Kenshin Kawakami (pictured) joins a Braves team that will feature a new-look rotation in 2009. For a team that missed out on the likes of Jake Peavy and A.J. Burnett, their rotation is very solid this upcoming season.
Currently, I picture a rotation like this:
1. Derek Lowe (RHP)
2. Jair Jurrjens (RHP)
3. Javier Vazquez (RHP)
4. Kenshin Kawakami (RHP)
5. Tom Glavine (LHP)
While the order of the rotation is not certain, this is how I see it unfolding. It is possible that Glavine could be bumped up to the fourth spot (simply based on his legacy), but I think this order makes the most sense.
Lowe was not the Braves' first choice this offseason (see Jake Peavy). He honestly wasn't even their second choice (see A.J. Burnett). But even with that in mind, the Braves will be happy to have him on the roster.
Lowe put up a 3.24 ERA with a 14-11 record. He struck out 147 and held batters to a 1.13 WHIP.
He's not an ace, but he doesn't necessarily have to be either.
In 2009 I project a 3.30 ERA with a 15-8 record. I don't see him as an All-Star, but I wouldn't count him out either. I look forward to seeing what he can do in a Braves uniform.
Jurrjens has for the most part already won over the fans. He was a Rookie of the Year candidate in 2008 and will look to build on that in 2009.
His numbers for 2008 are as follows: 3.68 ERA with a 13-10 record. He compiled 139 Ks and 70 BBs hold batters to a 1.37 WHIP.
Maturity will start to come into play in 2009 as Jurrjens looks to improve his control and not give up too many free passes to first base.
I project him putting up a 3.50 ERA with a 15-9 record in 2009.
Vazquez was considered a questionable move this offseason for Frank Wren. His services came at the cost of top catching prospect Tyler Flowers who did nothing but knock the cover off the ball in the Arizona Fall League.
Vazquez is an innings eater who has had 198+ innings every season since 2000. 2008 was a down year for him, putting up a high ERA of 4.67 and only a 12-16 record. The good news, though, is that he recorded 200 Ks.
The big question is: How will he pitch back in the National League? He pitched well for the Expos years ago, but he has been in the American League since 2004 with the exception of a year in Arizona in 2005.
I look forward to an above average season from Vazquez with a projected ERA of 4.25 and a record of 14-11. Key stats will be his 200+ Ks, 200+ IP, and about 32 starts. Javier will be the bullpen's best friend in 2009.
Kawakami is a 33-year-old rookie from Japan, and the Braves' first big attempt to bring Japanese talent to Atlanta. He's been projected to start in either the fourth or fifth spot in the rotation.
For the other four guys in the rotation, you pretty much know what to expect at this point. The only exception to that might be Jurrjens, who could do much better or much worst.
Kawakami is not Matsuzaka, but he doesn't have to be.
Last year with the Chunichi Dragons, he put up a 2.30 ERA and a 9-5 record in an injury-shortened season. He has an arsenal of a 90 mph fastball, a slow curve, and an excellent cutter.
I think his curve ball and his other breaking pitches will be highly susceptible to power hitters. Spring training will be a learning experience as he learns to deal with this scouting report that currently has Ryan Howard licking his chops in the NL East.
I project a 2009 season of 4.25 ERA with a record of 13-12. I don't expect many one-run games from Kawakami. I think it's going to be one of those years where it is either a great game or a terrible game for the 33-year-old rookie.
Glavine is not a rookie. He has 305 career wins and a career 3.54 ERA.
Glavine will not resemble those stats one bit though in 2009. Still, Tommy Glavine brings veteran leadership to a team that is lacking with the departure of John Smoltz.
I think following his retirement, you are likely to see him as a pitching coach for the Braves who will release the dreadful Roger McDowell.
I project a decent season with a 4.20 ERA and a 12-10 record.
That record is assuming he plays a full season. Tommy Hanson is knocking on the door and Tim Hudson could return very late in the season. I see Glavine getting about 15 to 20 starts in 2009.
Jorge Campillo, Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson, James Parr, Jo-Jo Reyes, and Charlie Morton could all see a couple of starts throughout the season this year.
I feel like Campillo will be looked at for spot-starts and long relief situations in 2009.
Reyes and Morton are likely trade bait for a midseason move.
Hanson will see time in 2009, especially come August. I view him as the Braves' "new toy" for October, similar to the way Price was for the Rays.
Parr will probably stay in AAA most of the season while starting a game or two for the big club in 2009.
Hudson could come back for the playoffs, but will see few or no starts in the regular season. Look for him to have a huge 2010 though, whether or not he is in a Braves uniform.
While the Braves' rotation certainly isn't the Smoltz-Maddux-Glavine rotation of the 1990s, it is a deep one. Injuries shouldn't be as high of a concern in 2009 as they have been in the past. Look forward to a great season from your Atlanta Braves starting rotation.