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Atlanta Braves 2022 Minor League Player Review: Kyle Muller

Kyle Muller put together a strong 2022 season in the minors for the Braves yet again. The question now is can he make the leap to contributor in a major league rotation?

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Now in his sixth full professional season after being a second round pick for the Atlanta Braves in 2016, Kyle Muller dominated Triple-A lineups throughout much of the 2022 season in Gwinnett while making three spot starts for the big-league Braves. The timing of a broken bone in his non-throwing hand in July was unlucky for Muller, as the Braves were looking for someone to eat innings at the back end of their rotation right around that time. Muller eventually made an August start for Atlanta (with a softball glove purchased at Dick’s Sporting Goods), and earned his only MLB victory of the season, but by that point Muller was caught in a numbers game and wasn’t a factor down the stretch.

2022 Preseason Report Card

Coming in sixth on our 2022 Preseason Prospect Rankings, but higher once the season started after the Matt Olson trade-caused departures of two of the top five, Muller’s 2022 season was going to be his first chance to solidify a spot in the bigs. Hehad already made his big league debut with nine starts in 2021 and flashed some success, along with a sometimes inconsistent delivery, leading to a lack of command. However, with his 6’7” frame, mid-90s fastball and improving breaking pitches, Muller looked the part of a prospect with a chance of a potential breakout. No solidified fifth starter in the Braves’ rotation to start the season gave Muller an opportunity to be in the mix right out of the gate.

What we saw in 2022

It took almost a month for Muller’s first Atlanta Braves start in 2022, as Huascar Ynoa and Bryce Elder were given the first rotational looks in April. When the chance to pitch in the Majors did come on May 1, it didn’t go well… to the tune of six walks and seven earned runs in 2 23 innings against a bad Texas Rangers team in Arlington.

That earned Muller a one-way ticket back to Gwinnett, where he pitched well throughout the summer. In 12 Triple-A starts between May 7 and July 14, the lefty cruised with a 2.77 ERA and 3.40 FIP, holding opposing hitters to a .663 OPS while averaging more than a strikeout an inning. The hot stretch had Muller seemingly back on the cusp of joining the Braves again when a comebacker in batting practice temporarily derailed that opportunity after it broke a bone in his right, non-throwing hand.

The Braves were able to splint the hand inside a comically large softball glove, which allowed Muller to get back on the mound in August. He made two more big league starts for the Braves down the stretch, one in August and another in September. Muller pitched better, providing important innings in games that the Braves won, leading to the NL East title. Here’s his second outing of the season getting bailed out of a dicey situation:

2023 Outlook

As part of the massive trade that brought Sean Murphy to Atlanta, Kyle Muller headed to Oakland as part of the return. What the Athletics are getting is a guy that seems to have figured out Triple-A reasonably well, but hasn’t done much of use in a small sample in the majors. Muller has a career 122 ERA, 99 FIP-, and 114 xFIP- across 49 career innings. While it seems like wildness could be his biggest problem given some mechanical issues and his stature, the reality is that over the course of his time in the majors, Muller hasn’t really shown any high-quality pitches. In those 49 innings, he’s gotten a few more whiffs in the zone compared to average, but hasn’t gotten many chases, and has grooved the ball a fair bit. H

Getting his broken right hand healed and healthy will be the top priority for Muller in the offseason. Assuming that rehab is fairly straight-forward, Muller faces what feels like a “make-or-break” 2023 season. The Athletics should have plenty of room for him, but he’ll need to pitch like he at least kind of belongs, since a third stint at Triple-A isn’t very exciting for anyone, and Muller, now 25 years old, has little left to show in the minors at this point.

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