Pitching Rich or Digging For Gold?

The Atlanta Braves are an organization that prides themselves in their great pitching. How does the saying go? Pitching wins championships right? Well… Not always. The rotations that consisted of John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine only produced one World Series championship. Granted the the teams of that era were always very competitive as they would win 14 straight division titles, while making several trips to the fall classic itself.

Pitching to this day is still the staple of the Braves organization. Frank Wren prides himself on his young arms that consist of Minor, Beachy, Teheran and Delgado. All of those guys have great potential. The key word that I’m  going to stress here is “potential”. I’m in no way bashing any of the young arms we have in our system. There’s a chance that we could have a future ace in there. However there’s very slim chance that we are going to hit a home run on all 4 of these guys, it’s just not likely to happen.

So in a more realistic sense we’re looking at MAYBE 2 of the 4 being in the rotation for the long term. The issue that a lot of these guys have is that they are strikeout pitchers which I know fans and scouts both love. However it puts a huge burden on your pitch count and that’s why these guys have struggled to get past the 5th inning, thus straining our beloved bullpen.

The rotation that appears to be set for many years to come does have a few wrinkles in it. I’m not in any way trying to push a panic button but it’s just something that as a blogger I have to point out. Now in a few years I could be proven completely wrong but I’m not as sold on the Braves rotation as I once was. Here’s why.

To win a division title it’s going to take a 5 man rotation to get the job done. Granted there are various degrees of pitching levels, as a #1 starter should be a lot more talented then your #5 starter. However it will take a complete rotation to get it done as you will need consistency from 1-5. Lets dig a little bit deeper into the Braves rotation.

Tim Hudson: Right now he’s the ace. I won’t listen to anyone who tells me otherwise. If there’s a must win game tomorrow, I’m giving Hudson the ball and until someone else steps up he’s are guy. However he’s currently 36 years old and will turn 37 before the All-Star break of next season. How much longer can we really rely on him? Look at Derek Lowe. When you get past 35 your potential to just “lose it” happens, it’s a natural occurrence in the game of baseball. Age will catch up with you eventually. How many more years of Tim Hudson do we have left is the question. 1 or 2 more after this year?

Tommy Hanson: Hanson has a lot of talent yet he still struggles to dominate. He has a horrible time controlling base runners and every team in the National League is well aware of this. He’s coming off a serious shoulder issue, that’s not a guaranteed safe return for Mr. Hanson. Another thing is that his throwing motion is begging for further injuries down the road. If he can’t stay healthy then the Braves might have to let him go sometime in the next 2 or 3 years. It’s a proven fact that teams will not wait around forever and if Hanson can’t get it together then he will be gone.

Jair Jurrjens: After you complete this post you might think twice about trading JJ because I certainly have. Jurrjens has the ability to be dominant but again like Hanson he’s battling injuries. Health is what counts in sports, I don’t care how good you are if you can’t stay healthy. To be honest I think Jurrjens has shown more dominance in his time with the club then Hanson has. If I’m taking one or the other on the spot it’s Jurrjens without question. But Frank Wren has him on the trade block and he’s bound to get plenty of activity as he’s only 25 years old. There’s a very good chance that he could be gone in the next few weeks.

Derek Lowe: Lowe was absolutely terrible last year and I’m glad that he was traded. However he did occupy a full time rotation spot last year and his spot is now currently empty. It needs to be filled by someone immediately. Not to mention he was looked at as the non official #2 guy at the start of the season and some might have argued him to be the ace as he did pitch opening day. This takes away from our “depth” as someone will need to fill that void.

Right now as we look at the above mentioned 4 pitchers you have to be thinking the same thing that I am. NONE of them are a guaranteed part of the Braves future rotation. Not in the long term I should say. In a couple of seasons Hudson will be retired. Lowe is already gone. Jurrjens might be traded in the next couple of weeks if not days and Hanson has shoulder issues to contend with.

Minor, Beachy, Teheran and Delgado:

A ton of talent in these 4 guys. However they are not the first pitching prospects in the world to have talent and not all of them amounted to as much as teams hoped they would. Again all of these guys could end up being absolute studs, that possibility exits. However it’s not likely. Lets be realistic and say over the next 2 years, maybe 3 that we get 2 quality pitchers out of this group. They may be the only ones left out of this once deep crop of great pitching.

If Hanson doesn’t come back healthy and Jurrjens is traded you are looking at putting Beachy or Minor in the #2 spot in the rotation. That’s the same issue we had in Sept when things fell apart. I like Beachy and Minor to be worked in at 3-4 at the highest. Middle of the rotation guys right now, not ace material. It’s to no fault of their own because they lack experience but why throw them to the wolves?

Frank Wren needs to look into a guy like CJ Wilson. Trade Prado to the Tigers for Delmon Young as it has already been discussed. That gives us our power bat in left field. Use the remaining money to bring in Wilson. He’s 31 years old and wants a 5-6 year contract. That does several things for Atlanta.

Win Now: We are developing young talent in this organization which is great but we want to win now. We’re more then capable of being 90+ win team right now. The fan base doesn’t want to see us finish in 2nd place for the next 2 or 3 years. It just wont be acceptable. By saying we can develop players and not win now puts us on the same level of the Kansas City Royals. You groom players that may or may not pan out and then before you know it you can be “rebuilding” for 10 years. This is not a rebuilding team lets do the best we can to win now while developing the young guys, it’s a perfect balance.

Ease The Young Guys In: If you have Hudson and CJ Wilson in the rotation then you are looking at putting Beachy in the 3 spot or possibly the 4 spot. Minor would be 4 or 5. That’s perfect. They can get an entire season worth of work in without putting so much pressure on them to be “the guy”.

By: Bob McVinua

 

 

 

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