(This continued series focuses on how players performed this season with a look to 2019.)
25.2 innings, 3.51 ERA, 2.84 FIP, 18.6% K-rate, 6.2% BB-rate, 0.6 fWAR
2018: Soroka’s rapid ascension to the majors culminated in a call-up to begin May. He held his own against major league competition, flashing similar strikeout and walk rates as their minor league counterparts. He didn’t induce a lot of weak contact, but I think that’s more a fluctuation in numbers. Typically, Soroka gets a good deal of soft contact off his sinker/four-seamer mix in the low 90’s. He also sports a very solid slider. His change-up can also be a plus pitch that he didn’t use too often in his five starts.
Contract Details: Age-21 when 2019 opens. Team-controlled through at least 2024. Could be arbitration-eligible after 2020 as a Super 2 player. If he spends a month-and-a-half or longer in the minors between now and then, will likely be arbitration-eligible after 2021. Did not use an option this season so he still has three.
Previewing 2019: Assuming that he bounces back from his shoulder injury, Soroka could easily slide back into the Braves rotation to open next season. While there remains some disagreement about his ceiling as a major league starter (is he more of a Mike Mussina or a John Lackey?), the smart money is that whatever his ceiling may become, Soroka is going to be a productive pitcher in the major leagues. Certainly, we only saw a glimpse of Soroka this season (he threw just 56.1 innings total between the majors and minors). But he did nothing but continue to impress.
As far as the injury goes, it’s important to remember that Soroka was durable through his first two full seasons, tossing 296.2 innings total. There’s little reason to get worried about the idea that Soroka will be healthy moving forward.
If there’s anything else to watch with Soroka, it’s the continued development of his change-up. This is different than Luiz Gohara, who was our first exit interview. With Soroka, it’s not a worry that he won’t be able to go to the offspeed pitch. It’s good right now. But I think it can be even better. As in, I believe it can become an elite pitch compared to other pitchers’ offspeed option. If that happens and if it happens in 2019, Soroka could become the best pitcher on the Braves’ staff. As it is, if he’s healthy and pitching like he’s capable, it’s hard not to imagine Soroka in Atlanta despite all of the other arms at the Braves’ disposal.
Did you know? The last starter from Canada to make at least five starts his rookie year and have an ERA under 3.75 was James Paxton in 2014. The other two to do it since 2000 are Scott Diamond in 2012 and Shawn Hill in 2007.