The Braves’ 2011 Rotation

Bobby Cox’s teams were generally built around starting pitching and even though Cox won’t be around in 2011, the Braves’ trademark pitching should be. Atlanta lost Kris Medlen to Tommy John surgery, but still has enough starters in the majors to go into 2011 with an above-average rotation.

In fact, every pitcher who started a game for Atlanta this year is under team control for 2011. The Braves can retain Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami and Mike Minor next year.

Not all of those pitchers will necessarily return, though. The Braves had a similar amount of starting pitching last offseason and they shopped Lowe and Javier Vazquez, before sending the latter to the Yankees. The Braves would probably be open to trading Lowe this winter, but it seems more likely that he stays in Atlanta given that he makes $30MM in 2011-12 and has become a back-of-the-rotation starter. That kind of contract just isn't easy to move.

Kawakami earns just $6.67MM in 2011, so he'd be easier to trade. Judging by how little the Braves have used the right-hander since June, they'd be open to trading him. Kawakami was winless through his first 14 starts and posted a 4.48 ERA before he lost his rotation spot. Since then, he has bounced from the minors back to the majors, but Cox has only used him three times, so he is not at all a fixture on the team's pitching staff.

Clubs like the Indians, Mariners, Orioles, Cardinals, Brewers and Royals could be looking for back-of-the-rotation depth this winter, so they may have interest in Kawakami. It was just a year ago that he posted a 3.86 ERA as a rookie, so some teams would have room for him, even if the Braves don't.

Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens are going nowhere and figure to lead the 2011 rotation. Hudson is a Cy Young candidate this year, and Hanson is thriving in his first full season (though the Braves haven't provided much run support). Jurrjens missed time with a hamstring injury early in the year and his ERA is nearly two runs higher than it was in 2009, but he still has solid peripheral stats. Jurrjens, Hudson and Hanson will give Cox's successor an enviable top three.

Mike Minor didn't take long to get to the major leagues, and the 2009 draft pick looks like he belongs at the highest level. The Braves promoted Minor after 25 dominant minor league starts; he posted a  3.15 ERA with 10.9 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 before joining the big league rotation. The lefty has a 5.33 ERA in the majors so far, but that goes along with 10.3 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9, so it's not like Minor has been overmatched. His role in the 2011 rotation likely depends in part on his new manager's willingness to hand the ball to a 23-year-old every fifth day, but his performance so far suggests he's ready.

Highly-touted prospects like Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado and J.J. Hoover need more minor league seasoning, so the Braves could call on pitchers such as Todd Redmond and Scott Diamond if they need a minor leaguer to replace an injured starter. But the team won't have to rely on too much support from the minors if their big leaguers stay healthy. If all goes well for Atlanta, young arms like Jurrjens, Hanson and Minor will complement Hudson and Lowe to form a strong rotation in 2011. 

67 Responses to The Braves’ 2011 Rotation Leave a Reply

  1. Brandon Woodworth 5 years ago

    The article could have been summed up like this: Trade Kawakami, still have a surplus, domination. That is all.

  2. Don’t forget Beachy.

    • ATL_Mindset 5 years ago

      Beat me to it! I guess leading MiLB in ERA doesn’t mean much these days.

  3. bbxxj 5 years ago

    How I see the rotation shaking out next year and for the future:

    For these rotation memebers I’ll list the last year of team control next to them:

    Hudson – 2013
    Hanson – 2015
    Jurrjens – 2013
    Lowe – 2012
    Minor – 2016

    Kawakami has fallen from grace though I think its just about as much the FO’s fault as it is his so he will either be a long reliever, released or traded. Medlen will be back sometime late next season likely as a reliever but could be back in the rotation in 2012 and will be under control until 2015.

    As far as MLB ready prospects goes Brandon Beachy leads the list even though he isn’t mentioned in the article. In 119.1 innings between AA/AAA he posted a 1.73 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 11.2 K/9, and a 2.1 BB/9 and owns a plus fastball (90-94) with comand, a plus curveball, and a change. Diamond and Redmond are more pitchablity guys who could possibly survive as BOR guys but may be better middle relievers. Diamond does get a good amound of groundballs and Redmond did throw a no hitter this year in AAA so there is potential there but I’m not sure they are true prospects like Beachy is.

    The true ace ceiling prospects Teheran, Delgado and Vizcaino are more likely going to be ready around 2012-2013. Teheran’s dominance and advanced maturity for a 19 year old could possilby earn him a cup of coffee next year and a rotation spot by 2012 and Vizcaino’s recent arm trouble could push back his projected ETA so there is some play there in when/if they will take a rotation spot.

