Atlanta Braves: Why Michael Soroka Could Return as a Strikeout Pitcher

Michael Soroka finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting for the Atlanta Braves in 2019 with a stellar 2.68 ERA. Soroka threw 174.2 innings and struckout just 142 hitters. Soroka made his living with pinpoint control, soft contact, and groundballs.

For his career, Soroka has a 50.9% groundball rate with 7.19 K/9 IP. Soroka’s control is on full display with his 2.31 BB/9 IP. The Atlanta Braves are very much looking forward to Soroka’s healthy return to the rotation. Could they be getting a new and improved version of the former ace? Could Soroka morph into a strikeout pitcher? Here are some indications he might be.

As we know, Soroka is attempting to comeback from all kinds of obstacles. He has ruptured his Achilles twice and dealt with a strained hamstring this spring. Soroka has not pitched in a major-league game since he suffered his first ruptured Achilles in 2020. His return will be a joyous day, but he might be bringing a few more strikeouts with him.

Soroka is Showing Increased Spin and Velocity on Pitches

When we last saw Michael Soroka in 2020 he was averaging just 91.4 mph on his two-seam fastball. In his latest outing, Soroka average 93.0 mph on his sinker with a maximum velocity of 94.4. His changeup was averaging 82.1 mph as opposed to 80.3 mph in 2020. These are pretty significant increases in velocity.

Soroka’s spin rates have taken serious increases, if you look at the Statcast page for his latest outing against the Norfolk Tides, you can see his average spin rates are shooting through the roof over his yearly averages.

Soroka appears to have a deadlier two-seamer with vastly more spin and velocity than it used to. In his game against Norfolk, it had less vertical break and more horizontal break than we are accustomed to seeing. Something is different.

We have a small sample size to draw from, but Soroka has made seven minor-league starts since rupturing his Achilles the second time. In those seven starts, Soroka has 28 SOs in 28.2 innings. Soroka has walked just seven hitters over that time while allowing 25 hits.

With more spin and velocity on his pitches, there’s a chance Soroka could naturally add a little more whiff to his game. Although, it’s not likely he turns into Jacob deGrom any time soon. Soroka is a control pitcher and isn’t afraid of finding contact. Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken.

Fantasy Spin: If Soroka is himself, he should offer a solid ERA and WHIP. If he can boost his 7 K/9 IP then it would increase his value as a fantasy asset.

It will certainly be an exciting return for Soroka and for Braves fans. Do you think he’ll have more strikeout to his game upon his return? Let us know in the comments!

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