The Rome Braves, Single-A affiliate for the Atlanta Braves, posted a remarkable season in 2016. Stacked with talent acquired in the first few years of a rebuild that began in 2014, Rome had no shortage of star power available. While the offense featured players like Ronald Acuña Jr. and Austin Riley, it was the rotation that stole many headlines.
During the South Atlantic League Championship Series, Rome’s rotation was full-on lights out. They hurled 28 innings while allowing just two earned runs with 34 strikeouts in the championship. Here is a look at some of the top performers from 2016 and where they stand heading into 2019.
Where Are They Now – 2016 Rome Braves Pitching Staff
2016 stats: 25 appearances, 24 starts, 9-9, 3.02 ERA, 143.0 innings pitched, 1 CG, 125 strikeouts, 1.13 WHIP
Soroka proved early on that age was no issue. Playing at just 18-years-old for much of the 2016 season, he made 24 starts during Rome’s championship season. Soroka led the team in innings pitched while issuing the fewest walks (32) of any Rome pitcher with more than 100 innings that season. His ERA and WHIP were second-best in the rotation with his 125 strikeouts the third most on the team.
Soroka made five starts for Atlanta in 2018 before shoulder issues forced him to the sideline for the rest of the season. He had mixed results but produced two quality starts while displaying his potential. He finished 2-1 with a 3.51 ERA in 25.2 innings with 21 strikeouts.
Heading into 2019, Soroka should be a full go entering spring training. Chances are high he opens the season in Atlanta as the No. 4 or 5 starter, provided his shoulder remains healthy. MLB.com recently ranked Soroka as the No. 6 right-handed pitching prospect in all of baseball for 2019. All signs continue to point up for Soroka.
2016 stats: 22 appearances, 21 starts, 10-4, 2.51 ERA, 129.0 innings pitched, 1 CG, 135 strikeouts, 1.08 WHIP
Despite Soroka’s impressive numbers, Weigel was the true workhorse of Rome’s rotation in 2016. He led the rotation in ERA, strikeouts, and WHIP while finishing third in innings pitched. Weigel would have led the team in innings pitched, but he spent his last three starts of the season (20.2 innings pitched) with Double-A Mississippi. A tall, hard-throwing righty, Weigel built his value with a great 2016 season across the board.
Unfortunately, Weigel suffered some bad luck in 2017. He was promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett after just seven starts in Mississippi. Two particularly rough outings inflated his ERA, but his season was cut short due to Tommy John Surgery after eight appearances with Gwinnett. He returned to action in 2018 with four limited appearances.
The injury detour certainly pushed back Weigel’s expected MLB debut. Chances are he will be brought along somewhat slowly in 2019 to gauge his health moving forward. Along with his injury, it remains tricky to forecast where Weigel fits in with Atlanta’s pitching staff. He has 56 starts in 58 MiLB appearances and appears to have the repertoire to be a starter at the MLB level. But with all of the arms in the system, it remains a possibility the Braves will try and utilize him in the bullpen early on. Either way, look for a bounce-back season from Weigel in 2019.
2016 stats: 21 appearances, 20 starts, 8-7, 3.93 ERA, 103.0 innings pitched, 112 strikeouts, 1.30 WHIP
There were certainly times throughout 2016 that Fried looked like the best pitching prospect on the team. A talented southpaw with a deep arsenal and impressive curveball, Fried was limited to 21 appearances while making his way back from Tommy John Surgery. He performed exceptionally well in the postseason for Rome, going 14.2 innings with two earned runs and 24 strikeouts over two starts. Those performances conjured up comparisons to the heroics of former Braves stars Tom Glavine and Steve Avery.
Fried has spent time in the minors throughout 2017-18, but he has also appeared in MLB games with Atlanta. He posted a 3.81 ERA over nine appearances (four starts) in 2017. He dropped his ERA to 2.94 over 14 appearances (five starts) in 2018. Fried also boosted his strikeouts per nine innings to 11.8.
Fried is another pitcher whose role remains unsettled heading into 2019. He displayed his elite potential in a June 30 start against the St. Louis Cardinals, going 6.2 shutout innings with a career-high 11 strikeouts. Of the five starts he made, three went at least five innings without allowing more than one earned run. Unfortunately, some minor ailments have sidelined Fried at points, making it unclear if he’s a better fit for the bullpen or the rotation. Odds are good he will remain with the MLB club for the start of 2019, it’s just a matter of which role he will fill.
2016 stats: 27 appearances, 24 starts, 4-8, 3.88 ERA, 132.1 innings pitched, 128 strikeouts, 1.33 WHIP
Toussaint entered the 2016 season as a 19-year-old arm with a bit of an erratic history. It was his first full season with Atlanta’s organization after coming over via a 2015 trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He hit the ground running in Rome and finished the season second on the team in innings pitched and strikeouts. Unfortunately, control was a bit of an issue as he did surrender 71 walks. No other pitcher on the team had more than 57. Still, an electric fastball paired with a devastating curve helped Toussaint post a formidable season with the SAL Champions.
Toussaint spent the first part of 2017 at Advanced-A Florida where intriguing splits led to an ugly 5.04 ERA over 19 starts. A promotion to Double-A actually helped right the ship with a 3.18 ERA over seven starts to finish the year. Toussaint would make 24 starts between Double-A and Triple-A in 2018 before finishing the year with Atlanta in the postseason. He appeared in two games of the NLDS with two strikeouts and did not allow an earned run.
Toussaint made five starts for the MLB club in 2018 with a 4.03 ERA and 32 strikeouts over 29 innings pitched. Control was still an issue at times with 6.5 walks per nine innings, but the talent continues to shine through in bunches. He will enter 2019 with a shot to stick in Atlanta’s rotation, but slotting him into the bullpen could be an option if needed. Either way, Toussaint’s ceiling remains unbelievably high as he adjusts and gets used to life in MLB.
Between Soroka, Weigel, Fried, Toussaint, and lefty Kolby Allard who bounced between levels in 2016, Rome’s staff featured five young arms that could play a role for the big league club in 2019. While a few of these players will likely bounce back-and-forth between Gwinnett and Atlanta for a bit, there’s no denying the 2016 Rome Braves were one of the most talented teams around MiLB in recent memory.
Also be sure to check out the breakdown of Rome’s position players from 2016.
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