Replacing The Ace

By: Jeb Watkins news services

The Atlanta Braves will be without their ace Spencer Strider for the remainder of the 2024 season.

The organization released information recently that the flame-throwing 25-year-old underwent UCL surgery on his right elbow.

An early 2025 season return seems to be the best braves fans like myself can hope for.

The show must go on however, and the Bravos need to fill his spot in the rotation.

Notice I said fill and not replace, and here is why. Strider is not just the braves ace, he’s a stud, a top 5 pitcher in the league and a Cy Young contender.

His 281 strikeouts last season were a franchise record, so to say any of the names on this list can replace him would be an insult.

Although, Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos has replaced an MVP caliber player before back in 2021 and it was good enough to win a championship. So, let’s go through and see who the Braves best options are for the open position.

For this article we will look at internal options only.

Alan Winans tried out against the Mets Thursday and flunked out. He posted 5 innings allowing 7 runs with 6 earned and only 1 strikeout. Atlanta sent him back to triple-A immediately. I expect he’ll get another chance but not anytime soon.

Darius Vines was subsequently called up. Vines pitched in 5 games last year and turned in a 3.98 ERA over 20 innings of work, so the sample size on him is just too small. I expect him to fare better than his teammate Winans did, since vines typically pitches to contact and the Braves have above average defensive play.

I don’t think he is the answer right now though and he will be going back to Gwinnett soon.

AJ Smith-Shawver is an interesting case in this situation. At 21 years old he probably has the rawest pitching talent on this list, I love watching this kid pitch and I believe he can be the answer long term this season to replace strider.

He’s struggled out of the gate this season in triple-A and will need a couple of good outings before the Braves call him up to fill in.

Last year as a 20-year-old he posted a 4.26 ERA with 20K’s and only 11 walks over 25 innings of work. He also got 2 innings of postseason experience.

Bryce Elder has the most likely odds to fill the spot early in the season mainly because he has the most experience out of all the Braves young options.

The big righty started 31 games last year and made the All-Star team in his rookie season.

He became more average in the second half of the season and eventually lost his spot in the rotation during Spring Training, losing out to Reynaldo Lopez.

Elder another pitch to contact guy can thrive with this Braves team though when the bats are humming he won 12 games with only 4 losses and a respectable 3.81 ERA.

I think you can expect to see this guy called up next after Vines is sent back down.

Dark Horses: The last three on this list are long shots but expect them to get some work in while number 99 is recovering.

Dylan Dodd the only lefty on this list, he pitched in 7 games in 2023, turning in a disappointing 7.60 ERA in 34 innings with 15K’s and 12 walks.

Dodd is likely working on his command and stamina in triple-A and will need more time for correction before he is ready to come back to the show.

Huascar Ynoa, we know this guy has the stuff to pitch at the big-league level. Ynoa had somewhat of a breakout year in 2021 starting 17 games and finishing with a 4.05 ERA 100K’s with 25 walks in 91innings.

The following 2022 season saw him struggle with command and arm soreness, which eventually led to him having his own Tommy John surgery and missing the 2023 season.

Ynoa only got 1 inning in the spring so I expect the team wants to see more from him in the minors for now.

Hurston Waldrep, the Cairo Georgia native and Thomasville High Graduate was taken 24th overall by the Braves in last year’s draft.

Waldrep is a real long shot. He had some nice outings in double A Mississippi last season and got 1 start at the triple A level and did well.

The Braves started him out in Mississippi this year though and he’s had a rough go of it in only two starts. I don’t think we will see this kid until September at the earliest.