This is not the rock solid 2022 LAD team waltzing into the 2nd half gearing up for their November parade, and sizing up their ring fingers. No. This team is legitimately good, just not elite. This team as it is right now, is not as good as Atlanta. Like LAD, Atlanta got hit hard with injuries to their top two starting pitchers, Max Fried and Kyle Wright, but kept on winning. From June 1, Atlanta is 27-6. Sounds like one of those LAD runs.
After five starts Max Fried, Fried was put on the shelf with left forearm strain. Uh Oh!! But the thought for him was rest and rehab, and on Sunday, Max had a rehab start at their AAA affiliate, Gwinnett Stripers. How did he do?
Max Fried in his first rehab start: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 1 K, 35 pitches (18 strikes)
Fried averaged 94 mph with his four-seam fastball. He touched 96 mph. He threw 35 pitches after estimating he threw around 30 in his second live batting practice session (on Tuesday).
— Justin Toscano (@JustinCToscano) July 9, 2023
He is obviously going to need a few to several more rehab starts to lengthen out for his ML return. But the Braves are playing with house money as they have an 8.5 game lead over NL East 2nd place Miami, and have the best record in MLB. He is looking for a late July return to Atlanta’s rotation.
Kyle Wright and his right shoulder sprain prognosis is a little murkier. He was also sat down after 5 starts. He has been cleared to throw, but is not yet scheduled for a rehab start. He is penciled in for a late August return.
Atlanta has three solid starters and then a patchwork of starters for #4 and #5. The two with the most starts, Jared Shuster (9) and Dylan Dodd (5) are back in MiLB. Mike Soroka (4 starts) has rejoined the rotation after a few years. So just how deep will Atlanta’s starting rotation be when Fried and Wright are reunited.
That does not mean that we should discount what Atlanta has remaining in the rotation, as two of the three were 2023 All Stars: 24 year old RHP’s, Spencer Strider and Bryce Elder.
They also have 6 position player All Stars that are younger than 30.
- Sean Murphy, catcher (28)
- Orlando Arcia, shortstop (28)
- Ronald Acuña Jr., outfield (25)
- Matt Olson, first base (29)
- Ozzie Albies, second base (26)
- Austin Riley, third base (26)
Seven of the eight Atlanta All Stars are under long term deals that gives them team control through 2026. Only Elder is not tied up long term. I look for that to change this winter. Arcia has a 2026 club option, while the others are controlled for a longer spell.
The Dodgers are very high on their stable of pitchers, and they absolutely should be. But Atlanta also has a stable full of pitching. 9 of their top 11 prospects are pitchers. 6 of the 9 are at A or Rookie level. Not nearly at the level of the Dodgers, but Atlanta has the ability to push their prospects through to the next level quickly, and they generally perform. Bryce Elder joined the rotation as a 23 year old in 2022 and was very effective. He was in 10 games, 9 starts. 54.0 IP, 3.17 ERA and 1.241 WHIP. This year he is an All Star. 18 GS, 106.0 IP, 2.97 ERA, 1.198 WHIP.
Elder was a 5th round pick and was never considered a top 100 prospect by MLB Pipeline or Baseball America. This year, the Braves promoted 20 year old RHP prospect AJ Smith-Shawver. He was in four games, three as a starter. He has 16.2 IP with a 4.32 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. Smith-Shawver is also not considered a top 100 prospect. He was a high school teammate of Bobby Witt Jt., and was a highly recruited HS QB with a scholarship offer to Texas Tech. He is now concentrating just on baseball, and the Braves are excited.
