Atlanta Braves: Previewing The Starting Rotation
Atlanta Braves' Projected Starting Rotation
The Atlanta Braves have always been a team known for throwing good starting pitching to the mound on a day-to-day basis. From Greg Maddux to John Smoltz to Tim Hudson, there have been many great pitchers play for the team. While there were players that pitched at a Hall-of-Fame level, there aren’t many guys who have been outright bad.
While fans wait on the fate of Dan Uggla, we must assume that he will be around next season. With that news, it’s not a bad statement to say that the team may struggle if he and B.J. Upton do not hit better than they did in the 2014 season. Why is that important? It’s important because if those guys can’t play better, the pitching is going to have to be that much better to make up for it.
Last season, the Braves’ pitching was stellar. The staff was first in total ERA (3.18), second in quality starts (102) and WHIP (1.20), and sixth in total batting average against (.244). The bulk of these stats come from the starting rotation, which was quite impressive last season. However, they will have to go without their veteran presence in Hudson this season.
What good was Hudson? First and foremost, he was a guy that paid his dues in the league and been a force at times. He was a player that young pitchers could go to and ask for advice, and he was also the guy that kept the staff loose with his constant jokes. The loss of Hudson will be felt at some point this season.
That being said, the team kept a starting rotation that can be a dominant at times. Mike Minor showed he has good stuff last season, Kris Medlen has shown that he can be practically unhittable and we haven’t even seen the best of Julio Teheran.
Note: The team did sign Gavin Floyd during this offseason, but he will not be available until May. Therefore, he will not be in this list.
5. Alex Wood
Alex Wood spent plenty of time in the majors last season in relief before he finally got a chance to start for the club. He had a total ERA of 3.13 and struck out 77 players, but had a 3.54 ERA and 54 strikeouts over 11 starts. He went 3-2 and had a K/9 of 8.7 while starting games. He has a funky motion that hitters have nightmares about, and his stuff is above average for guys at the bottom of the rotation. He is a more-than-reliable no. 5 starter in any rotation.
4. Brandon Beachy
Brandon Beachy, if healthy, is the guy in the rotation that I think will surprise people as the season goes on. Looking at his 2013 stats, it’s easy to say, “What are you thinking!?” In his time back after surgery, he had a total 4.50 ERA and struggled with velocity. The first game of his season was July 29, and he only made it through 3.2-thirds innings and gave up seven earned runs before being pulled from the game. If you take away that game from his season, he had an ERA of 2.73, which included an eight-inning, three-hit, scoreless performance against the Miami Marlins. He will make an impact and could possibly move his way up the rotation if others in front of him struggle.
3. Julio Teheran
In his first full season in Atlanta,, Teheran had a record of 14-8 and an ERA of 3.20. He struck out 170 men in 185.2 innings while walking only 45 men. He finished fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting, tied for first in fielding percentage by a pitcher and was ninth in the league with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.78. He had a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates where he gave up only one hit over eight innings and struck out 11 players. Later in the season, he held the NL Champion St. Louis Cardinals to two hits over seven innings while striking out six guys. Needless to say, Teheran has the potential to give the Braves a chance to win every time he takes the mound.
2. Kris Medlen
Kris Medlen is one of my favorite pitchers in the big leagues not because he overpowers hitters, but due to the fact that the way he reminds me of Greg Maddux. He uses the movement on his two-seam fastball and changeup to confuse hitters and get a lot of ground balls. After his start on May 29, 2013, Medlen had a 1-6 record and there were rumors of him being sent down to triple-A to work on his mechanics. At the end of the year, he was 15-12. His ERA had been up to 3.85 about a month before the end of the season, but he brought it back down to 3.11. He struck out 157 hitters while walking only 47. Medlen is always around the plate and never wants to walk anyone. He goes right at hitters and throws a ton of first-pitch strikes. It really wouldn’t be a surprise for him to end up as the team’s ace at the end of the season.
1. Mike Minor
The no. 1 guy for the Braves going into the 2014 season has to be lefty Mike Minor. With a record of 13-9, people might not necessarily see an ace, but Minor has the stuff to win 15-20 games if he is given the run support. Five of those nine losses came by two runs or less. Being the no. 1 guy last season, he brought his ERA down to 3.20 and still struck out 181 guys. He also walked one less man than Medlen at 46. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was 3.93, which was good enough to make him eighth in the league. He also led the staff last season with 204.2 innings. He is a guy that can hold down a rotation and win a lot of games for the Braves.