We say again: Soroka is the most important commodity under a Braves contract. For good reason, this organization had reason to believe it had drafted and developed a true No. 1 starter, which not every club – even some good ones – has. When healthy, Soroka is good enough to make you call back the years and recall the young John Smoltz, the young Steve Avery and … well, among Braves of past decades, that’s about it. (Tom Glavine is a Hall of Fame pitcher, but he was heavier on guile than stuff.)
At 21, Soroka already had it all – big fastball, wicked sinker, ideal temperament. Said Snitker in 2019: “It’s like he doesn’t have a heartbeat.”
Chipper Jones, Hall of Famer, likened Soroka to Greg Maddux and Roy Halladay, both Hall of Famers, and said of that sinker: “He throws bowling balls. He’s legit.”
Said Snitker: “As long as we can keep him upright and can get him on that white thing out there, we’ll be OK.”
That white thing is the pitching rubber. Soroka worked only two preseason innings, those coming on the final day of spring training. He began the season on the injured list. He recently was moved to the 60-day IL, which never is a good sign. Now he’s about to have surgery so doctors can see what’s up. Said Snitker: “(He) had some discomfort in his Achilles, just when he was walking around.”
Yes, this is a shame. It’s also why every team holds its breath regarding every promising pitcher. It’s entirely possible that, 20 years from now, we’ll look back on 2020 and 2021 as blips in the career that carried Mike Soroka to Cooperstown. Right now, there’s no way of knowing when he’ll start another game.