Buying or Selling Braves' Biggest Breakout Players in 2022 SeasonMay 5, 2022
Buying or Selling Braves' Biggest Breakout Players in 2022 Season
The Atlanta Braves have done as well as any team in baseball cultivating minor league talent in recent seasons, and the pipeline continues to churn impact talent here in 2022.
Starter Kyle Wright is a former top prospect who has taken some time to settle in at the MLB level, but he's pitching like an ace right now. Meanwhile, flame-throwing rookie Spencer Strider has found a role as a multi-inning reliever, while outfielder Travis Demeritte is finally starting to show some of the power potential that made him an intriguing prospect once upon a time.
But are they for real?
Ahead, we've given our take on whether to buy or sell those early performances based on previous track record and advanced metrics.
OF Travis Demeritte
Travis Demeritte put his name on the prospect radar when he posted a .915 OPS with 29 doubles and 28 home runs at High-A during the 2016 season, but he struggled to make consistent contact in the upper levels of the minors and his prospect star faded.
He got his first taste of the big leagues after he was traded to the Detroit Tigers in the deal that brought Shane Greene to Atlanta at the 2019 trade deadline, and prior to last season, he returned to the Braves organization when he was claimed off waivers.
With Eddie Rosario on the injured list, he was promoted from Triple-A in late April, and he's hitting .303/.368/.545 with two doubles and two home runs in 38 plate appearances as he has taken over as the primary left fielder.
His batted-ball metrics don't jump off the page, but he had terrific numbers at Triple-A last year and has improved his overall approach over the years to be a more complete offensive player. At the least, he's an above-average fourth outfielder who can handle an expanded role when needed.
RP Spencer Strider
Armed with a fastball that averages 98.6 mph and a true wipeout slider, Spencer Strider opened eyes this spring and pitched his way on to the Opening Day roster. A fourth-round pick in 2020, he rocketed through the minors to make his MLB debut as a September call-up last year.
The 23-year-old started out the season on a high note, striking out five over two perfect innings on Opening Day while lighting up the radar gun.
However, in four appearances since, he has almost as many walks (9) as strikeouts (11) in 10.2 innings, and he took the loss on April 23 when he allowed two hits, two walks and three earned runs without recording an out.
For a guy who pitched just 94 innings in the minors, optioning him back to Triple-A might not be the worst thing in the world, especially if the long-term plan is still to develop him as a starter. The stuff is electric, but there is still work to do on his command.
SP Kyle Wright
Kyle Wright was in the conversation to go No. 1 overall in the 2017 draft before ultimately slipping to No. 5 where the Braves gave him a $7 million signing bonus that eclipsed the $6.725 million figure the Minnesota Twins gave to top pick Royce Lewis.
He debuted in 2018 and impressed with six shutout innings against the Miami Marlins in Game 3 of the 2020 NLDS, but in between he struggled to establish himself, and he entered the 2022 season with a 6.56 ERA and 1.69 WHIP in 14 starts and seven relief appearances scattered over the last four years.
The 26-year-old kicked off this year as the No. 3 starter in the Atlanta rotation behind Max Fried and Charlie Morton, and so far he's been the best pitcher on the staff, posting a 1.74 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 37 strikeouts in 31 innings.
The key to his newfound success is his curveball, a pitch he's throwing 33.0 percent of the time this year after using it sparingly in years past. Swapping out his slider for his curveball as his go-to breaking pitch has made all the difference.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and accurate through Tuesday's games.