    So it seems to me the bottom line is the Braves won’t have a planned rotation spot opening until they have one in 2013 and two in 2014 and will have plenty of minor league talent to fill in for anybody who goes down until then and take whatever spots they can get in 2013-2014.

    • bbxxj 5 years ago

      I shoud also mention Hoover, Oberholtzer, Spruill, Perez, Brewer, and Clemens as they are all prospects with MLB potential but since the amount of elite pitching prospects above them is fairly obscene they often get overlooked.

  4. inkstainedscribe 5 years ago

    It wouldn’t shock me if the Braves moved Jurrjens in the offseason IF he’s the key to acquiring a top-shelf outfield bat. The system is still short on position players, and with the exception of Hayward, the outfield is a mess — either below average defensively (Hinske, Diaz, Melky) or ineffective offensively (Ankiel, McLouth, Melky again).

    I don’t see the Braves winning a bidding war for Carl Crawford, so the player I see who could deliver a position player with impact is Jair. Much as I’d hate losing him.

    • bbxxj 5 years ago

      I very much agree with you. He still has three years left of control which would make him attractive but I find it hard to find a match of an MLB impact bat that would be worth Jair but also be a fair return to the other team.

      If there is a match out there for a LFer or CFer then that would be great as Beachy could hop into the roation next year and Medlen or Teheran could take a spot in 2012 if somebody comes up lame the in 2011.

    • btwalker 5 years ago

      who do you see the braves trading for if they let Jurrjens go?

      • austinhb 5 years ago

        Maybe rasmus?

        • inkstainedscribe 5 years ago

          Rasmus is the obvious choice, but the Braves would have to add another pitcher to the deal (maybe a B-level prospect in the low minors and I could not say who). The Braves and Cards match up because StL could use rotation depth. JJ would fit in nicely behind Carpenter and Wainwright. If not Rasmus, maybe Jacoby Ellsbury? He shouldn’t cost as much and the BoSox may be willing to deal.

    • roberty 5 years ago

      I was expecting Jurrjens to be traded for a very good young outfielder until the announcement of Medlen’s TJ surgery. I don’t think they have depth enough to lose Jurrjens anymore, although it would have made a lot of sense.

    • cejc21 5 years ago

      melky and diaz where released, we have Prado on LF now, but yeah we need an athletic CF hopefully Ellsbury does the job.

  5. Minor and Delgado for Rasmus! Do it Wren!

    • O971 5 years ago

      Jurrjens for Rasmus. Both are about 3.5-4.5 win players over a full season and the drop off from Jurrjens to Minor/Kawakami/Beachy/ is far less than what they’d gain from replacing Mclouth/Cabrera/Ankiel with Colby Rasmus.

    • ummmm, no.

  6. Potrzeba 5 years ago

    i hope the red sox trade papelbon to the braves for minor.

    • bbxxj 5 years ago

      We can’t afford Papelbon. Plus I could argue that Venters is a better reliever/closer currently than Papelbon not even considering he makes 400k and Papelbon could make 10MM+.

    • roberty 5 years ago

      Why? Are you a sox fan? The last thing the Braves need is bullpen depth. Look at our stacked AAA roster.

      • Potrzeba 5 years ago

        Ya I am. What bout elsbury for minor?

        • Potrzeba 5 years ago

          If Adrian Gonzalez was to be traded I would have alanta be the favorite. Even though I’m a redsox fan.

          • roberty 5 years ago

            I don’t see the Braves trading Minor, if Medlen was healthy then it might be a possibility. They need the depth, plus he is one of the only good left starters in the upper levels of the organization. Adrian Gonzalez is a great player but the Braves top young position player (besides Heyward), big Freddie Freeman, is also a first baseman. The Braves really need to get big power production from left field so if they are going to trade from their pitching surplus it will be for a big bat left fielder or a good center fielder.

          • SaltyDawg777 5 years ago

            Freeman is the first baseman of the future for the Braves and by all appearances he is ready to come out of the oven. No way the Braves are even going to sniff a high cost player like A Gonz. The only positions the Braves will be looking to fill are LF and CF. Everything else is set for quite a while.

        • Potrzeba 5 years ago

          If Adrian Gonzalez was to be traded I would have alanta be the favorite. Even though I’m a redsox fan.

        • done.

      • Potrzeba 5 years ago

        Ya I am. What bout elsbury for minor?

      • inkstainedscribe 5 years ago

        Kimbrel showed a lot yesterday against the Cards. He and Venters should be a dynamite 8th-9th combination next year. Dunn’s no slouch, either.

