With a new group of draft picks added to the Braves system I wanted to review the current 40 man roster and the group of prospects who could see time in Atlanta real soon. Let’s start with pitching. The biggest question remains the re-signing of Jair Jurrjens at season’s end. J.J. has been lights out this year and his 7-2 record and 1.75 ERA have him as a front runner for the NL Cy Young. Enjoy those numbers now because we’re going to pay dearly for them later, but, in my opinion, there is no way Frank Wren lets Jurrjens out of Atlanta, so let’s pencil him into the future rotation.
The end of the 2012 season will serve as another turning point for the Braves rotation. Derek Lowe’s contract is up and Wren will have to decide on a club option in 2013 for Tim Hudson. With both Lowe and Hudson’s age a concern and the depth in the system at starting pitching, I doubt either are brought back following 2012.
At some time in the near future Tommy Hanson will face arbitration but the money left over from Lowe and Hudson’s departures should keep Hanson in a Braves uniform until his late 20’s. Joining Jurrjens and Hanson in the post-2012 rotation will likely be a combination of Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor, and Julio Teheran. That’s six quality starters going into 2013 all under the age of 27 and don’t sleep on Randall Delgado and Arodys Vizcaino. So where are we going to put them all? Seems like we need to make a trade or three.
Now it would be unrealistic to expect all 8 of the names above to make significant impacts with injuries and the uncertainty of players actualizing their potential, but there still some depth behind them. Add in recent draft picks and you have about 5 or 6 other guys that could realistically one day pitch in the majors. Those are the guys I want to see the Braves trade this year, the second tier pitching prospects. The J.J. Hoover’s and the Brent Oberholtzer’s of the world. Guys with potential, but at the end of the day, guys that we just won’t have room for in the organization. Granted they won’t fetch much in return but if you package a few nice prospects together we could probably find a trade partner to bring in some much needed power into the lineup.
Now let’s look at the offense. As I mentioned in Part 1 of my draft recap, Frank Wren seems determined to someday replace Alex Gonzalez, whose contract is up at year’s end, with home grown talent. I still wouldn’t be surprised to see a shortstop in the system packaged in a trade though. The recent signing of journeyman Julio Lugo and the combination of drafting several SS makes me think Frank Wren has something up his sleeve. Hopefully that “something” is a power hitting left fielder. Easier said than done, I know, but with so much pitching depth there is little risk to making a small move.
It’s starting to get redundant but let’s face it, Dan Struggla is KILLING US! At what point do you just face the facts and decide he can’t be counted on everyday? My suggestion is to move Prado back to 2B and try to find an upgrade in left field. Here’s my list of potential left fielders that might be on the move before the trade deadline:
David DeJesus LF Oakland Athletics - Billy Beane will be looking to make a few moves before the deadline as the A’s are sinking fast as a franchise. DeJesus isn’t having a great year which might make for a reasonable asking price and he is currently making $6 M this year and will be a free agent in 2012. Beane would probably like to ride out this contract and lose DeJesus in FA to receive the compensatory draft pick but the Braves could offer more.
Alex Gordon LF Kansas City Royals - Never going to happen but this would be a great fit. (None of these speculations will probably happen but welcome to the blog-o-sphere) The only hope here is that Alex Gordon’s hot start will scare the Royals into fearing a huge arbitration raise for Gordon. There is no secret that the Royals have the top farm system in baseball but there will be a time in the future where the Royals brass will have to part ways with one of their future stars for financial reasons. If the asking price starts with the names Teheran and Delgado, end of conversation.
Jason Kubel LF Minnesota Twins- I never said these names would be sexy. Kubel is a free agent after this season so the risk would be limited and the Twins are going to be sellers at the deadline as they are already 11 games back in baseball’s weakest division. Kubel would offer some pop with his bat, he’s averaged 23 HR a season for the last 3 years, but would be a defensive liability in left. Currently on the DL with a foot injury, which might scare teams away, but the Twins have a promising trio of young OF in Delmon Young, Denard Span, and recent call-up Ben Revere and will be looking to re-build. This could actually be a nice fit since I don’t see the Braves end of the deal being anything more than a Hoover/Pastornicky combination, and even that might be too much.
Alfonaso Soriano LF Chicago Cubs- Okay, just seeing if you’re paying attention. There’s 19 million reasons this will never happen.
Angel Pagan CF/LF New York Mets- The fire sale is coming. If the Mets can’t make a dead cat bounce up in the NL East standings they could be looking to dump salary before years end. Mets officials are already saying that next year’s payroll could be significantly lower and Pagan’s contract is up at the end of the year. Able to play both left and center, Pagan wouldn’t offer much power but some added speed could be nice.
I’m taking a break from the 3 Up, 3 Down segment to focus my campaign efforts for the Braves All-Star hopefuls. The first Brave I wanted to stake a claim for is “Everyday Jonny.”
Jonny Venters - 4-0 2 SV 38.2 IP 0.47 ERA
If Venters doesn’t make the If Venters doesn’t make the team there is a problem. Nobody, in all of baseball, has been better out of the bullpen this year. He has anchored a great Braves pen and has taken a lot of pressure of Fredi Gonzalez late in games. The only obstacle in Venters way is that traditionally not many set-up men are included on the All Star rosters. Last year, Hong-Chi Kuo, Arthur Rhodes, and Evan Meek made the NL squad despite not being closers on their teams. Venters numbers this year are better than all 3 set-up men from last year’s team so there is good reason to believe “Everyday Jonny” will be in the desert for the Mid-Summer Classic.