off two nice weapons in a mid-80s slider and a change that differs in velocity from his heater by about 10 MPH. That kind of speed differential, if commanded properly, can be a real difference-maker in the Majors.
In addition to Shuster, pitching prospect Dylan Dodd also hangs in the background. Dodd, a 24-year-old who struck out 153 over 142.0 IP in 2022, has thrown 8.1 scoreless frames for Atlanta in Spring Training action. And, he’s struck out 11 batters in the process.