The Atlanta Braves are just two years into an organization-wide revamp. In that short span, Atlanta has stockpiled an impressive array of top level pitching talent unrivaled by any other farm system in baseball. Headlining the stash of arms is a formidable lefty-righty combo in Kolby Allard and Mike Soroka. While Allard garners more attention, Soroka deserves just as much.
Mike Soroka – RHP, Atlanta Braves
When most sports fans think of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, the first thing that comes to mind is likely hockey. The baseball field gives way to the ice rink the further north you travel. In Canada, going pro in anything other than hockey isn’t common. It raises a brow when we southerners (anyone not from Canada) hear of a Canadian ball player.
Soroka attended Bishop Carroll High School in Calgary. He was a member of the Canadian Junior National Team during his prep days as well. As Kristen Odland of the Calgary Herald reported while Soroka was working with fellow Canadian Chris Reitsma, his decision to go pro over attending college was fairly easy. A smart kid, he already had a plan.
“If I go in the first two rounds, it would be very hard to turn that down. Just the signing bonus . . . you should have enough money if you save it up and, after the minor leagues you don’t make it, you could go to college with that money.”
Sure enough, he got picked early. The 6’4″, 195 pound righty was scooped up by the Braves in the first round, at 28th overall. As Jim Callis reported via Twitter, he took home a signing bonus of $1,974,700. It proved plenty to steer him away from a full-ride to UC Berkeley. A smart kid, indeed.
1st-rder Mike Soroka, @Braves agree on $1,974,700 (full 28 slot). Canada HS RHP, athletic, FB to 94, chance for three solid P. @MLBDraft
— Jim Callis (@jimcallisMLB) June 21, 2015
MiLB Journey Begins
Working with Reitsma was beneficial for Soroka in ways beyond preparing for the draft. Reitsma, a former Brave himself, spent seven seasons in MLB as both a starter and a reliever. He was the setup man for Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz in 2004, and replaced him in the closer role in 2005. All of this experience exposed Reitsma to plenty of lessons and knowledge to pass on to Soroka.
It showed early on that Reitsma did well in his mentoring. The then-17-year-old Soroka put in 10 innings of work in the Gulf Coast League, giving up five hits and two earned runs for a 1.80 ERA. He walked one and struck out 11. After four appearances, he was bumped up to the Advanced Rookie level with the Danville Braves.
Mike Soroka appeared a bit more hittable during his stay in history-rich Danville, Virginia. Through 24 innings and six starts, Soroka gave up 28 hits and 10 earned runs for a still-encouraging 3.75 ERA. This performance was evidence enough that, even at the age of 17, he was a fierce competitor who was not afraid of opposing batters. Through both levels, he only walked five. The 2016 season took him to new heights, with increased ability and consistency.
Conquering the SAL
Mike Soroka opened the 2016 season with the Single-A Rome Braves. He spent his entire age-18 season there, as many Braves prospects stop in Rome for a full season. Soroka’s competition was nearly four years older, on average. This fact didn’t slow him down even a little. He made 25 appearances for the team, throwing 143 strong innings. He closed the season with a 3.02 ERA, while striking out 125 and walking 32.
Soroka’s ERA was eighth-best in the South Atlantic League. He held hitters to a .244 average and showed he didn’t just depend on his stuff to get batters out. He showed up to the park with a strategy and a goal.
In the postseason run for the SAL championship, Soroka got yet another chance to prove his worth. He made two starts for Rome in the playoffs. Only one earned run crossed the plate in his 14.2 innings on the mound. The team ultimately brought home the title. Soroka now wears a beautiful ring to remind him of his first full professional season of baseball. Follow Rome pitcher Kolby Allard shows his off on Twitter the night they received the gear.
We gotta really big team… @TheRomeBraves pic.twitter.com/N4gd5JWHAB
— Kolby Allard (@KolbyAllard) March 20, 2017
What Lies Ahead
News broke recently that Soroka will skip Advanced-A altogether. Soroka will begin the 2017 season with the Double-A Mississippi Braves in the city of Pearl, just outside the state’s capitol in Jackson. At just 19, Soroka is being challenged by the franchise in facing near-MLB talent everyday.
Looks like Double-A Mississippi rotation will feature Max Fried, Mike Soroka and Kolby Allard to open 2017. Official rosters soon. #Braves
— Grant McAuley (@grantmcauley) March 31, 2017
Many experts proclaim Soroka a sure-fire solid mid-rotation type, with the ability to grow into a top-end arm. He’s one of the younger pitching prospects in the farm. His ETA is set at 2019.
Mike Soroka is an exciting young talent who brings low-to-mid 90s heat with ease, and controls it nicely. He will also throw an above-average, sharp curve, and a changeup as well. He’ll be a workhorse for Atlanta, with the ability to limit walks and get outs in various ways. Soroka is currently ranked the 78th prospect in baseball, and the fifth-ranked prospect within the Braves system, which goes to show just how fun 2019 will be.