The Atlanta Braves already have some of the most highly touted young talents in baseball in the form of Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies but Mike Soroka is the latest star in the making for the Braves. Soroka is a twenty-two-year-old starting pitcher who has become the ace of the Braves pitching staff during the 2019 season. The Braves got lucky with Soroka as he was a former first-round draft pick selected in 2015 who has developed his way to the big leagues for the Braves.
Hailing from Calgary, Alberta the Canadian starter has been nothing but electric this season for the Braves. Soroka is in a rotation that features another youngster Max Fried who has been on a roll this season, the late addition of Dallas Keuchel, veterans Mike Foltynewicz and Julio Teheran. Soroka is going to give another National League (NL) rising Star, Pete Alonso, a run for his money when it comes to the Rookie of the Year Award race.
In 2019, through 20 starts, Soroka has been magnificent with a 10-2 record with a 2.45 ERA and 1.11 WHIP, as well as a 3.26 FIP. Not known for his strikeouts, Soroka only has 97 of them through 121 innings pitched. Soroka’s strength comes in ground ball outs as well as attacking hitters early in the count. Soroka pitches to contact early in the count, looking to keep pitch count low and get outs efficiently which he has excelled at.
There are a lot of similarities between someone like Soroka and newly acquired Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman who is known for pitching to contact to get outs rather than blowing fastballs by batters to get outs. Currently, the major league average for ground ball percentage on batted balls (GB%) is 45.5% while Soroka sits at 57.8% on the season. Getting outs efficiently is the name of the game for Soroka who has only surrendered a 3.6% barrel percentage this season. He is also first in the National League in HR/9 coming in at just 0.474, proving that he can keep the ball on the ground avoiding the big flies.
Soroka features a four-pitch repertoire that he uses to attack hitters which most notably includes his sinker and slider. He is not limited to those two as quality pitches, he throws a veteran style change-up that has some arm-side run and depth to it that fools hitters. In terms of horizontal movement, his sinker breaks about 16.4 inches, his change-up moves about 14.6 inches, the slider breaks 6 inches and his four-seam fastball breaks at 6.1 inches. Soroka’s vertical numbers are just as good, with a slider leading the way with 44.7 inches of break, a change-up with 30.9 inches of break, sinker with 25.7 inches of drop, and the fastball coming in at 18.9 inches of drop.
— Pam Tatroff (@PamTatroff) July 10, 2019
In Soroka’s first full season with the Major League club, he was deemed worthy of an all-star game appearance where he threw a ten pitch, perfect inning for the NL club. Soroka has been pitching incredibly well and is part of the reason why the Braves are in first place in the NL East division which is full of good teams. There is one factor though that could slow Soroka down, not numbers-wise something the team may take into consideration for a postseason run.
Soroka, being only twenty-two has already had arm/shoulder issues in the past which limited him in pitching capabilities. Over the course of his minor and (short) major league career, he has never approached 200 innings which could raise some red flags for the Braves. The team should be looking to preserve his arm and keep him ready for a postseason run as well as for years to come as the ace of the Braves pitching staff.
The Braves should be set for years to come, barring injuries with a team of Acuña Jr., Albies, Fried, Freddie Freeman, Dansby Swanson, Johan Camargo, and Soroka. While Soroka may not the undisputed rising star of the team as Alonso is for the Mets or rising star Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is for the Toronto Blue Jays, he is still someone to look forward too as he progresses as a star in the making for the Braves.