The hottest commodity in Major League Baseball is starting pitching. The Braves are in a rare spot in that they have more depth at pitching then any other team (the only team remotely close being the Rangers). Most teams have 3 quality starters, a decent 4th starter, and then someone they hope can eat some innings and be average in the 5th spot. The Braves have at least 9 players that could be quality, top 3 starters on most teams. It’s unheard of how much depth there is. So let’s take a look at it in waves.
The first wave is somewhat obvious…the established MLB starters. Tim Hudson is the veteran of the staff now that Lowe is finally out of Atlanta. Tommy Hanson is quite possibly the opening day starter and one of the top pitchers in baseball. He’s worked this off-season to alter his delivery a little to take some strain off his shoulder and eliminate the pause that allows runners to steal on him with ease. I can’t wait to see how effective he’ll be with the new delivery. Jair Jurrjens is the 3rd starter and is ready to prove that he’s fully recovered from the injuries that plagued him the second half of the season last year. Finally, Brandon Beachy will be the fourth starter, and established himself last year as a quality MLB caliber pitching, breaking a Braves record for most strikeouts in a season by a rookie. You can also include Kris Medlen into this wave because he’s clearly an everyday MLB pitcher, but after Tommy John surgery last year, he’ll be coming out of the bullpen as a long reliever and giving a rest to the big 3. But he’s more than capable of filling a starting spot if needed.
The next wave of talent we saw a lot of last year. It’s led by Mike Minor and Randall Delgado, who will be battling for the 5th spot in the rotation. They will both be on the opening day roster and start the season with Atlanta however, because of Tim Hudson’s recovery which will put him out for the first month or so. Also in this wave of talent is Julio Teheran, who is arguably a better pitcher then both Minor and Delgado. Arodys Vicaino rounds out this wave and will once again be in the bullpen in Atlanta to start the season, despite being projected as a starter. You can see him as sort of a Joba Chamberlin type that starts in the bullpen and then moves into the starting rotation. He just has too good of stuff to not be in Atlanta and that’s why they moved him to the pen.
The third wave of talent will spend their time in the minors this year but are set to have dominate seasons. Sean Gilmartin, last year’s first round draft pick leads this group. He’s joined by Zeke Spruill and JJ Hoover as the “Big 3” of future talent that the Braves have pretty much established as untouchable in trades. Don’t be surprised to hear big things out off all three of these guys in the VERY near future, especially Gilmartin who could prove to be a valuable power lefty in the rotation if he continues his track of success.
So there you have 12 different pitchers that are extremely talented and have huge upsides. I mean, Kris Medlen and Arodys Viscaino could be starting on probably 2/3 of the clubs in the majors right now and the Braves have had to put them in the bullpen to be able to try to make room for the surplus of pitching talent. Because of this depth, don’t be too surprised to see Huddy gone after this season and probably Jurrjens traded because of him being a Scott Boras client and he’s about to hit free agency. But talk about a nice problem to have…it’s quite remarkable.