The Atlanta Braves have been division contenders since 2018, and so far, 2021 has been a slow start for them. They’re currently 20-23 putting them just 3.0 games out of first in the division. Again, the division is the weakest in baseball and it’s completely up for grabs. All five of the NL East teams entered the season with playoff potential.
The Braves, like the Marlins, are starting to see their young players perform at the major league level as well. Austin Riley is starting to come around and William Contreras is looking like their backstop of the future. Obviously, they still have the likes of Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna Jr., Ian Anderson, and still up and coming prospects like Cristian Pache, Drew Waters, and Tucker Davidson.
However, their starting rotation has been an extremely weak spot for them. The aforementioned Anderson is the only one of their healthy starting pitchers to have an ERA and FIP below 4. Huascar Ynoa opened the season as one of baseball’s biggest breakout starters, but recently broke his hand after punching the dugout bench. Free agent additions Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly aren’t pitching to what the Braves expected them to, and 2019-2020 standout Max Fried has been both hurt and inconsistent. It also doesn’t help that Mike Soroka has suffered some setbacks in his recovery from a torn achilles.
With injuries and inconsistent or straight up under performance the Braves could use some stability in the starting rotation. They also don’t need a long term solution as Fried and Soroka are still expected to make it back sometime this season. But Anderson would provide a pitcher who can provide 5-6 innings each time out and give them a chance to win. So what could the Braves have that could pique the interest of the Pirates?
The Braves do have one of the stronger farm systems in baseball, and one prospect the Pittsburgh Pirates could ask about is right-hander Victor Vodnik. Vodnik is a 21-year-old pitcher with Atlanta’s Double-A affiliate.
In 2019, Vodnik pitched in 23 total games and started 3. All told, he pitched to the tune of a 2.94 ERA, 2.79 FIP and 1.17 WHIP through 67.1 innings of work. Vodnik struck out just over a quarter of all the batters he faced (25.2%) while having a solid 8.8% walk rate. However, he was best at limiting home runs with a .13 HR/9 rate and 52.6% ground ball rate. Vodnik has tossed 7.1 innings this year in two starts, allowing 3 earned runs on 7 hits and 6 walks, but has 13 strikeouts and none of his hits have left the park.
Vodnik’s future as a reliever or starter hinges on the development of his pitches. He has a very good fastball, one that is seen as a 65-future grade offering by FanGraphs. He averages out in the 92-96 MPH range, but can run it up around 98 MPH. He also has about average spin with 2350 RPM. His change-up is another pitch that has the potential to be an above average offering with a 55-future grade. However, his slider, his only breaking ball, is considered a below average offering.
Like with the first proposal, the Pittsburgh Pirates may be able to squeeze another play out of this deal. Taking on Johan Camargo would give the Bucs a serviceable young utility man and may entice the Braves to trade Vodnik more by taking on his contract.