In the first part of this two-part series, we took a look at the position players in the Braves' system that could contribute to the team's success in the near to nearish future. Today, we'll examine the pitching side of things, which is a bit more promising than the hitting side. For an explanation of the depth chart, etc., you can go back to the first article here.
(click to enlarge)
The color scheme and the reasons for selecting the prospects are the same as last time, but it doesn't have the fancy diamond I made for the other one. Maybe I'll make it look like a double-barreled bullpen.
The rotation is where the Braves are going to lose a few members after this season. Both Paul Maholm and Tim Hudson are in the last years of their contracts, and unless they're willing to take about $5-6 million, I don't expect either back. That's not the worst thing in the world as the rotation is one of the spots where the Braves have some depth. The rotation for next year looks like Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Brandon Beachy, Alex Wood, and another option to be determined.
Kris Medlen is probably the first option, and while his stock has certainly gone down considerably, he's not a bad option for the fifth starter. Another option is looking at free-agent options of which there are always several solid choices. If the team wanted to go for the gusto, guys like Matt Garza, Josh Johnson, and Jason Hammel will be available. Here's a list of all the potential options, but for those who don't care that much, just know that there are more than a few who could take the last spot.
And, of course, the Braves could fill it with a prospect. Cody Martin has done an okay job since he was promoted to AAA, but his walk rate has increased a bit. Sean Gilmartin could fill in for a bit, but, again, he hasn't even done very well in AAA. J.R. Graham's shoulder injury has slowed his development a bit, so he might not be ready for the beginning of next year, though it's easier to skip pitchers than hitters past a level. None of the options are particularly appetizing right now, but there's still some time between now and then. The rest of the major prospects are at least a few years away with the exception of Jason Hursh, who still can't be counted on for Opening Day 2014.
Bad news? Several relievers are headed toward free agency. Sort of good news? None of them currently play a major role in the Braves bullpen. Eric O'Flaherty is out for the season with Tommy John surgery, and I think there's a decent chance he comes back on an incentive-laden deal. The other three are probably gone, and Jonny Venters and Cristhian Martinez might find themselves out as well if they're non-tendered due to their injuries.
What does that leave the Braves with? It's still a solid bullpen. Craig Kimbrel and Jordan Walden will return, and Luis Avilan and David Carpenter are solid pieces. The bullpen could use another lefty - perhaps current AAA Ryan Buchter or AA SP Ian Thomas - and there will be several available in the off-season. David Hale, Mark Lamm, and Wirfin Obispo are also possible additions to fill out the rest of the bullpen, so there are definitely internal candidates to fill out the bullpen if need be.
If those guys don't pan out at the beginning of next season, there are some arms coming down the pipeline a little further down. Juan Jaime still has a huge arm, but he also has massive control issues - 16% BB rate in AA. Nathan Hyatt, John Cornely, and Shae Simmons are guys that might move quickly enough to help. And there are some starting pitching prospects that will probably end up in the bullpen - Aaron Northcraft, Gus Schlosser, Patrick Scoggins - that might also move up quickly if they only have to tango with a lineup one time around.
So while there's definitely more red over on this side, pitching is also where the team has some depth. It's not scary-good depth, but there are options, which is more than most organizations can say.