The Braves have selected the contract of right-handed pitching prospect Bryce Elder in advance of tonight’s game, per a club announcement. Elder will start for the Braves and make his Major League debut. In a corresponding 40-man roster move, catcher Chadwick Tromp was designated for assignment. Atlanta also optioned lefty Tucker Davidson and catcher William Contreras to Triple-A Gwinnett.
Elder, 22, somewhat incredibly becomes the second Braves draftee from the shortened, five-round 2020 amateur draft to reach the Majors. He and teammate Spencer Strider have both had meteoric rises through the minors and now represent two of the just five players from the 2020 draft already in the Majors. Elder (fifth round) and Strider (fourth) are the only non-first-rounders from that draft already in the Majors.
Looking at last year’s numbers, it’s perhaps not a shock that Elder was such a quick riser. He opened the 2021 season with 45 innings of 2.60 ERA ball against older competition in Class-A Advanced before tossing 56 frames of 3.21 ERA ball upon promotion to the Double-A level. Elder was then bumped to Triple-A Gwinnett, where he logged a 2.21 ERA in 36 2/3 frames despite being one of the youngest pitchers in the league.
Elder kept his strikeout rate above 27% the entire time and also posted ground-ball rates of at least 53.6% at each level, although command was more of a concern. Elder walked 57 of the 559 batters he faced (10.2%) and was particularly spotty in that regard against more advanced hitters at the Triple-A level (13.6%).
Baseball America ranks Elder sixth among Braves farmhands, noting that while the system has more powerful arms, Elder is the prototypical “pitchability” starter who’s a good bet to hold a spot in a rotation due to a five-pitch mix headlined by a sinker, plus slider and above-average changeup. Improving on his command will be key to further development for Elder, but he’ll have the opportunity to do so at the MLB level given the lack of proven starters for the Braves at the moment. Max Fried, Charlie Morton and Ian Anderson are all secure in their rotation spots, but Kyle Wright, Huascar Ynoa and Tucker Davidson have not yet solidified themself as long-term options. Mike Soroka, meanwhile, is on the shelf until this summer as he rehabs an Achilles injury.
As for the 27-year-old Tromp, he’ll lose his roster spot after four productive games in Gwinnett, where he’s gone 5-for-14 with a home run and a double. Tromp spent the bulk of the past two seasons in the Giants organization, batting .215/.220/.418 in a tiny sample of 82 Major League plate appearances. Atlanta claimed him off waivers from San Francisco last September. Tromp didn’t have a productive 2021 season in Triple-A, where he’s a career .254/.314/.412 hitter in parts of five seasons.
The Braves will have a week to trade Tromp, place him on outright waivers or release him. Teams are always on the lookout for catching depth, so there’s always a chance that a 27-year-old catcher with a pair of minor league options remaining will find a new home on the waiver wire.