The Atlanta Braves protected three players ahead of next month's Rule 5 draft. All three were relief pitchers, right-handers J.J. Hoover and Jaye Chapman, and left-handed Luis Avilan. Hoover is the best of the bunch, ranking second in Talking Chop's 2012 ranking of the Braves top relief prospects. He had a great year as a starting pitcher at Mississippi, and then moved up to Gwinnett and into the bullpen where he dominated -- striking out two batters per inning pitched. He is currently in the Arizona Fall League getting extra work as a reliever. That hitter-friendly league has not been so kind to him, but he is still expected to be a strong competitor in Spring Training for a spot in the Atlanta bullpen.
Jaye Chapman has been with the Braves organization for six seasons, slowly and steadily climbing his way up the ladder. He burst onto the prospect scene this season by dominating for much of the year in Gwinnett, holding opposing batters to a .206 average. He threw a couple of innings in the Dominican Winter League in mid-October, but has not pitched since.
Luis Avilan is the lesser known guy here. While only 22 years old, he too has been in the Braves system for six years, but has only recently began to climb the ladder, arriving this year in double-A. There he found success starting games once again, going over 100 innings in a season for the first time in his career. The Braves seem to want to continue to stretch him out, and are having him start games during the winter in his native Venezuela. Avilan is likely one of those arms in the Braves system who is just waiting to explode. Clearly the Braves think enough of him to believe that another club might select him in the Rule 5 draft if he is not protected.
Even with these additions the Braves still have four open spots on the 40-man roster, and hey shouldn't be leaving anyone of any real value unprotected.