Chad Sobotka has long been a guy with big time potential but with a history of command problems and injury issues. In 2018, it looked like he had turned a corner and impressed both in the minor leagues as well as in his promotion to the major leagues. Unfortunately for all of those involved, those steps forward did not take in 2019.
What went right in 2019?
One thing that Chad Sobotka will do is strike guys out thanks to a high octane fastball and breaking ball that he throws hard and can get some good movement on. That remained true in 2019 as he struck out 11.79 batters per nine innings in the majors (32 appearances) and almost 14 K/9 in Triple-A on top of that. Both numbers are near the top end of what he has done as a professional, so he definitely has some swing and miss stuff.
What went wrong in 2019?
The regression monster saw Sobotka and his 5.65 BB/9, near 4 FIP, and .115 BABIP against in 2018 and it was HUNGRY. After posting a sub-2 ERA in 2018 in the majors, Sobotka’s ERA in 2019 was a much less good 6.21 thanks to his BABIP against jumping to .324 and his walk rate remaining at a very poor 5.90 BB/9.
Chad also saw the injuries come back in 2019 as he first missed time at the beginning of the season with an abdominal strain which cost him around a month of playing time. After that, he had a 12 day stint on the injured list in June which was right around when the Braves’ bullpen was at its worst.
What to expect in 2020?
Sobotka will get a chance to prove he can win a spot in the Braves’ bullpen in 2020 although it is far from a sure thing. One, the Braves have a lot of other guys that won’t/shouldn’t be back and Sobotka is both cheap and youngish. The ship appears to have sailed on him being a late inning stalwart, but the arm is still good enough to be a major leaguer if he can find some semblance of command of his pitches.
In the unlikely event that the Braves move on from him, he will get long looks from a bunch of teams given how good he CAN be and due to the lack of reliable bullpen arms in the majors. Chad has real upside, but a reasonable prediction for him in 2020 wherever he is is that he ends up missing a bit of time due to injury, will strike out 12 batters per nine, but will also possess a walk rate north of 5 BB/9. How much time he has in the majors will depend entirely on his luck, his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark (his homer rate jumped up notably in 2019), and how patient the Braves are with him given their other options.