With the 2012 season approaching, the Atlanta Braves find themselves in a precarious position. After a monumental collapse in September to close out the 2011 season, Braves fans wanted major moves this offseason. Other than a trade of Derek Lowe to clear some salary, the Braves stood pat while others in the division made significant moves.
The one area in which the Braves stand above the rest is their starting pitching, specifically their depth. The Braves boast eight major league caliber starting pitchers. Although they do not have a Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee at the top of the rotation, the Braves have solid starters across the board, all of whom can go toe to toe with the best in the league on any given night.
Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, and Brandon Beachy are already penciled in as the top four in the rotation. The fifth spot will likely go to Mike Minor, the lone southpaw in the group. Since it is unlikely that Hudson will be ready by the start of the season following his back surgery, one of Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, and Kris Medlen will take his spot.
Medlen has the most major league experience and has proven to be a capable starting pitcher, but he is also a very valuable asset in the bullpen. If Medlen goes to the bullpen, Delgado or Teheran will fill in for Hudson with the other likely starting in Triple-A Gwinnett.
Regardless of where these young pitchers are to start the season, it is entirely possible that they all see time in the majors this season. Unfortunately for the Braves, Hudson is not the only injury concern. Hanson's troublesome shoulder and Jurrjens' balky knee have proven problematic in the past. Although they reportedly are 100 percent, these injury troubles are legitimate concerns for the Braves.
Most teams do not have the personnel to handle the loss of one or more impact starting pitchers. While it is obviously in the Braves' best interest that Hudson, Hanson, and Jurrjens each pitch 30+ games this season, they do have the depth to possibly withstand an extended absence. Delgado and Teheran both showcased their ability and pitched well when Hanson and Jurrjens were out last August and September.
The Atlanta Braves are a better team with Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson, and Jair Jurrjens all healthy. There's no questioning that fact. However, Frank Wren has built an incredible amount of quality pitching depth. Should an injury or two occur to one of the starting pitchers, the Braves should be able to weather the storm with the young guns.
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