As most of you know, on Friday I had the opportunity to sit down with Buster Olney, one of ESPN's senior baseball writers. We talked at length about the Braves, and Buster was kind enough to let me pick his brain on a wide range of Braves questions. The first part of our interview - regarding offense - can be found here.
In the second half of our interview, we talked about the Braves' pitching, as well as revisiting preseason predictions.
Talking Chop: Two years ago, Julio Teheran was one of the hottest pitching prospects in all of baseball. After a lackluster season at AAA last year, much of that shine has worn off. In fact, a scout was recently quoted as saying Teheran looked like “Juan Cruz 2.0”. What are your thoughts on how Teheran has looked this season, and what do you think he'll become at this point?
Buster Olney: I can't give you a good answer on that in terms of projecting him because I've heard of all the things you're referring to from scouts where they thought that his star had fallen, but then he's had a couple of starts this year where he was unbelievable. He had a game in which he game up some runs early but he battled, he hung in there, and I talked to a scout after that who told me that two years ago you might have seen him fold up early after struggling but he really battled.
And we always forget with these guys how young they are and that it's possible to make adjustments. What they are now is not what they're gonna be for the rest of their lives as players and I think in his case, for me, I just need more information. We've seen both sides of it and I do think he'll have to step up and defend his turf, because everybody knows that Beachy is coming back. Beachy is a beast and we all know how good he was before he went on the disabled list. And the guy on paper who, as of now, would seem to be the most vulnerable would be Teheran. So I'm fascinated to see how he reacts to that dynamic.
Talking Chop: Mike Minor, Kris Medlen, and Paul Maholm have all pitched very well since the All Star break last year. With no clear cut #1, who do you see as Atlanta's best starting pitcher going forward?
Buster Olney: I think it really comes down to who's the hottest at a given time. I've written a number of times that Maholm reminds me so much of Jamie Moyer in that he's a smart guy who, as he gets older, seems to learn how to use hitters' anxiety against them. He's learning about changing speeds so much, too. I've known Mike Minor for a while, we went to the same college, and I've watched him a lot through the years. He told me about a game he pitched against Washington last May where Danny Espinosa hit a home run off him and it just made him mad. He felt like he hadn't learned how to pitch to his strengths as well and since then he really has. And we saw how good Medlen can be. Now, based on that, based on what we saw the second half of last year, Medlen is probably the best because among the three, I think he has the highest ceiling.
But I think they're all really good; I think that Minor has figured something out and I think Maholm will be around for a long time because he just has a feel for how to attack hitters. That's why Beachy's so intriguing when he comes back because he's got much more of the power stuff. But I don't think they get enough credit. I think the pitching staff is extremely underrated because they don't light up radar guns.
Talking Chop: Atlanta's two veteran starters – Paul Maholm and Tim Hudson – will both be free agents after this year. Do you envision the Braves bringing either of them back, or will Atlanta be content to let them walk?
Buster Olney: I haven't spoken to either one of them directly about what their plans are. I think Maholm, if he has a good year and continues to pitch this well, is going to price himself out of their range. I think the Cubs could be a team that jump back in and try to grab him because they saw firsthand how he was getting better at the end of last year. And I think the Yankees pay close attention to this stuff as well, and they always love left-handers for their ballpark. And he's kind of Jimmy Key-esque with the way he changes speeds. So I think the better he does, the worse the chance of him being retained. If he's an OK pitcher they have a chance to keep him, but he's getting better and better.
With Huddy, a lot of it - to me - comes down to what does he want to do? And again, I haven't spoken to him, but he strikes me as someone who isn't going to go for the last nickel in negotiations and if he can work out something where he can stay with the Braves because he's comfortable with the Braves then my gut would be that he would try to work something out.
A big thanks again to Buster for sitting down with us to answer our questions. Make sure you tune in to ESPN tonight to catch him and the rest of the ESPN baseball crew cover Atlanta's final game in Detroit.