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2023 Braves Season In Review: Kolby Allard

Kolby Allard had one solid start for the Braves, but it was all downhill from there

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Atlanta Braves
Kolby Allard showed some promise in 2023
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Former first round draft pick Kolby Allard has moved around quite a bit since he made his MLB debut on July 31, 2018. You could write an entire article on how the MLB draft is so much different than other professional sports drafts based on slot value and other variables, but even with the convoluted way of why players are drafted in MLB, he has a long way to go to meet the expectations that comes with a top fifteen pick.

How Acquired

Allard was drafted by the Atlanta Braves with the 14th overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. However, he has had a circuitous route around the majors. He made his debut in 2018, when he made three appearances totaling eight terrible innings — he tallied -0.3 fWAR while his best mark was a 182 xFIP-.

Almost exactly a year later, he was traded to the Texas Rangers for reliever Chris Martin. Allard pitched parts of all four seasons for the big league Rangers, but then was re-acquired by the Braves in what was essentially a salary dump of Jake Odorizzi’s contract on November 9, 2022.

What were the expectations?

Coming into 2023, Allard had compiled +0.3 fWAR in 232 23 career innings. He was above replacement in both 2019 and 2020, albeit with a horrible xFIP in both years, and below replacement in both 2021 and 2022. The funny thing about those latter two years is that he had non-horrible xFIPs in both, but allowed a crazy homer rate that more than made up for how few dingers he had yielded previously.

Put all this together, and it’s not really clear what anyone should’ve expected out of Allard other than something around replacement level. Given that he was essentially just a depth piece received in exchange for a salary dump, there weren’t any real expectations or needs that he perform at any level to justify his acquisition.

2023 Results

Allard’s final line in 2023 at the big league level was, again, at odds with itself: 12 13 innings across four appearances, with a 148 ERA-, but a 98 FIP- and a 100 xFIP-. Going season-by-season, that was actually the best xFIP- and second-best FIP- of his career. He tallied 0.2 fWAR, his third above-replacement season in six tries.

Allard missed roughly the first three months of the year with an oblique injury. After a couple of rehab outings at Triple-A Gwinnett, he made his season debut on June 28, where he had an awesome game: in 4 23 innings, he had an 8/1 K/BB ratio as the Braves cruised to a 3-0 shutout win.

But, he struggled after that, and then ended up back on the shelf with nerve inflammation in his throwing shoulder, which cost him the reason of the season. The Braves then non-tendered him at the end of the season, bringing his second stint with his original club to an end.

All in all, 2023 was an extremely small sample size for a player that came in without any meaningful expectations, so it ended up being only a small loss. While it would’ve been nice for Allard to become somewhat of a successful reclamation project, as his first outing of the year suggested, that apparently wasn’t in the cards.

What went right?

It was a small sample, so there’s not too much to say here that warrants serious consideration. His outing against the Twins was superb and made his numbers look pretty good even after he got knocked around in his other three appearances. As a result of that outing, he posted better-than-average strikeout and walk rates.

He even had some nice moments in other games, like this timely induced double play to escape a first-inning jam, but it was really all about that first outing for him.

What went wrong?

First, the fact that injuries kept him from claiming what was an up-for-grabs spot at the back end of the Braves’ rotation was probably a bummer for him. But, the fact that he was roughed up in his three outings after that start against the Twins probably tempers any ideas about him providing a bunch of value had he not gone down with injury.

Allard got mashed — he had an insane .440 xwOBACON against and all of his exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and so on were approaching the edge of the charts, in a bad way. He had a terrible chase rate, which was somewhat surprising given that he pounded the zone so much, you’d figure he’d just get swings because he threw so many strikes.

His curve and cutter actually performed well for him, but his fastball was demolished. Maybe he finds a way to become a guy who rarely uses his fastball, but he didn’t do that in 2023.

It’s also worth noting that perhaps Allard’s diminished performance related to him pitching through the shoulder injury that ultimately shelved him. We’ll never know if that’s the case, but it’s a possibility.

Allard’s worst outing was his last, and came after he escaped the first with that double play ball shown above. He faced eight batters in the second inning of that game, and retired just two, while allowing a homer and a walk. But, that wasn’t his only blow-up. For example, against Cleveland on July 4, he was destroyed by Amed Rosario, as the latter hit this double, and then later took Allard deep and knocked him out of the game.

2024 Outlook

It will be interesting to see what 2024 holds for Allard. He will be coming off a 60-day IL stint, which is probably a big reason for his non-tendering. He is now a free agent to sign with who he chooses.

Steamer currently projects Allard to pitch 54 innings with a 4.93 FIP in a starting role — that’s basically a solid fourth starter. He probably won’t stay healthy enough to actually serve in that capacity, but it means someone should take a flier on him, even if he ends up commanding around the $1 million the Braves passed on paying him.

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