As we count down the days to 2018’s opening day, we take a look at the greatest Braves to wear each jersey number that’s been worn.
The best Brave to wear #63 was one of two pitchers to wear #63 for the 2016 Atlanta Braves: Lucas Harrell.
A 4th round pick by the White Sox in 2004, Harrell reached the majors in 2010, where the Sox used him as a swingman, a role he found little success in. In mid-2011, the Astros picked him up on waivers. This was the Houston team designed to lose in order to build for their eventual 2017 World Series title, so Houston needed inexpensive non-prospects to eat innings. In 2012, the 27 year old Harrell paced the Astros with 193.2 innings, and managed to go 11-11 on a 55-107 team. Apparently not with the program in ’12, Harrell was more on board with the Astro way of the era in ’13, where he went 6-17 with a 5.86 ERA for a team that went 51-111. After a disastrous April in 2014, the Astros, on the cusp of a transition to contention, traded Harrell to Arizona for a player to be named later. At AAA Reno, Harrell’s struggles continued – in 106.2 innings, he had a 5.15 ERA, prompting the Diamondbacks to release him in August.
With his career at a crossroads, Harrell signed with the LG Twins of the Korea Baseball Organization. There, he didn’t have much more success (4.93 ERA), but earned himself a spring training invite from the Detroit Tigers. Harrell found some early success in the minor leagues, but without remarkable stuff, the Tigers released him in mid-May. Atlanta signed him 4 days later and assigned Harrell to AAA Gwinnett. At Gwinnett, Harrell posted a 2.81 ERA, and at the time, his 7.6 K/9 were the most he’d posted in a 30+ inning sample in his pro career. Atlanta called him up to help the rotation, at which point he surpassed all expectations.
In his first start, Harrell held Miami to one run in 6 solid innings of work. In his second, he went 7.2 innings, allowing a single run to the eventual World Champion Chicago Cubs. Over the next two starts, he came back to earth, giving up 9 runs in 9.2 innings to the Rockies and Reds. In start #5, however, he tossed 6 shutout innings against the Twins. At that point, a Texas team desperate for pitching help agreed to trade prospect Travis Demeritte to Atlanta for Harrell and Dario Alvarez.
Expected to never reach the majors again, in just 5 starts Harrell managed to not just have success but turn himself into an attractive trade asset for a team in a pennant race. Atlanta even wound up with a prospect of note in return. The whole thing worked out nicely.
With Texas, Harrell struggled (5.60 ERA), but the Rangers won the AL West regardless. Harrell wasn’t placed on the postseason roster. After ’16, he signed with the Blue Jays. In Toronto, he made 4 relief appearances and allowed a 7.11 ERA. However, his AAA numbers as starter remained strong, so the 32 year old likely isn’t done securing camp invites and minor league deals that result in midsummer spot starts.
*Morton wore 2 numbers in 2008, and his splits between the two aren’t entirely clear.
Who is the best player ever to wear #63?
I’m going with Justin Masterson. While Rafael Betancourt and Kevin Gregg each wore #63 for over a decade, Masterson’s 8 years as #63 were more productive. He threw over 1200 innings as a better than average pitcher and was named an All-Star in 2013. .