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Prospect Bryce Elder set to start Friday’s spring training opener

Thursday, March 17, 2022

-Clint Manry

It’s finally here! MLB officially started today as the sport’s first handful of spring training games cranked up, with the Twins taking on the Red Sox (currently ongoing as I write this), as well as three other games later this afternoon/evening:


*all times CT

Twins vs. Red Sox (12:05 PM) BOS leads 6-1 / top 6th

White Sox vs. Cubs (3:05 PM) – split squad

White Sox vs. Cubs (3:05 PM) – split squad

Diamondbacks vs. Rockies (3:10 PM)

Most of the league will open its spring training schedule on Friday, with the Braves taking on the Twins at CoolToday Park in North Port, FL. And according to MLB.com, Atlanta will go with prospect righty Bryce Elder (no. 7 on my latest 2022 top 35) for the spring opener, with first pitch set for 12:05 PM (CT).

Elder, who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2020 MLB Draft, is a young arm that’s trending nicely in the Braves minor league system. After sitting out during his draft year, due to the cancellation of the minors, the 22-year-old righty pitched at three different levels last season, starting out at High-A Rome before finishing the year at Triple-A Gwinnett:

A+ Rome – 9 starts, 2.60 ERA, 11 K/9, 4 BB/9, 0.4 HR/9

AA Mississippi – 9 starts, 3.21 ERA, 9.6 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9

AAA Gwinnett – 7 starts, 2.21 ERA, 9.8 K/9, 4.9 BB/9, 0.2 HR/9

TOTAL – 25 starts, 2.75 ERA, 10.1 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9

As you can see, Elder more than held his own as a pro in 2021, dominating both the High-A and Double-A levels, before pitching admirably with the Stripers. Sure, he struggled a bit with walks while with Gwinnett, but his K rate didn’t budge at all and his run-prevention was even better that it was while in the lower levels of the minors.

This is what I had to say about Elder when I wrote him up in my 2022 Offseason Braves Top 35 prospect list back in December:

“Elder pulled a Trey Harris from 2019 and totally dominated at three minor league levels in 2021, posting a 2.60 ERA in High-A Rome, a 3.21 ERA in Double-A Mississippi and a 2.21 ERA in Triple-A Gwinnett. Overall, the righty logged a stingy 2.75 ERA in 25 starts this past season, while averaging 10.1 strikeouts per nine and just 3.7 walks per nine. Those are the numbers of a stud prospect pitcher, especially considering it was his first year pitching in the minors. Given he only made seven starts for the Stripers in 2021, I expect Elder to spend much of his time in 2022 with Gwinnett. However, at his current rate of development, it’s not far fetched to expect him to crack the majors at some point next summer. Injuries happen all the time in the big leagues, and in my opinion, Elder is a just a few injuries away from getting his chance to show what he can do in Atlanta, which is crazy to say for a kid who’s tallied just 137 2/3 innings as a professional.”

That bit above about him possibly cracking the majors this coming season is even more a reality considering the Braves just traded away one of its other top 10 prospect pitchers, in righty Joey Estes (no. 10 on my list in Dec.), as part of the blockbuster that netted first baseman Matt Olson from Oakland. Regardless, though, Elder is developing beautifully, and tomorrow will be a great chance to see how he handles big league batters, even if it’s likely the Twins deploys its B team.

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