  7. strattitude 5 years ago

    Huddy – righthander, DLowe – righthander, JJ – righthander, TommyH – righthander, Meds – righthander, Teheran – righthander, Vizcaino – righthander, Delgado – righthander, Beachy – righthander…

    Why is everyone so anxious to trade lefty Minor?

    • bbxxj 5 years ago

      Our other LHP guys in the system:

      Oberholtzer- medocre ‘stuff’
      Ortegano- Likely a reliever
      Perez- high ceiling but 17yrs old
      Otero- unhittable curveball but 18yrs old
      DeVall- Tommy John

      Yeah, I think we should and are going to hold onto Minor.

    • roberty 5 years ago

      Agreed. I have watched all of Minors starts and he is nasty. He is really fun to watch pitch. His ERA seems a lot higher than it should be. A lot of the runs scored against him have been on weird freak hits. I would be disappointed to see him go to another team.

  8. The_Porcupine 5 years ago

    They could trot out the same rotation next year and still contend for the division. But they have to trade someone to improve the offense. They can’t win a bidding war for a free agent, so appreciable improvements are going to come from trade. Yes you could dump Lowe on a team in need of a “veteran leadership, 200IP” type player, but you won’t get much and will have to eat salary. Hanson and Minor are untouchable. So you’re left with Hudson and Jurrgens. As well as Hudson has performed, you can’t trade him. So what can Jurrgens get you? A good cheap starter under team control should be able to get a decent run producer easily. Then you troll the bargain pitching aisle and pick up a #4 or 5 starter to fill out the rotation.

    The danger is assuming Minor is ready to stay in the rotation next year. Before any trade of pitching happens, you have to determine if he is here to stay. If not, all bets are off and you piece together an offense on the fly like Wren did this year (rather unsuccessfully I might add). So in many ways, Minor is kind of the key to the off season.

    • austinhb 5 years ago

      I wouldnt say the offense has been unsuccessful, they have been surprisingly good without any big name bats, and would probably benifit more with chipper in there,granted theyve been inconsistent but for a bunch of no names and hasbeens they have done extremely well for extremely cheap, and if i remember the stats from not too long ago they were #1 in BB and in the top 3 in hits.

      • The_Porcupine 5 years ago

        I agree that they’ve done well despite being no-names. But can you count on Chipper for a full season anymore? It is a shame he can’t DH for the Braves. Would they move him to first (less physical wear and tear) and pursue a 3b? Would you count on those same no-names next year? I think McCann, Prado, and Heyward are the only real offensive players I’d trust and build around.

        • austinhb 5 years ago

          Dont forget about Freddy Freeman(International league rookie of the year), hes more proven now than Heyward was when he made the team, and no you cannot count on chipper for a full year but when hes in the lineup he forces respect, draws walks, and forces pitchers to go to the stretch or make Mistakes. with a lineup with Jones/Heyward/Freeman/Mccann/Prado its not a bad lineup, hell if we got Rasmus it would be amazing. Gonzalez isnt a bad hitting shortstop either, and infante is the real deal, he might win the batting title this year.

          • The_Porcupine 5 years ago

            I completely disagree with you on Infante. The lineup has some good players, yes. But who is the consistent RBI threat? If you say McCann, I don’t think he’s ever driven in 100 runs before (I could be wrong). The key word is consistent. For that matter Prado has only had 1 good year and Freeman and Heyward are still rookies (less than 1 year in the bigs doesn’t mean there consistent, just means they have potential). Look, I’m not saying they have bad players or that there isn’t potential for improvement. I just think they need more offensive depth or a big hitter whose presence helps others in the lineup. Consider where they might be if Glaus had stayed hot, or if they kept Texeira. The flaws in their lineup would be covered up.

          • austinhb 5 years ago

            I dont disagree with you one bit on the fact they need a big bat, but i think your wrong about prado, he hit over 300 last year as well, and just watching him and the battles he has at the plate its obvious with his approach hes going to be a good hitter no matter what. Mccann wont drive in 100, but he will average 90, which isnt too bad when you will probably (key word here probably i know they are young so there are no guarantees) have heyward and freeman driving in 75+, if gonzales can do next year what hes done this year, theres another 75 rbi. Chipper started to heat up before he got hurt so hes obviously going to hit 70+ rbi with his approach. What im saying as that is ALMOST a necessity to have a guy hit 100+ rbi to be in contention, if you have a bunch of guys hitting just under that amount, its almost just as good.

