By: Noah Wright
One of the Braves top prospects entering 2019 was RHP, Mike Soroka. He got a short glance at the MLB last season, but didn’t do anything too special in his short 25 and a third inning sample size. 3.51 ERA, 2.85 FIP, 1.442 WHIP, decent control, ok strikeout stuff. Regardless, he was still a front runner for a starting job for the Braves behind Mike Foltynewicz, and Julio Teheran, and one of the team’s top pitching prospects. Needless to say, Soroka decided to take advantage of the opportunity, and is pitching like an ace.
Let's first look at Chris Paddack’s numbers from this year so far. The electrifying young righty is considered one of the best rookie pitches in baseball, and for a good reason. Through 51 and a third innings, the Padres’ rookie has a 1.93 ERA, 2.77 FIP, and .760 WHIP. He has walked just 1.9 batters per 9, has struck them out at an elite 9.8 per 9 rate, and opponents are hitting for a measly .473 OPS vs Paddack. Paddack’s numbers are nothing short of elite, but he is very comparable to Soroka, who’s getting a fraction of the fanfare.
Soroka has pitched in 50 and two thirds innings so far this season, and is already in elite company. So far this season, Soraka has an unbelievable 1.07 ERA, to go with a 2.86 FIP, and .888 WHIP. He has given up just 1 long ball so far as well. Keeping free passes to a minimum hasn’t been a problem for Soroka either, as he has a 2.7 BB/9 rate. Soroka has also seen a jump in K/9 as well, going from 7.4 past year to 8.2 this season. Just like Paddack, Soroka is making batters look silly. They have only been able to hit Soroka for a .471 opponent OPS. But that’s not where his elite status ends. The most runs the Braves’ right hander has given up in a game this year is 1. Yes, 1. His quote on quote “worst” game so far this season was on May 9th against the D-Backs. In that start, Soroka still went 6 innings, struck out 4 batters, gave up 3 walks, and allowed just 4 hits. The one loss in his 5-1 record came on April 18th when he fired 5, 1 run innings vs the D-Backs, but still struck out 6, gave up only 4 hits, and walked just 2 batters. According to Atlanta News Now, he is the third pitcher in MLB history to give up 1 or no runs in his first 8 starts of a season. He has given up 1 or fewer runs in 11 of his 13 starts, making him the first pitcher since 1913 to do so. 1913 was also when earned runs started to be recorded. Soraka's 1.07 ERA through his first 8 starts of 2018 give him the third best ERA to start the season in 8 starts. He is behind Fernando Valenzuela and Vida Blue in that regard.
One of the best rookie seasons by a pitcher in MLB history is considered to be 2013 Jose Fernandez. That year, the late Fernandez pitched to a 2.19 ERA, 2.73 FIP, and .979 WHIP. He gave up just 10 home runs in 172 and two thirds innings, led the entire league in H/9 at just 5.8, and walked 58 batters. In comparison to his first 8 games, Fernandez had a 3.48 ERA, 3.50 FIP, and opponent .618 OPS. Even in comparison to Paddack, Soroka looks out of this world amazing. Soraka has a 2.1 bWAR while Paddack has a 1.4 bWAR.
Mike Soroka is breaking records, and standing out with elite company. Not too many players can say they they’re doing something similar to what the 1981 Cy Young and Rookie Of The Year, Fernando Valenzuela has done, or 6 time all-star Vida Blue has done. However, Soroka can. He might have a sub-1.50 ERA, elite control, and a 8 game streak of 1 earned run or less, but even through all of it, Soroka is still being overshadowed by some of the larger named rookies in baseball right now.