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Braves Mailbag: Michael Soroka demotion, mid-season prospect list and more

It is mailbag time!

Atlanta Braves v Oakland Athletics Photo by Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/Getty Images

A big thank you to everyone that took time to send in questions for this week’s mailbag. We will do it again soon. Let’s jump right into it!

With Michael Soroka going back to Triple A, do you think he will get another chance this year?

What’s the reason behind sending Soroka back to the minors? Could it be to work on something specific or do they really think he’s going to get better facing minor league hitters? Also, how long do you think he will be in the minors before he’s called back up?

I don’t see why not. The reality was that, he messaging from the Braves apparently notwithstanding, Soroka was called upon out of necessity more than anything else. It would have been a great story had he pitched well and been able to stick, but it is clear that there is still work for him to do in regards to pitching effectively. The Braves may want to keep from bouncing Soroka back and forth between the majors and Triple-A, but he is still on the 40-man roster and will be an option if and when they need another starter.

Which prospects can be in the line for the biggest raise in mid-season prospects rankings? Is there any 20s or NR who could crack the top 10?

I sent this question to our minor league editor Garrett Spain and this was his response:

There have not been many names towards the bottom of the prospect list that have made a huge splash this year yet, with a lot of guys like Luis Guanipa and Douglas Glod that have that potential just now getting started in Rookie ball. The player from the preseason top 25 that was most poised to make a jump was 6th round pick and 23rd ranked prospect Seth Keller. Keller will certainly rise a lot for us regardless; he was the GreenJackets’ best pitcher and had a 2.84 FIP with them but he’s been on the injured list since May 23rd.

There are a few guys that should crack the list this season, although I don’t think they’re top 10 yet. 17-year-old pitcher Didier Fuentes should get onto the list even though he has struggled in A-ball, and I personally have teammate Jhancarlos Lara on my top 30. Lara is 20, 6’3”, and can touch 98 with his fastball to go along with a solid slider. Kevin Kilpatrick Jr. should sneak on as well as he’s a fantastic athlete who has had a solid season in Rome. Javier Valdes and Allan Winans are older players who have had success at the upper levels of the system and could be pushing for top 30 recognition.

If we are going to have a guy sitting on the bench not playing (Culberson) why can’t that guy be Chadwick Tromp so Snitker would be comfortable pinch hitting his catchers?

Culberson is the backup shortstop in case anything happens to Orlando Arcia. That’s why Culberson’s on the roster; that’s why Ehire Adrianza was on the roster before he got injured. It’s why Braden Shewmake stuck around for a few games after Vaughn Grissom was sent down. This is one of the unfortunate things about the 13-pitcher limit: with the DH, there is a position player that teams have to carry that will very seldom see playing time. It is a rule that I wish they would rethink during the offseason, but I’m also guessing that it is working as intended by constraining the number of pitchers that teams can use.

We have seen lineups that included both Sean Murphy and Travis d’Arnaud so I don’t think the Braves are all that uncomfortable using catchers as pinch-hitters or in the DH spot.

Do you think we will be buyers at the trading deadline and who do You think we are looking to acquire?

Of course they will be buyers. They were buyers in 2021 despite being a sub .500 club and having lost Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ian Anderson to injuries. I don’t think that we will see that level of roster turnover (though you never know with injuries), but I expect them to add a reliever or two to the mix since that seems like something they do every season. Trading for a starter would also be in play, but would also likely depend on what the rotation looks like as we get closer to the Deadline.

The recent surges by Eddie Rosario and Marcell Ozuna may lessen the need to add an outfield bat, but again, we are still roughly two months away from the deadline. Alex Anthopoulos has shown time and again that he is always looking for ways to improve the club. I don’t see this season being any different.

If the innings limit for AJ Smith-Shawver is real, would moving him to the pen after Fried comes back be that “high end reliever trade” that everyone is looking for?

To be clear, I haven’t heard anyone say that there is an innings limit for Smith-Shawver. That was a question that was repeated often last year with Spencer Strider, and the answer was always that the Braves took things on a start-by-start basis. There very well could be a number they have in mind internally, but that number will never be made public.

Given that Smith-Shawver has yet to make a start, this question also seems premature. For one, Smith-Shawver could head right back to the bullpen after one start — after all, they demoted Soroka after two starts. If Fried returns and Smith-Shawver is pitching well, then maybe he bumps Jared Shuster. At this point, we are also expecting the return of Kyle Wright at some point.

If the Braves don’t have a need for Smith-Shawver in the rotation, then sure, I think he can be a piece out of the bullpen. I don’t think it will stop them though from looking for bullpen help at the Trade Deadline, though.

Any discussion by Braves to abandon the Grissom shortstop experiment and give him left field duties for the rest of the year? Seems like LF is where we need help. I don’t think Rosario is the answer in 2024. Thoughts?

Since Grissom was demoted, he has started at either shortstop or second base for Gwinnett. Him playing shortstop wasn’t an “experiment” — shortstop has been his primary position since he was drafted. I have seen it talked about online a lot, but other than him and William Contreras getting a few reps in the outfield down the stretch during pregame last year, they have never come out said that a position switch to the outfield is planned for Grissom.

It is also worth considering Grissom’s offensive performance. He hit well when pressed into duty down the stretch in 2022, but slumped offensively at the end and lost the second base job to Arcia. He produced a 71 wRC+ in 70 plate appearances this season and showed virtually no power in a small sample, although he has hit well at Gwinnett.

Eddie Rosario might not be the answer in left field for 2024, but Grissom might not be either.

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