          • inkstainedscribe 5 years ago

            Aside from Heyward, the OF is awful. Melky and Diaz are 4th OF, or part of a mediocre platoon setup (yes, I realize Melky’s a SH, but he doesn’t do anything vs. LHP). I sure don’t think they’re good enough to hold down regular corner OF spots in an offense that lacks power and athleticism.

            Ankiel’s pretty much a defensive replacement. And McLouth played really well in Pittsburgh, but has been eaten up by the big power alleys at Turner. They’ve hurt him both offensively and defensively.

            I’m guessing Busch plays more like Turner, so Rasmus shouldn’t fall off the cliff if he moved to Atlanta.

            The bottom line is, the Braves need more offense and defense in the OF, and they’re not going to get it from the current roster OR anyone in the system close to the majors.

            JJ would be a loss, but it’s easy to believe that one of the kids could step into the #3 slot in the rotation and that Lowe and someone else could hold down the 4th and 5th spots.

          • btwalker 5 years ago

            i agree melky and diaz are 4th of and we can not win a WS with these guys starting on a regular basis……and im not sure maclouth can recover enough offense to be a viable solution in cf….that being said ….i love jj and would hate to see him go but we have got to have more production from the of………Lowe isnt going anywhere because of his salary….may not like it but he does offer some value….KK might be dealt but what could you get for him…..huddy isnt going anywhere……minor better not be dealt ..we have no lefties in the rotation anywhere close to mlb ready……im not to up on rasmus …i know he was touted as a great prospect but what kinda of player has he been at the ML level so far……JJ is a lot to give up it better be a pretty good player……#2/3 starters are hard to come by and who knows he is 24 ….could develop into a #1……so I hope wren gets a good return if that the plan……oh and by the way forget it hanson is not available!!

  9. BraveNewWorld 5 years ago

    Anything for Lowe and Kawakami is fine for me. At least one of them will not be here next year….thank God.

    • Guest 5 years ago

      kawakami’s the one that needs a change of scenery to get his confidence back.

  10. bennie2323 5 years ago

    Matt Kemp for JJ?

  11. I could see a trade of JJ for the Cards Rasmus. The Cards get a good young SP under team control for 3 more years. The Braves get a young outfielder with some pop. Although I like JJ a lot, he could be replaced in the rotation. We do not have any outfield prospects ready for the majors. 2/3 of our OF would be set for several years.

    • roberty 5 years ago

      It makes sense although it sounds like the Cards are not willing to pick up any payroll in exchange for Rasmus, and Jurrjens will probably cost around $5 million next year.

      • 14 Rocks 5 years ago

        Jurrjens won’t make that much next year. Tim Lincecum only made about 2 million in his first year of arbitration. Look for JJ to make about 1.5 million next year.

        • roberty 5 years ago

          Lincecum is a super two and is arbitration eligible four times. The Giants bought out his first two years of arbitration for a combined $23 million. Lincecum is earning $8 million this year. 2010. His first year of arbitration.
          Other starters earnings in their first year of arbitration
          Kazmir – $3,785,000
          Sabathia – $5,250,000
          Verlander – $3,675,000
          Garza – $3,350,000
          Willis – $4,350,000
          Lee – $3,000,000

          It’s safe to assume JJ will earn considerably more than $1.5 million next year. I am predicting somewhere between $4.25 and $5 million. Even Zack Duke made more than $1.5 million in his first year of arbitration.

  12. strattitude 5 years ago

    Let’s see… they keep saying Colby Rasmus is a terrific young CF, great speed although he doesn’t steal alot of bases. Pretty fast and can cover alot of ground in CF, he has good power (20-25 HR potential), but strikes out a good bit.

    Isn’t that the same thing they said about Nate before the Bucs traded him?

    • 14 Rocks 5 years ago

      Rasmus is a lot younger than Nate and this is his first full year in the majors. Unlike Nate, he was a top prospect before being called up to the majors. He likely will be getting better over the next 4 – 5 years.

  13. BraveNewWorld 5 years ago

    If McLouth can come around then he’s our guy in CF. LF hasn’t had any power since the days of Klesko it seems and even then Bobby didn’t like to play him every day. Something’s gotta give next season. I also wouldn’t mind seeing Derek Lee sticking around for one more year.

    • roberty 5 years ago

      Lee and Freeman deserve to be fulltime first basemen in 2011, so I don’t see them playing for the same team. But I agree, the Braves could seriously use some power in left. It seems like they like to use left field to save money and platoon two semi-ok players who are neither great fielders nor great hitters. Isn’t left field for power hitters who aren’t great fielders? If the Braves acquire a good centerfielder they could shift McLouth over to left and hope he has a rebound season. Heyward – someone else – McLouth could be a good defensive OF.

