One of the joys of these projection series for the preseason is looking forward on your favorite players. Over all of baseball, I have about 5 “favorite” players, 2 of which are Braves, Andrelton Simmons and Brandon Beachy (for anyone curious the others are (in no order) Glen Perkins, Jason Kubel, and Albert Pujols). I get the joy of writing up season previews for my two favorite Braves, and this one is certainly the more cloudy of the two.
Where did he come from?
Brandon Beachy was not drafted out of Indiana Wesleyan University and signed with the Braves in 2008. The Braves started him in the bullpen, not quite sure how his arm would handle the demands of starting after attending a cold-weather school with lower-level competition. He responded well right out of the gate, jumping all the way to AA ball by the end of 2009 while only starting a handful of games. In 2010, he started roughly 1/3 of his minor league games between AA and AAA, but finished the season with three dynamite starts for the Braves, averaging a strikeout per inning. 2011 brought a longer audition, making 25 starts and striking out 10.74 batters per 9 innings, but Beachy only averaged 5 2/3 innings per start, and the Braves worked with Beachy on attacking hitters in the zone to keep his pitch counts down and allow him to go deeper into games. In 2012, he started out on fire, pitching to contact and allowing his stellar defense behind him to keep him safe. He put up a 2.00 ERA and went a full 6 1/3 innings per game even though attacking hitters lowered his K numbers to 7.56 k/9. Then we saw Beachy go down with a rough injury.
What happened with the injury?
Beachy had Tommy John surgery in June 2012. At the time of his surgery, he was leading the majors in ERA and on track for a great season. Different sources have thrown around different blame at the Braves – that they pushed him too hard after being a relative unknown at his signing, that they screwed with his arm by changing how he approached hitters, or simply that they knew they had damaged goods all along and were milking every dime out before Beachy’s elbow exploded. None of these really have any substantiated talk from either the club or Beachy, but when Beachy didn’t end up pitching right away at the 12-month mark, people started raising questions. What happened to Brandon Beachy in 2013 was basically what happened to most elbows in early Tommy John repair – he got sore when pushing too fast and there was scar tissue in the joint that needed to be cleaned up. Anyone following Tommy John recovery has noted that while a player may return in 12-14 months after surgery, if he gets back to his pre-surgery form, it’s in the year after he comes back from the surgery (see Adam Wainwright in 2013). Frank Wren recently stated that Beachy will be ready for 2014 opening day, which is great news for Braves fans
What can Beachy give the Braves in 2014?
Other than his dashing good looks bringing in female fans on days he pitches, Beachy will also be a key cog in the Braves rotation in 2014. While he may not be back to his 2012 form in 2014, especially early in the season, he should give the Braves a quality season as he works his way back to health. Beachy still should be monitored as he has never thrown more than 146 2/3 professional innings in a season, so he likely won’t be going over 200 this year, but he could give the team 25-30 starts. Steamer’s projection system has Beachy going for 29 starts, 163 innings, 142 strikeouts, 58 walks, and a 4.01 ERA. I think those rate stats are about right, but I see Beachy likely giving the Braves more like 20-25 starts, with a high-3 or low-4 ERA and around 7.5 k/9. That would be an excellent cog in the rotation throughout the season, and as guys like Gavin Floyd come back or David Hale and J.R. Graham make pushes for looks at the major league level, Beachy will have a chance to get some needed rest on his arm. 2015 will definitely be fun, though!