June 3, 2009 was a day that I will always remember thinking, "I just love Atlanta Braves baseball!"
After all the trade rumors, there is a particular bright spot that sticks out to me much more than the acquisition of the All-Star outfielder.
Tommy Hanson is coming to the big leagues, America.
Hanson is of course the Braves prospect that had an incredible offseason after pitching extremely well in both winter league and in spring training.
According to scouts, this season Hanson was the number one pitching prospect in all of baseball. This is a complement because of the fact that David Price was the only other pitcher ranked higher than him. We all know how good David Price is for the Tampa Bay Rays already.
At Gwinnett so far in 2009, Hanson has posted a 3-3 record with a 1.49 ERA. He also struck out 90 batters in only 66.1 IP.
One word says it all: Awesome!
It has been speculated that Tommy Hanson was kept in AAA to avoid starting his arbitration clock this season. While this was a wise move more than likely, all season long I've been just like a little kid saying, "I want it now!!!".
Well, he's here now.
How's this for a rotation:
1. Derek Lowe (6-3; 3.40 ERA; 45 K)
2. Jair Jurrjens (5-2; 2.59 ERA; 40 K)
3. Javier Vazquez (4-4; 3.58 ERA; 86 K)
4. Kenshin Kawakami (3-6; 4.63 ERA; 46 K)
5. Tommy Hanson (3-3; 1.49 ERA; 90 K) - stats at AAA Gwinnett
The only dark spot in that rotation is Kawakami, and his stat lines don't represent how he has improved over the season so far. In his last six starts he has posted a 2-3 record, but has held hitters to a 3.19 ERA. I'd say he's just slowly adjusting to American baseball which is understandable.
Imagine 2010 when we can substitute Kawakami for a semi-decent pitcher by the name of Tim Hudson. That's a rotation full of pitchers that could reasonably be a team ace on other rosters.
Boy am I glad Frank Wren kept Hanson around instead of trading him in a package for a rental.
Now, I can't write this article without saying at least something about Nate McLouth.
What can I say? It's certainly nice to have a potential All-Star in center field again. We've missed that presence since Andruw Jones left in free agency.
My question is: Where do we hit him in the lineup?
While he has speed, he is only hitting .256 so far which isn't far off of his career mark of .261. His OBP this season isn't all that attractive at .349, at least with leading off in mind.
The Pirates have batted him third at times, and I wonder if he would be a good candidate to slide into the second spot and hit Escobar in the lead-off spot. That would put some reasonable speed (even though Yunel doesn't get much chance to display it) at the top of the lineup.
I think the Braves could reasonably let him bat cleanup behind Chipper Jones. My problem with this is that hitting behind Chipper could put a limit to his aggresiveness on the basepath. However at the same time, there will be many a time that McLouth will lead off the second inning if the Braves can't muster a hit in the first.
As desperate as the Braves are for a leadoff hitter, I would venture to say Bobby Cox will stick him in that role to see how it works. I think he would fit in well batting anywhere from one to five, but Bobby is much wiser than I am so I'll trust his judgment.
Another thing I like about this acquisition is that we didn't give up on Francoeur just yet. Not only did we not give up on him, we brought in a guy that can take away some of the pressure that was on Frenchy to win ball games with his bat.
Hopefully if Francoeur can hit behind the big guys up front, he'll start seeing more fastballs. You know what Francoeur can do to a fastball.