Mar 3, 2014; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves outfielder Jason Heyward (22) warms up before the spring training exhibition game against the New York Mets at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Braves vs. the NL East: Starting Pitching

Mar 12, 2014; Jupiter, FL, USA; Miami Marlins starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez (37) warms up in the bullpen before a game against the Atlanta Braves at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports





Hoping/Praying that Bowman’s tweet is speculation, but he does have insider knowledge.  I am not going to change any of the projections below, but having Beachy go to see him too…you can read the following and draw your own logical conclusions of the implications.  ummmm.


Oh, boy… where to start on this one. 

Well, let’s just say that this column is going to be considerably different from the one that was running around in my head just one week ago.  In just that time, the Braves’ staff has gone from one to be reckoned with to one that’s been wrecked seriously by injuries.

Well, let’s just start then with the chart.  Here are the players…


There are still a bunch of unknowns with pitching around the division – not just so with Atlanta – but despite this, there are some projections we can make.

  • The Nationals’ staff is the class of the division.  This should not be much in dispute.  Their front four can probably compete with anyone in the League – not just the division.  This off-season, they off-loaded an ineffective fish-out-of-water Dan Haren (now more comfortable back in Southern California) and stole Doug Fister from Detroit to replace him.  No team in baseball did more to upgrade their staff… though I’ll certainly listen to arguments from SF. Giants fans.
  • My fear over the past 2 months was that the Phillies would end up with A.J. Burnett once he pulled his Brett Favre move.  They did.  That answered one of the questions they had, which was “how do we replace Roy Halladay?”  Unfortunately for them, they still have two more large questions looming:  (1) is Cole Hamels all right? and (2) When will Miguel Gonzalez be ready to pitch?  So while I’m not happy they have Burnett, I guess I don’t care as much anymore.
  • Atlanta’s problem with health questions is liable to linger for months.  That’s a bad position to be in.  At this point, we have to assume that Medlen is done for the year.  In the best-case scenario, the rotation by July could consist of Minor/Santana/Floyd/Teheran/Beachy.  That’s a really stout lineup.  However, the odds that all five of those guys are pitching effectively – together – at any point in the season are looking longer.  The good news?  Alex Wood, David Hale, and Freddy Garcia can ably fill those gaps… though hopefully not for long, in some cases.  But many teams would kill for options such as these.
  • …such as the Mets.  Jon Niese had a scare recently, but he’s said to have no damage to his pitching arm.  But with Bartolo Colon now looking… old… in his Spring work thus far, and their other projected starters getting off to very slow starts (hardly any innings pitched), the Mets don’t need any bad news, either.
  • The Marlins represent the enimga.  Their young arms actually frighten scouts.  It may not matter if their offensive production doesn’t do something this year, but it could be that 1-2 runs scored per game might be enough for them on some days this year.  Certainly, they seem to be the healthiest so far, and that’s often all you need when you’ve got talent to go with it.


The Rankings

I’m declining to post a chart about whether I think a pitcher will do better or worse this year:  way too many changes have occurred to make that a meaningful exercise.  So let’s cut to the chase:  here’s how I call it in the NL East… a chart that could easily be wrong thanks to assumptions that had to be made about injuries.


The Braves’ fortunes hinge on just how long their best guys can be pitching – and pitching effectively.  Since they will be starting the year with perhaps only one of the frontline starters (Julio Teheran), then that hurts right off the bat.  The second week could see both Mike Minor and Ervin Santana added… if nothing further happens.  While the team is putting a happy face on about Brandon Beachy, Frank Wren’s comments on Wednesday showed some real concern.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he was pitching (in games) again until sometime in May.

Additionally, though many are suggesting that Gavin Floyd could even get a Spring start in before teams move back north (yes, except for the Marlins), I continue to be pessimistic.  We’ve seen that both Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy were held back in their TJ surgery recovery.  Floyd had that surgery – and even more – on May 7th of last year.  It would be extraordinary to see him pitching again by then… much less going 6-8 innings routinely.  We can hope for the best, but frankly, ‘the best’ rarely happens.

It’s for all of those reasons that I have to rank Atlanta in the 3rd position…. and that would be 4th if Cole Hamels could kick a baseball around right now.  The Mets are indeed in disarray, though their future actually looks to be very bright indeed.  Noah Syndergaard shut down the Braves this Spring and is looking like the real deal.  Matt Harvey should be back in action in 2015 and already was the real deal.  Add in Zack Wheeler and Jon Niese and that’s at least at stout a front four at what the Braves and Marlins are doing – and could be up there with the Nationals as well.


A Couple of Superlatives

  • Best Pitcher.  Right now you’d be hard pressed to choose between Stephen Strasburg and Jose Fernandez.  Both could compete for a Cy Young award… if Clayton Kershaw develops a blister or something.
  • Worst Pitcher.  Ignoring the 5th starters and the guys who probably wouldn’t be here under better circumstances (*cough* Garcia), then Bartolo Colon certainly has a chance to be that guy if his 2013 season turns out to have been a fluke.  Miguel Gonzalez certainly isn’t the guy that Philly was hoping to get, though he could still turn out just fine.  I’m leaning the other way for now:  2.2 bad innings so far this Spring.
  • Players to watch.  Syndergaard, once the Mets have to rush him up to the majors.  He could be the reason Blue Jay fans hate R.A. Rickey and their GM for the next decade.  Well, one reason anyway.  In addition to him:  every kid that the Marlins hand the ball to.


That’s the pitching… tell me what you think!


Tags: Atlanta Braves NL EAST Pitching Rotation

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