    • abraves10 5 years ago

      i say sign CoCo crisp to a cheap 1 year deal and go after someone for left possibly Jayson Werth….and i still say resign Derrek Lee for one more year to mentor Freeman

      • austinhb 5 years ago

        crisp has a club option that will likely be picked up

    • inkstainedscribe 5 years ago

      If N8 became a serviceable CF again, that would solve a lot of problems … Not counting on it, but still.

  14. Jessamynn 5 years ago

    I’m not a Braves fan, but I’d like to think that I’m objective, and I certainly respect what they’ve done.

    I think the Braves are in good shape for 2011’s pitching staff.

    Hudson SHOULD be very good, even if he’s not 2.30-ERA good. Hanson should continue with his progression. Those two guys are probably “locks” to perform well, although I view them as a notch below the Phillies (Halladay/Hamels) and Cards (Carp/Wainwright), and probably on par with the Giants (Lincecum/Cain).

    I don’t love Jurrjens, but he’s certainly a quality #3 if he can stay consistent. However, that’s “if” #1.

    Losing Medlen hurts, so if Lowe/KK are the 4/5 starters, that’s a big weakness. Lowe/KK MIGHT be slightly better than Blanton/Kendrick, but Oswalt figures to be stronger than Jurrjens at #3.

    Regardless of where the Braves’ staff compares to the Phillies, I fully expect them to be competing for the division title in 2011. Braves fans had better start petitioning Wren for help at 1b/CF though…can it get much worse than Ankiel/McLouth + Lee? 😛

    • roberty 5 years ago

      Fred Freeman, the 2011 international league rookie of the year, will be the Braves every day first baseman in 2011. But otherwise I agree. Left field and Center are huge holes.

      Maybe (hopefully) McLouth is on the upswing. He is 5/12 in his last 4 games with 1 HR, 4 RBI and a stolen base.

      • Jessamynn 5 years ago

        You’re right, Freeman will be an upgrade over Lee/Glaus at 1b.

        As far as this year goes, I really don’t get how Cox can keep running Ankiel out there in CF. They might as well rename “strikeouts” to “Ankiels”.

        “Hey Rick Ankiel went 0-4 today with 4 Ankiels!”

        • roberty 5 years ago

          The most frustrating thing about Ankiel is that he just swings so hard that he’s basically blind at the plate. He generated incredible bat speed. He could cut his swing down a tiny bit and he could be a successful hitter again.

          I have to admit, I like having his speed/defense/arm around but he needs to smarten up at the plate and stop trying to hit a home run every time he swings the bat.

  15. Braves24 5 years ago

    Trade Lowe and sign Crawford

    • inkstainedscribe 5 years ago

      Is Crawford a $27 million-a-year guy? Because the Braves would have to eat most of Lowe’s contract before even sniffing a deal with Crawford. Ain’t happening.

      • Braves24 5 years ago

        Who said Crawford is a 27M a year guy? He won’t make more than 18M. If the Braves eat 15M of Lowe’s contract, they could sign Crawford.

        • inkstainedscribe 5 years ago

          But if the Braves eat $15 MM of Lowe’s contract and sign Crawford for $18MM, then it’ll cost ’em $33 MM to sign Crawford for the first year of the deal. Plus whatever above the minimum it costs to carry any players they get in the Lowe deal. It’s the net cost of Crawford that makes him unaffordable, so long as Lowe is still on the roster. That’s why they’re probably going to have to keep Lowe for at least one more year and get whatever performance they can from him.

          • Braves24 5 years ago


          • Braves24 5 years ago

            fail. The Braves wouldn’t pay 15M of Lowe’s contract in one year. They would pay it over a couple of years but not one year.

  16. Smoltz_29 5 years ago

    IF we were to get Rasmus would we play infante in left when chipper returns? if so does that really make our lineup more formidable than this year?… IF we can manage to even make a bid at crawford where does infante play next year because he has proven that he is wayy more than just a platoon player.

  17. This site really needs updating, it is 2011 and Cards and Texas are in World Series.

  18. The Brewers would ask for people like Julio Teheran and Mike Minor. Not a big fan of trading young pitching for someone you can’t even afford for one year. Besides the Braves problem right now is the outfield, they would be a serious contender, more than this year, with a better offense in the outfield since they have better pitching than the Phils(Out of respect to Halladay).

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