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When April 2012 rolls around, the Braves will have the following list of pitchers to choose from to fill out the remaining four spots behind Tim Hudson:
Brandon Beachy (25), Randall Delgado (22), Jair Jurrjens (26), Kris Medlen (26), Mike Minor (24), Julio Teheran (21), Aroyds Vizcaino (21) and some guy named Tommy Hanson (25).
Everyone of the guys listed above are MLB ready. Some are already shining as top end of the rotation like Hanson and Jurrjens, while others will have their opportunity to earn their keep in 2012. The abundance of wealth at the starting pitching position is mind boggling.
Jurrjens and Hanson will return to the Braves healthy in 2012, but I do not expect them to keep Jurrjens through the entire 2012 season. It is even possible that he might get moved this winter.
With the back log of talent, and the fact Jurrjens is entering his last year before he hits the free market (with Scott Boras as his agent), the Braves stand to cash in on Jurrjens if they ship him to an AL contender for some bullpen/offensive help.
This will open the door for another young gun to step in and take his spot.
The 90s version of the Braves revolved around young dominant pitching and good defense. This group of starters has the physical tools to become an elite group of pitchers that can lock the Braves as NL favorites year in and year out.
Medlen is often forgotten in this mix, but in his limited time before his injury, the team was 13-1 in his 14 starts before he blew out his elbow. He posted an ERA of about three and showed great mound presence. I expect him to make the opening day cut as one of the starters.
Minor is the left-handed presence that can invoke images of a young Tom Glavine before he rose to become a future Hall of Famer.
In his second season, Glavine was 7-17 with a 4.56 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and a 3.9 K/9. Minor, in his second season, finished 5-3 with a 4.14 ERA, 1.48 WHIP and 8.4 K/9. There is a reason the Braves highly regard this guy.
Delgado has shown that he has the fundamentals to become a future stud pitcher. A solid three-pitch repertoire and good control bodes well for the young talent. What he lacks is a good strikeout pitch. He struggles to make right-handed hitters whiff. He seems to be reviving the Braves' pitching philosophy of the 90s, as he lives on the outside corner to almost every hitter.
Teheran is widely regarded as one of, if not the absolute best, pitching prospects in baseball. While his reps were limited in 2011, expect him to be the favorite over his young competitors as they enter spring training. This kid is as highly regarded as Tommy Hanson was when entering into his rookie season.
Beachy was the champion of bad breaks in 2011. He couldn't get the runs needed to get the decisions.
He started 25 games in 2011, but ended up with a record of only 7-3. His 10.7 K/9 puts him tops amongst all starters in baseball with at least 100 innings pitched. A strikeout machine that kept his ERA above three in only his second year, Beachy is deserving of a spot in the 2012 rotation.
Vizcaino has a long way to go. He has amazingly talented starters all around him, but he too has electric stuff that can put him in most teams' starting rotations. While he might grade out lower than Teheran, he is still able to evolve into a great middle to front line starter, based on the raw physical talent.
The 2012 spring training pitching competition will be an amazing display of riches. Depending on young pitching seems like a dangerous proposition, but if any team can churn out talented young pitching, it would be the Atlanta Braves.