Ranking the 5 best options for the Atlanta Braves final rotation spot

The Atlanta Braves' starting rotation is stacked, but it needs to be rounded out with a fifth starter.

Bryce Elder, Atlanta Braves
Bryce Elder, Atlanta Braves / Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/GettyImages
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The Atlanta Braves actually have a good problem on their hands. The six-time reigning NL East champions have one of the best rosters in MLB. Their lineup can go toe-to-toe with anyone's. This team is fast on the base paths and plays great defense. They can outslug anyone offensively. If the bullpen holds up, this team will be hard to beat, especially with a starting rotation getting stronger.

Right now, you could argue that Atlanta actually has the best starting pitching in baseball. Its starting rotation will feature the likes of Max Fried, Charlie Morton, Chris Sale and Spencer Strider. Fried should be fully healthy heading into his contract year. Sale coming over from the Boston Red Sox is a huge boon for the rotation. Morton is ageless and Strider is already one of the game's best pitchers.

However, we have to figure out the No. 5 spot in the rotation at some point. Last year, Bryce Elder answered the call and had a terrific first half with the Braves. He was an All-Star who pitched to soft contact, but saw his numbers regress to the mean in the dog days of summer. This may have something to do with not being fully ready for 30 games' worth of starts. He will have challengers.

Including Elder, here are the five best options the Braves have to round out their starting rotation.

5. Ian Anderson is finally healthy, maybe he can find the magic again?

I have to be totally honest. You could put any number of guys on the 40-man roster in this spot. The reason I picked Ian Anderson over the likes of Dylan Dodd, Allan Winans and Huascar Ynoa is I think his ceiling is still the highest. Anderson was a prized draft pick out of high school by the Braves years ago. He was a huge part in getting to the NLCS back n 2020 and winning the World Series in 2021.

Anderson had a very bad 2022 season and missed all of last year due to injury. Admittedly, there is a ton of variance to him as a big-league pitcher. When he has command of both his fastball and change-up, he can be borderline unhittable. He does not throw with a ton of velocity, so he has to live down in the zone. When he cannot locate either pitch, it is 400-foot bomb after 400-foot bomb...

If Anderson is the No. 5 starter for the Braves out of spring training, one of two things happened. He either blew everyone out of the water with his refined stuff or the other guys ahead of him on the depth chart had a spring training from hell. I still think Anderson will be back in the big leagues this season. The question of if it will be with the Braves remains to be seen. He could be traded away, too.

Nothing would make me happier to see good, ole Aqualung unleash his fiery Locomotive Breath.