Recently, Braves general manager Frank Wren publicly stated that he would be fine not adding any major leaguers to the active roster for 2012 with the exception of a veteran middle infielder for a utility job.
This means that the Atlanta Braves could be in a position to bring up some players from the minors to either compete for jobs out of spring training or end up being called up midseason.
This article takes a look at three prospects who are likely to make their major league debut in 2012. Obviously, shortstop Tyler Pastornicky is on the list, as he is currently the favorite to be the starting shortstop, but who else could the Braves look to for help this year?
As it stands today, the Braves' opening day shortstop will be Tyler Pastornicky, a player acquired from the Blue Jays from the Yunel Escobar trade in 2010. Pastornicky has only played in 27 games above Double-A at the end of last year, although if it wasn't for an ankle injury, he would have played more in Triple-A.
Pastornicky is a guy with mixed reviews from scouts and fans. Some see him as a capable starter, others see him as more of a second-division starter and then others see him as more of a utility player.
The reason that the opinion differs so much is because there are plenty of questions on how well his bat projects in the big leagues—especially considering his below-average power.
Pastornicky had a breakout year with the bat last year, hitting .314/.359/.414 with seven homers over 117 games in Double and Triple-A. That was a significant increase over his 2010 where he hit ..257/.343/.373 with eight homers in 115 games between High and Double-A. The other positive sign is his total strikeouts dropped from 71 in 2010 to 45 last year.
While his ultimate potential is an unknown at this point, one thing is for sure: Pastornicky is a near-lock as of right now to be on the opening day roster. He will need to earn the starting job out of spring training by hitting enough to match his solid defense, but he is the safest bet to make his major league debut.
Reliever Jaye Chapman is a guy with little left to prove in the minors after a strong 2011 season. Chapman started out the year dominating Double-A hitters before an early-May promotion to Triple-A. Chapman continued his success at the highest level in the minors and now finds himself knocking on the door for a major league job.
Chapman put together a career-best season last year. He made nine appearances in Double-A, going 1-0 with two saves to go with a 0.64 ERA and 0.71 WHIP in 14 innings. In Triple-A, he made 43 appearances, throwing 54.1 innings and going 2-3 with two saves along with a 2.98 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.
Between the two levels, Chapman posted some impressive per-nine innings ratios, such as 5.9 hits allowed, 10.1 strikeouts and 0.8 homers allowed.
While Chapman doesn't have the potential to be a setup man, the right-hander could be a solid middle reliever capable of occasionally giving his team multiple innings. The fact that he was added to the 40-man roster only increases his chances of getting called up this year.
If he was in any other organization, he'd probably still be in the starting rotation. However, due to the Braves' pitching depth, JJ Hoover was converted into the bullpen during the 2011 season in order to help him reach the big leagues quicker.
Of course, that wasn't the only reason, as the move also keeps him from being blocked by other pitchers already ahead of him.
The 24-year-old has been very successful in the minors, with a 25-19 record and 3.14 ERA in 61 starts and 38 relief appearances. Obviously, the bulk of his relief appearances came just this past season, between Double and Triple-A, where he excelled at each level while posting a combined 2.64 ERA.
Overall, it was a successful enough season to get him a spot on the 40-man roster.
While Hoover could be a mid-to-back end of the rotation starter, he could also be a late-inning reliever. The fact that his strikeout rate jumped up after the move shows that his stuff has played up in the shorter stints. While I won't compare him to Jonny Venters, just like Venters he may have more of an impact in the bullpen.