The Braves have a nice blend of experience and youth in the starting rotation for 2011. 35-year old righty Tim Hudson will likely be the #1 starter for them once again in 2011. Hudson started 34 games for the Braves last season and he was 17-9 with a 2.83 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP. He has now pitched in 162 games (161 starts) in his first six years with the Braves and he is 73-48 with a 3.57 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP. Hudson was better than ever last season so I look for him to turn in another strong year in 2011.
24-year old righty Tommy Hanson is a pitcher on the rise for the Braves. Hanson started 34 games for the Braves last season and he was 10-11 with a 3.33 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. He has now pitched in 55 games (all starts) for the Braves in his first two years with the team and he is 21-15 with a 3.16 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP. Hanson has a huge upside and this year could be the won where his win/loss record more reflects his talent.
37-year old righty Derek Lowe always hears his name come up in trade rumors but the Braves still like him because of his dependability. Lowe started 33 games for the Braves last season and he was 16-12 with a 4.00 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP. He has now started 67 games in his first two years with the Braves and he is 31-22 with a 4.33 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP. Expect Lowe to have a heavy workload for the Braves in 2011 to help protect the bullpen.
25-year old righty Jair Jurrjens battled injuries most of last season and it hurt his stats. Jurrjens started 20 games for the Braves last season and he was 7-6 with a 4.64 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP. He has now pitched in 85 games (all starts) in his first three years with the Braves and he is 34-26 with a 3.45 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP. The Braves hope that a return to full health will spur Jurrjens to have a good year in 2011.
23-year old lefty Mike Minor comes into this season as the Braves’ #4 prospect according to Baseball America. Minor pitched in 9 games (8 starts) for the Braves last season and he was 3-2 with a 5.98 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP. He also pitched in 21 games (all starts) in AA+AAA-ball in which he was 6-7 with a 3.44 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. Minor only gave up 93 hits in 120 1/3 innings in the minors last season while whiffing 146 batters, showing just how nasty he can be. He is the favorite to open the 2011 season as the Braves’ #5 starter.
24-year old righty Brandon Beachy will challenge Minor for the #5 job this spring. He comes into this year as the Braves’ #8 prospect according to Baseball America. Beachy started 3 games late last year for the Braves and he was 0-2 with a 3.00 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP. He also pitched in 35 games (13 starts) in AA+AAA-ball last year and he was 5-1 with 2 saves, a 1.73 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP. Beachy only gave up 93 hits in 119 1/3 innings in the minors last season while whiffing 148 batters! The most impressive thing about Beachy though, is that he only walked 28 batters in the minors.
35-year old righty Rodrigo Lopez is also in camp trying to win the #5 job for the Braves this spring. He started 33 games for the Diamondbacks last year and he was 7-16 with a 5.00 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP. Lopez gave up 37 homers (the most in major league baseball) in 200 innings last season! He has now pitched in 227 games (199 starts) in his first 9 years in the majors and he is 75-82 with a 4.85 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP.
35-year old righty Kenshin Kawakami is likely going to be trade bait for the Braves. He pitched in 18 games (16 starts) for the Braves last season and he was 1-10 with a 5.15 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP. Kawakami has pitched in 50 games (41 starts) in his first two years with the Braves and he is 8-22 with 1 save, a 4.32 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP.
25-year old righty Kris Medlen might be able to return to the Braves late in 2011 as he continues his rehab from Tommy John Surgery. Medlen pitched in 31 games (14 starts) for the Braves last season and he was 6-2 with a 3.68 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. He has now pitched in 68 games (18 starts) in parts of two years with the Braves and he is 9-7 with a 3.90 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP.
PROJECTED GRADE FOR THE BRAVES STARTING ROTATION: B+