With Spring Training fully underway, we are doing a daily look into the organizational outlook of each position in the Atlanta Braves system. In this article we are going to evaluate how trades have impacted the team’s depth with pitching from the left side, which has always been a commodity valued by the organization.
40-man roster outlook
The Braves presently have six left-handed pitchers on their 40-man roster, though that number includes Tyler Matzek, who will be out for this season after Tommy John surgery over the winter. That leaves five guys, with Max Fried at the top of the list. After finishing second in the NL Cy Young voting last year, Fried will top the Braves rotation - though with the emergence of right-hander Spencer Strider over the past year, there is some argument about who the Braves No. 1 starter really is. Fried is the only lefty starter the Braves have that is a lock to make the roster, though former first rounder/top prospect Kolby Allard is back in the system after coming over from the Rangers in the Jake Odorizzi deal this winter. Allard, who posted a 5.68 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 145.2 innings in the past two years with Texas, figures to have a role that’s up in the air. Allard is a guy who could swing back and forth between the rotation and pen, as well as between Atlanta and Triple-A Gwinnett this season.
That leaves three lefties in the pen for the Braves. A.J. Minter has been one of the most valuable arms in the Braves pen over the past three seasons, and is ticketed to continue pitching in a similar late innings/key situations role - one that could even expand due to the loss of Matzek for this season. Dylan Lee comes in as the second lefty option out of the pen following his emergence last year, when he pitched to a 2.13 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in 50.2 innings of work. The final lefty on the 40-man is the soon to be 36-year old Lucas Luetge, who came over from the Yankees for prospects Indigo Diaz and Caleb Durbin. Luetge pitched to a 2.74 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 72.1 innings in 2021 and followed that up with a 2.67 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in 57.1 innings for the Yankees last year.
The Braves have four additional lefties on the spring training roster, Brian Moran and Danny Young, as well as a pair of prospects in Dylan Dodd and Jared Shuster. Moran, who is in his age-34 season, has pitched in 18 big league games with three teams, though has just one third of an inning since 2020. Young, who is in his age-29 season, made one appearance for the Braves last year after being picked up on waivers from the Mariners - with whom he made his big league debut in 2022 and pitched two games there.
The Braves organization has always put a value on left-handed pitching and three were ranked in our preseason prospect list. While that number doesn’t sound especially deep, two of those three were in the Top 10 in the system, and both of those players are in big league camp this spring. Jared Shuster, the 2020 first round pick, split last year between Mississippi and Gwinnett and after making 10 appearances in Triple-A could be in line to see the big leagues this year. Overall Shuster threw 139.1 innings in 2022, with 48.2 in Gwinnett, and had a combined 3.29 ERA and 1.05 WHIP (4.25 ERA, 1.21 WHIP in Triple-A). Dylan Dodd is also with the big club this spring after spending the bulk of 2022 split between High-A and Double-A - though he did make one appearance in Triple-A. The 2021 third rounder combined for a 3.36 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 142 innings last year (89 in Rome, 46.1 in Mississippi, and 6.2 in Gwinnett). Despite being a senior sign discount selection, Dodd has become a legitimate prospect for the Braves and should see Triple-A this season with a chance to get to Atlanta.
The last lefty prospect to make our preseason list was Adam Shoemaker, an overslot 11th round pick from 2021 as a Canadian prep arm. Shoemaker spent the bulk of last year in the FCL after opening the year in Low-A and struggling. He is likely ticketed to start this year back in Low-A.
One additional prospect worth mentioning is Luis De Avila, a 5’9”, 215 lefty who came over to the Braves from the Royals in the minor league version of the Rule 5 draft prior to last year. De Avila spent the entire season in High-A, making 24 starts and pitching to a 3.49 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. De Avila isn’t the biggest guy, doesn’t have overpowering stuff, nor above-average command which limits his ceiling. What he does have is an ability to make hitters hit ground balls at a high rate, which gives him upside as a lefty reliever. He is likely to spend this year in Double-A.
The surprising fact about the Braves 2022 MLB Draft is that they selected 11 pitchers, but no left-handed pitchers. For a team who has always put real value on lefties, that came as probably the biggest surprise out of the 2022 draft class.