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Why Atlanta Braves Must Address Rotation in Offseason
The Braves certainly need to address starting pitching this offseason. With the loss of Wright and potential and impending decline of Morton, they could use a frontline starter to mix with Max Fried (one-year left on contract) and Spencer Strider. They may also look to add depth pieces to provide innings so they aren’t scrambling to find a starter every turn of the rotation like they did in 2023 when they had 16 different pitchers start a game.
Whichever direction they go, they probably have hope that AJ Smith-Shawver will be ready to grow into a stable rotation piece for the team.
AJ Smith-Shawver Recognized by MLB.com
AJSS was recently recognized by MLB.com with a standout stat for each team. The article highlighted his incredible batting average against. Over 62 minor league innings, opposing hitters batted only .169 against him. The article points out, it didn’t get a lot worse in the big leagues as he posted a .183 BAA against the Braves number one prospect.
You should know about his meteoric rise the major leagues and how he didn’t start pitching until before his senior year in high school. He went from never having pitched prior to his senior year then making his MLB debut at 20 years old!
Read more about his backstory here: Who is AJ Smith-Shawver
What Makes AJ Smith-Shawver a Rotation Candidate in 2024?
The fact that he started in High-A and not only made the big-league club but made the Postseason roster, speaks to how highly the Braves value AJSS’s arm.
AJ Smith-Shawver Could Be Braves Next Great Strikeout Pitcher
He has electric stuff that resulted in a $1,000,000 signing bonus out of high school despite being drafted in the seventh round and despite the fact that he only pitched one year in high school. He showed up at Rookie Ball with one year of experience pitching in high school.
His million-dollar arm proved to be worthy as he began mowing down hitters. At 18 years old, he struck out 16 batters in 8.1 innings in Rookie ball.
In 2022, at 19 years old, AJSS struck out 103 batters in 68.2 innings.
In 2023, at 20 years old, he pitched his way through High-A Rome, to Double-A Mississippi, to Triple-A Gwinnett, to MLB-Atlanta. He struck out 79 hitters in 62 innings.
His fastball reaches 98 mph and he has a hard slider that can reach the low 90s. Upon his initial callup to the Major Leagues, Brian Snitker made a loose comparison to Spencer Strider.
In his second start on June 15, he became the youngest Braves player to record a win since Steve Avery.
AJSS Needs to Gain Command to Stick in Braves Rotation
AJSS needs to get the walks under control if he wants a real shot at being a consistent contributor at the big-league level. It has been his primary issue throughout the minor leagues. Considering he basically has three years of pitching under his belt, I’d say the Braves are happy to be patient with him.
They’ve already shown they won’t hesitate to pull the trigger and plug him into the rotation. They love his stuff!
Is AJSS ready for a rotation spot in 2024? How should the Braves set up the rotation next season? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.