By Jim Pratt
The 2014 pitching staff will feature many familiar names as the Atlanta Braves continue to dip into their deep farm system after the eventual loss of Tim Hudson to retirement and Jair Jurrjens to trade or free agency. It’s difficult to say the pitching staff will be better after those losses because of the youth of the arms that will replace them, but there’s no question the talent level will be raised. The potential top three starters are all hard throwers with plus strikeout ability and will be expected to anchor the staff for years to come.
1) Tommy Hanson
Hanson will be making his third consecutive Opening Day start to begin the 2014 season. In his prime at age 27 and with previous shoulder troubles well in the past, he should be ready to make his first legitimate run at the Cy Young award.
2) Brandon Beachy
Before 2011 there was a question on whether or not Beachy had the “stuff” to be more than a number 3 starter. After he re-introduced his college slider back into his arsenal those questions slowly became moot. Beachy establishes himself as a solid number two behind Hanson and continues to maintain an above average SO/9 rate.
3) Julio Teheran
Even though his mound maturity is well beyond his age of 23, he will need one more year of refining his pitches at the major league level before challenging Hanson as the staff ace. His fastball and changeup are both plus pitches, but his curveball is still a work in progress.
4) Mike Minor
Minor remains the lone lefty in the rotation. In an effort to place a left-handed starter in the middle of the rotation, Minor could be bumped into the number three spot ahead of Teheran for the 2014 season. Minor is a solid mid-rotation starter
that will have an ERA around the 4.00 mark for most of his career. The command/control will improve, but he doesn’t have the overall stuff to continue racking up the 8.76 SO/9 he has showed in the majors to this point.
5) Randall Delgado
By 2014, Teheran has separated himself from Delgado as the better pitcher, but with Delgado listed as the fifth starter the Braves will once again boast one of Major League Baseball’s best starting rotations.
Rotation Depth includes: Sean Gilmartin, Zeke Spruill and JR Graham.
By now Craig Kimbrel is established as the top closer in MLB as he continues to post 40-plus saves a season. With the full time addition of hard throwing Arodys Vizcaino to the bullpen, the eighth inning workload on Jonny Venters is lifted. Sharing the set-up duties, the righty/lefty combo of Venters and Vizcaino turns any ballgame into a 7 inning affair.
The biggest loss to the bullpen will be the free agency departure of Eric O’Flaherty. With O’Flaherty gone, Atlanta turns to Kris Medlen as the primary bridge to the back-end trio of Kimbrel, Venters and Vizcaino.
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