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Atlanta Braves

Pleskoff Scouting Report | Mike Soroka

14 JUL 2015: 2015 Braves first round pick Mike Soroka in action during the Gulf Coast League game between the GCL Braves and the GCL Blue Jays at the Bobby Mattick Training Center in Dunedin, Florida. (Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)
(Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)
  • TEAM: Atlanta Braves
  • AGE: 19 (He will turn 20 on August 4)
  • POSITION: Pitcher
  • BATS: Right
  • THROWS: Right
  • HEIGHT: 6-foot-5
  • WEIGHT: 225 lbs.
  • ACQUIRED: The Atlanta Braves chose Soroka in the first round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft. He was drafted out of Bishop Carrol High School in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

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STRENGTHS

The huge-framed Soroka has four better-than-average pitches in his repertoire. He throws a four-seam fastball at 94-96 miles per hour, a two-seam sinking fastball at 95 miles per hour, a changeup at 85 miles per hour and a curveball at 89 miles per hour.

I was able to scout Soroka in the recently completed Sirius/XM Futures Game. In that contest he used each of those pitches with confidence. He faced five batters and struck out one. He yielded a hit and a run. He also hit a batter. The run he yielded was unearned due to a throwing error by White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada.

The hit Soroka gave up was a loud double down the left-field line to Houston Astros prospect Kyle Tucker.

Soroka may have yielded that hit and a run, but he was impressive on the mound for the World Team. He was composed and mixed his pitches very well.

Soroka seems to favor a sinker/changeup mix as a solid combination to set up hitters. He throws his four-seam fastball less often, but it is an effective and efficient pitch. His curveball is an important pitch in his repertoire, and it helped him establish his presence early in his career. In the Futures Game he did not rely on that pitch as much as the sinker/changeup combination.

Left-handers were hitting Soroka hard very early in his debut season. He made adjustments that included switching sides of the pitching rubber to help solve the problem. He is credited with being a very intelligent pitcher. He has the ability to evaluate hitters quickly in an at-bat and adjust to them accordingly. I almost saw his mind working while he was pitching in the Futures Game as he studied the approach of each hitter at the plate.

Because he uses a sinker/changeup combination, he induces a great number of ground balls.

Soroka knows the value of throwing strikes, but he is smart enough to use the edges of the plate, keeping the ball out of the middle to avoid danger.

Soroka grew up playing hockey in Canada, as did his dad. He’s a very tough young man who can handle virtually any situation that he is handed. He will grit and grind his way through men on base and extract himself from most messes he creates. In short, Soroka will not be easily rattled or intimidated.

WEAKNESSES

There may come a time when quality hitters, especially those that are left-handed, have more success than younger players he is facing now. If he gets too much of the plate and his sinking fastball doesn’t sink, he can be vulnerable. However, he has such a deep repertoire that he will adjust. And he knows how to tweak things just enough to right the ship quickly.

I mention the above because his home runs spiked to seven already this season at Double-A Mississippi. Last year, for example, pitching the entire season at Class-A Rome, he yielded only three home runs in 143 innings pitched. He has more than doubled that number in only 98.2  innings. So, clearly, his location will have to be monitored going forward.

14 JUL 2015:      2015 Braves first round pick Mike Soroka in action during the Gulf Coast League game between the GCL Braves and the GCL Blue Jays at the Bobby Mattick Training Center in Dunedin, Florida.

(Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

NARRATIVE

Few teams value high school pitching as much as the Braves. They have been consistent in the quest to develop high school pitchers in their own system and on their own timetable.
It just so happens that Soroka has probably developed quicker than even the Braves may have imagined.

The Braves took Soroka and lefty Kolby Allard in the same 2015 draft. Allard went ahead of Soroka at No. 15. Both are flourishing in the Braves’ system. Ian Anderson, another high school pitcher, was taken in the first round of the 2016 draft.
That trio, among other standout Braves pitchers, provides plenty of pitching options for the Braves going forward.

Former major-league pitcher Chris Reitsma was Soroka’s pitching coach for the Canadian National Team. Reitsma has been working with Soroka since Soroka was 14-years-old. He is still a mentor and a friend.

Reitsma has indicated that Soroka is very much like him physically. However, he feels Soroka may be a better prospect than Reitsma was at Soroka’s age. He indicates Soroka’s maturity and his ability will mesh to form an outstanding pitcher. He feels Soroka uses his size well to accompany good pitching mechanics and a fine, loose arm.

Soroka could have attended the University of California-Berkeley on a scholarship, but he chose instead to pitch in the Braves organization.

Or, perhaps Soroka would have become a goalie for a professional hockey team, another one of his aspirations when still in his early teens. He realized, however, that he’d rather play baseball.

THE FUTURE FOR SOROKA

Soroka is still a bit under the radar regarding prospect pitchers. He doesn’t get the publicity or have the notoriety of Michael Kopech, Brent Honeywell, Reynaldo Lopez or Yadier Alvarez. He is, however, a very fine young developing pitcher with a huge upside.

In both drafts and in trades, the Braves have loaded their farm system with quality pitching. In fact, it is safe to say that the Braves may have more quality minor-league pitching than any other organization. That means teams are likely calling on them to extract some of that pitching depth in trade.

Atlanta will be able to use such pitchers as Allard, Sean Newcomb, Max Fried, Touki Touissaint and Soroka  on their major-league pitching staff, or they can choose to include one or more in a trade for an unmet need or needs. Soroka has certainly gained the attention of the scouting community, and he would top a list of desirable pitchers to obtain in trade. But he probably tops the Braves’ list of desirable pitchers to retain in their own organization.

Soroka is still very young, and he lacks experience pitching against quality hitters. The logical path may include an appearance in the coming Arizona Fall League. If that happens, he will be young but will have had the Double-A experience at Mississippi that can help him navigate a solid Fall League lineup.

Perhaps Soroka returns to Double-A or is promoted to Triple-A next season. That would mean he would make the Braves’ big league club in 2019, which I think is realistic.

Having pitched in the Futures Game already, Soroka has shown an ability to pitch with poise and confidence on one of baseball’s biggest stages, with large crowds looking on.

CONCLUSIONS

Former hockey player Mike Soroka is a very young, but solid pitching prospect in the Braves’ lengthy stable of quality pitching prospects.

Using an excellent sinking fastball and effective changeup as the mainstays of his repertoire, Soroka also has a curveball to flash at hitters. With a very sound and mature mound demeanor, he induces ground ball outs due to the late sinking movement on his pitches.

A bulldog on the mound, Soroka is bright and savvy. He knows how to pitch. He realizes he must make adjustments as hitters make adjustments to his pitches.

In his early days, left-handed hitters caused him trouble. He has since moved his position on the mound and changed his approach to help get lefties out.

Without having the overwhelming stuff of an “ace”, Soroka is a much better than average pitcher with the upside of a mid-rotation starter.

The Atlanta Braves have high quality pitching waiting in the wings for an opportunity to pitch at the major-league level.

Providing a huge physical presence on the mound, Soroka, a draft choice out of high school in only his third professional season, has to be patient and continue his development. He may exceed expectations and appear in a big league uniform sooner than expected, but chances are he is best suited to meet a 2019 major-league debut.

SCOUTING PHRASE FOR SOROKA: A tough starting pitcher with a solid repertoire and a matching mound demeanor.

SCOUTING GRADE FOR SOROKA: 55 – An above-average starting pitcher candidate.

Follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff

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