GIF Breakdown: Jared Shuster’s MLB Debut in 24 GIFs

Recapping Jared Shuster's first career MLB start

The 25th overall pick in the 2020 draft out of Wake Forest University, Jared Shuster won the battle for the fifth spot in Atlanta’s rotation thanks, in part, to a strong showing this spring. Initially, Mike Soroka, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2020, was tabbed for the final spot in the rotation but was held back by a hamstring strain. Ian Anderson and Bryce Elder failed to distinguish themselves, leading to a competition between Shuster and Dylan Dodd with the former winning the fifth spot — however, Kyle Wright’s delayed comeback from a sore right shoulder will also afford Dodd a spot in the rotation. And then, of course, Max Fried also landed on the IL with a hamstring strain. Atlanta’s rotation is wide open right now.

Injuries held Shuster back early in his pro career with his velocity down significantly relative to where it had been prior to the draft. He did, at least, finish the 2021 season with three starts in Double-A.

Last year, Shuster initially trended up. In his second start of the season, he recorded a career-high 12 Ks over five scoreless innings. Across 16 starts with Double-A Mississippi, the lefty recorded a 2.78 ERA and 0.96 WHIP with a K rate of 30%. However, he struggled after being promoted to Triple-A with his K rate dipping below 20% across nine starts alongside a 4.25 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. His walk rate also crept up to a career-high 8%.

Shuster’s fastball isn’t his strength. He did show a bump in velocity this spring, but even then it sat at around 92. As his scouting report on mlb.com reads, the heater doesn’t generate whiffs and tends to get hit when he misses his target. He has a decent slider but his best pitch is a changeup that features tumbling action and returns weak contact and whiffs.

With that, let’s look at the videotape.

First Inning

Shuster’s first pitch is a 92 mph fastball that hits Sean Murphy’s target but Lane Thomas is all over it and laces it to left for a clean single.


Shuster’s second pitch, a fastball at 91, misses down to Joey Meneses.


Here we get our first look at Shuster’s changeup. He missed the mark, but the change in speed is enough to fool Meneses for his first whiff.


Shuster goes for the change again and misses location again leaving it up. This time, Meneses stays back, times it, and slaps it to right for a clean single.


Our first look at the slider. Murphy sets up inside and Shuster misses a bit, the result an easy take for Jeimer Candelario.


Shuster misses on his next two pitches, a slider inside followed by a fastball down. Now he’s in a sticky spot in his first 3-0 count with runners on the corners and no outs. But he throws a well-located change for a whiff.


After walking Candelario on a change that missed high and away, Shuster received a brief consultation on the mound from the pitching coach Rick Kranitz. His first pitch to Dominic Smith is actually not a bad one. He hits Murphy’s glove on the outside corner with a 91 mph fastball, but Smith does a good job and lines it to left bringing in the first run.


Keibert Ruiz followed and Shuster missed the next three for balls: a slider up and in, a fastball up and away at 91, and a slider in tight. Here on a 3-0 count, he misses away with a fastball at 89 for a four-pitch walk that drives in a run. I think you can get a sense here that he doesn’t have a ton of confidence in his fastball.


I say that, and then, right on cue, Shuster delivers a well-located fastball on the outside corner to get ahead of the next batter, Alex Call.


Shuster misses up on the next pitch with a heater at 92, his fastest of the day.


Shuster missed on the next two, a changeup down and away, followed by a fastball up high. Down 3-1, he tries to go to the change here but it leaks too far outside for his third walk of the inning that brings in another run.


Shuster retired Ildemaro Vargas by jamming him with a slider, the result a shallow pop to left. Next, he retired Luis Garcia on one pitch that resulted in a sacrifice fly to deep center. Here he finally gets out of the rough inning with a well-located slider on the outside corner that gets an easy groundout off the bat of Victor Robles. Phew.


Second Inning



The rookie rebounded really well in the second. For the first out, he retired Thomas on a well-located changeup on the outside corner, the result an easy pop to Ozzie Albies. Here he jams Meneses on the second pitch of the at-bat with a fastball up and in.


Behind in the count 2-1 to Candelario, we get another look at a nice changeup from Shuster.


