What Will and What Should The Rotation Look Like?

Jonathan Daniel

Major rotational shakeups are afoot. How will it all pan out?

As noted in previous articles, Alex Wood is at least a temporary member of the rotation. Brandon Beachy will arrive in Atlanta relatively soon, and by all indications he will definitely be in the rotation as well. Further, comments from Kris Medlen seemed to indicate some (at least slightly reluctant) resignation that he will eventually be moved to the bullpen.

First, let's stake stock of what The Braves' rotation looks like at the moment:

  1. Mike Minor
  2. Julio Teheran
  3. Tim Hudson
  4. Kris Medlen
  5. Alex Wood

Wood's spot in the rotation is, for the moment at least, due to the injury to Paul Maholm. Maholm will likely miss three starts, and at the present Wood is only guaranteed the first start of those three. The Braves are yet to tip their hand one way or the other on what they will do to cover the other two starts during Maholm's DL stint. The most likely options are that Wood continues in that spot in the rotation or Brandon Beachy takes it once he returns to the team.

Next, there is additional speculation that Kris Medlen may join the bullpen soon, which seems to be at least somewhat corroborated by comments Medlen himself made recently to the effect of him not really wanting to move to the bullpen, but being willing to do so. It would seem unlikely that Medlen would even say that if he didn't believe it was at least a realistic possibility. A Medlen-less rotation (post return of Maholm) might look like:

  1. Mike Minor
  2. Julio Teheran
  3. Tim Hudson
  4. Brandon Beachy
  5. Paul Maholm

But the speculation doesn't end there. The Braves are very openly, and nearly desperately, searching for a quality lefty reliever to take some of the load off Luis Avilan, who has been very good in his role as the primary left-handed reliever in the wake of the loss of Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters. I've long maintained that trading any of their primary MLB ready starters would be a mistake, as just a couple of injuries would have the Braves hoping that Sean Gilmartin, J.R. Graham, Cody Martin or Aaron Northcraft are close to MLB ready, all somewhat frightening propositions for varying reasons. Instead, moving Paul Maholm to the bullpen once he returns from the DL could solve multiple problems simultaneously.

Maholm would provide the lefty bullpen arm the Braves are already seeking, while also being ready to jump back into the rotation when the (near inevitable) starter injury occurs. Most left-handed relievers are failed starters, and Maholm is almost certainly better than that. Maholm has allowed a sterling .203/.254/.271 triple-slash against lefties and 28 K's versus just 8 BB this season (oddly, we can't seem to find his ERA against left-handed batters anywhere *cough* AT&T commercial *cough*). Further, you expect a slight uptick in stuff when a starter moves to the bullpen, given that they can now feel free to go max effort on their pitches and focus on their best pitches instead of trying to conserve energy and mix pitches for 7 innings. One needs only to look at former Brave Bruce Chen this season to see what a left-handed failed starter can do after being moved to the bullpen.

A rotation in this scenario would look like:

  1. Mike Minor
  2. Julio Teheran
  3. Tim Hudson
  4. Brandon Beachy
  5. Alex Wood

I think this rotation best leverages the resources the Braves currently have. Sure, a potential trade could completely shake up all these musings, but given what the team has now, I feel that this is the Braves' best bet. It puts the team's best arms in the rotation, while allowing Wood to grow in the fifth spot of the rotation, where the Braves have options to turn to, Medlen or Maholm, to take his spot in the rotation if he's just not ready. As Ben noted, Wood has a chance to be one of the Braves' best starters, and I think the team would be remiss to not at least take a chance on that.

The biggest key to the quality of this rotation though will likely be in the form of Brandon Beachy. What exactly will the Braves get from him? I think it's a bit unrealistic to expect the same ace-like stuff we saw from him prior to his injury, but what exactly that means, I don't think anybody actually knows.

All we can say right now is that Frank Wren has a whole slew of different directions he can go with the rotation at this point, which isn't really a bad position to be in.

Update:

David O'Brien Tweets :

#Braves Fredi G said they're not considering moving Maholm to the bullpen.

While this may not be 100% conclusive, I do think it is very significant, as I believe this is the kind of move that Wren would give Fredi Gonzalez and Roger McDowell veto power over. There are some moves Frank Wren would probably make regardless of what Fredi/Roger thought, but I don't think this is one of them.

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