The Dodgers current top four rookie pitchers:
- Emmet Sheehan (23) – 20.2 IP, 4.35 ERA, 1.06 WHIP
- Bobby Miller (24) – 44.0 IP, 4.50 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
- Michael Grove (26) – 47.0 IP, 6.89 ERA, 1.55 WHIP
- Gavin Stone (24) – 12.0 IP, 12.75 ERA, 3.00 WHIP
I like all four, and the Dodgers have a bevy of near MLB pitchers. The Dodgers have more depth (as they always do), but the Braves are younger and a couple might be better at this stage of their career. Dodger fans are excited for Maddux Bruns who is 21 and at A+. Atlanta has a 20 year old with 16.2 MLB IP. I know. Before I get harpooned, let’s all say it together. Development is not linear. By the way when does development is not linear turn into…he was just not that good. Also, for clarification, I am not referring to Maddux Bruns.
The Braves do not come close to the depth the Dodgers have, but the Dodgers do not have the overall talent at the MLB level that Atlanta has. Does that mean that Atlanta is going to win the NL Pennant and WS? Having the best team did not get the Dodgers those championships. They still have to play the games.
What’s is going to happen to Miguel Vargas? He is headed to OKC to try to find his stroke. He suffered some pinky and thumb injuries that he probably played through but should not have. As I have discussed before, he has abandoned his gap to gap contact over power stroke for pull side power. This is the same problem that Gavin Lux had when he first came up. This is the same issue that Miggy Rojas was facing AFTER he got to LAD.
Miguel Vargas has had advice from his Cuban legendary father to go back to his old hitting style. Miguel is stubborn (aren’t we all), and wants to be his own. He does not want to be a clone to his father.
Here is an outstanding article. I believe I have provided this before, but it bears repeating in light as to where he is now.
Not all players are designed to swing hard and elevate. Lux isn’t. Rojas isn’t. Vargas isn’t. And yet they have all been coached to do just that. Lux went away from it last year, and remarkedly he was successful as a contact hitter. Thank you Freddie.
Rojas has seemingly abandoned that method after a very slow start. I remember in the Spring, the announcers were reporting that Miguel was told to let it loose. Go for the power. On May 19, Rojas was hitting .188/.244/.225/.469. Since that day, Rojas has hit .265/.299/.333/.633. Not all that prolific, but with his defense, he is doing what he is capable of. Just a question. Not an indictment. Why are the contact first hitters not producing as well as they might otherwise be?
Since June, Vargas is batting .146/.273/.293/.565. Remember in ST when he was told to stand in the batter’s box and just watch the path of the pitch? Just a question, and not a complaint. Did Vargas lose some of his aggressive approach to hitting?
Vargas has the ability to be a .300 hitter or very near. I do think he is capable of putting up Alex Verdugo numbers. Will he? Verdugo abandoned the power desire for hit. IMO Vargas needs to do the same. He has more power potential than Verdugo, but he doesn’t need it. The HRs will come. He is not a Joey Gallo, Edwin Rios, or Max Muncy three outcome approach hitters.
I have made it clear that I am not a RVS fan. But the Dodgers score a s*** load of runs, except in the playoffs. They rely on the HR (too much IMO). As a team they do not have a good 2-strike approach. Freddie does. I think Will Smith does as well. They are very good as a team WRISP. They score a lot of runs with 2 outs. They do a lot of things a good hitting team should. I remain not a fan of RVS, because I think the players are capable of putting up those numbers. But they do not know how to manufacture runs, something that will be needed in the playoffs. It is hard to fault a hitting coach for a team that scores as many runs as the Dodgers do. Except, does he have any clue how to change and coach for the non-power hitters? I am not in the dugout so I have no idea how he is received or whether he does change his tactics for the non-power hitter?
As an aside, RVS also did not seem to do all that well with Cody Bellinger. Some are calling for Belli to come back to LAD. That ship has sailed. Is he going to end up in NYY or Houston?
I expect Vargas to find his stroke at OKC and rejoin LAD in short order. When he comes back, let Vargas be a contact gap to gap doubles hitter with an occasional HR. There is nothing wrong with a .300 hitter with 30+ doubles and 15 HRs. I refuse to believe that Miguel Vargas reached his peak at AAA.