After a fastball up and away for a ball, Shuster drops in another nice change here. And he really should have gotten out of the inning. Unfortunately, the result was a flukey double that bounded just off the lip of Michaell Harris II’s glove in left-center. He had to race over because Marcell Ozuna cannot cover any ground. Regardless, Shuster got out of the inning by retiring the next batter, Smith, on an outside 2-2 slider, the result an easy ground out to short.


Third Inning



Shuster gets ahead of the leadoff man Ruiz 0-2. Here you can kind of see that he doesn’t have the best command of his fastball. Murphy sets up high and tight but this pitch ends up more middle in. A better hitter might have turned on this. But Ruiz pops it up for the first out.


Shuster falls behind the next batter, Call, 3-2. He tries to paint the corner on a change but loses him as Call takes it down low for Shuster’s fourth walk.


Vargas followed and here Shuster fires probably his best slider so far, well-located down and in. On the next pitch, a fastball up at 88, Vargas grounded out into an inning-ending double play.


Fourth Inning


After a leadoff single from Luis Garcia, Shuster uncorks a wild 1-0 heater to Victor Robles. It’s another example of inconsistent fastball command.


Here he misses location a little bit with his change. Instead of outside, it drifts back inside, but its still low and Robles can’t do anything with it. He pops it up for out number two. Garcia got thrown out earlier trying to steal.


Shuster fires a beautiful 1-2 change here fooling Meneses for his lone strikeout of the day to end the fourth.


Fifth Inning 



Shuster misses a little on the change as this ends probably a little more over the middle of the plate than he wanted. But Candelario is fooled enough on the speed and hits a shallow fly to right for the first out.


After a one-pitch groundout from Smith for the second out, Shuster starts off Ruiz with a slider for a called strike. That’s good. But notice he misses Murphy’s mark as the slider drifts out over the plate instead of hitting the inside corner.


After missing with two changeups, Shuster missed with a slider down and in. This was the final pitch of his debut. He tried again with the slider and missed for his fifth free pass.


Shuster’s Pitch Breakdown

During his recent top 100 prospects update on FanGraphs, Eric Longenhagen
touched on Shuster and Dodd’s velocity bump this spring. As mentioned earlier, Shuster was averaging 92. Dodd’s heater was firmer, averaging around 94 while topping at 96. But according to his evaluation, Shuster seemed to have trouble locating his fastball with the extra velocity. That wasn’t the case with Dodd, who seems to have significantly better command at the moment.

So the final line wasn’t great: 4.2 IP, five walks, six hits, one strikeout, and four earned runs. The first inning was rough as the first six batters reached base. But I thought he recovered and salvaged the outing to a degree by sitting down 12 of the last 17 batters he faced. As Atlanta skipper Brian Snitker noted afterward, the fact that he was able to traverse the early adversity and pitch into the fifth was a feat in and of itself.

However, stuff wise I think his strikeout upside seems limited. Case in point, just one against a light-hitting Nats team and a K rate that fell under 20% last year in Triple-A. The changeup was easily his best pitch and we saw some good ones that featured impressive depth down in the zone. However, his fastball looks like a clear weakness.

Again, it was only his first big league start so I don’t want to get too carried away, but he looked a little tentative with his heater at times and didn’t seem to command it well overall. I think that really caps his upside as it just means that he has a really small margin for error. He broke off a couple of good sliders down and in to righties, but overall I didn’t see it enough to really move the needle.

His window of opportunity might not be that long either. Wright is scheduled to make a rehab start this Wednesday and there’s at least a decent chance that Fried’s stay on the IL is minimal. Based on Longenhagen’s report, I also think there’s at least a decent chance that Dodd might be the better big-league arm right now. He debuts tomorrow. If that’s the case, Shuster might be on the outside looking in when Wright and Fried return.

For deep leagues, he’s a hold just by virtue of having a spot in the Atlanta rotation as a potential source for wins. Again, he could very well hold on to the fifth spot in the rotation as Snitker showed a lot of faith in him so I don’t want to discount that. Although, I’d probably bench him as he gets a tough draw against the Padres for his next start. In standard-sized leagues, I think he’s more of a wait-and-see type of option.

Ryan Amore

A proprietor of the Ketel Marte Fan Club, Ryan Amore has been writing things at Pitcher List since 2019. He grew up watching the Yankees and fondly remembers Charlie Hayes catching the final out of the '96 WS. He appreciates walks but only of the base on ball variety.

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