Tag: Kris Medlen

Kris Medlen Injury: Updates on Royals SP’s Rotator Cuff and Return

The Kansas City Royals‘ struggling rotation has been hit with a new problem, as right-hander Kris Medlen has been placed on the disabled list with a shoulder problem.

Continue for updates. 

Medlen to 15-Day DL

Thursday, May 12

Per Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, Medlen’s official diagnosis is rotator cuff inflammation in his right shoulder. 

Medlen told reporters he’ll undergo an MRI on Friday and said the soreness surfaced near the end of his start on May 10. 

Morosi also reported the Royals placed Chris Young on the disabled list. That leaves manager Ned Yost with two holes to fill heading into a weekend series against the Atlanta Braves

Injury-Plagued Medlen Struggling to Find Rhythm for Royals 

Medlen has been struggling his way through six starts so far in 2016. The 30-year-old has a 7.77 ERA with 30 hits allowed, 20 walks and 18 strikeouts in 24.1 innings. Kansas City starters enter play Thursday with the eighth-worst ERA in Major League Baseball at 4.73, per ESPN.com

Injuries have plagued Medlen throughout his career. He has had Tommy John surgery twice (2010, 2014) and has only made 30 starts in a season once in his career. 

Given Medlen’s struggles so far in 2016, his time in the rotation seemed limited. The Royals have struggled to a 16-17 start after last year’s World Series win. Dillon Gee can slide into the rotation after pitching seven games in relief. 

There is plenty of time left in the season for the Royals to turn things around, but there is only so far a team can go with a rotation that cannot hand those dominant relievers a lead. Medlen’s poor performance and propensity to get hurt could force Yost to put him in the bullpen whenever he returns. 

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Could Kris Medlen Be on the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Radar?

The Pittsburgh Pirates currently are not a complete team.  

The team lacks starting pitching, as two of its top starters from last year (Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez) are both currently on the free-agent market seeking deals.

General manager Neal Huntington has made an effort to bolster the rotation so far this offseason, adding former Pirate A.J. Burnett on a one-year deal.  

The Pirates and other teams in search for a quality starting pitcher received good news Tuesday evening when Mike Axisa of CBS Sports reported that right-handed starting pitcher Kris Medlen is now a free agent, as the Atlanta Braves did not tender his contract for next season.

A five-year veteran, Medlen transitioned to his role as a permanent starting pitcher in 2013 after spending his first four major league seasons serving primarily as a relief pitcher.  

Medlen performed very well for the Braves that year, going 15-12 with a 3.11 ERA in 32 games (starting in 31 of them).  

Furthermore, Medlen is a proven dominant relief pitcher, as he went 10-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 138.0 innings pitched and finished 20th in the National League Most Valuable Player voting in 2012.

Unfortunately for Medlen, he missed the entire 2014 season due to an elbow injury that resulted in Tommy John surgery.  

Would the Pirates consider adding Medlen to the staff as a relief pitcher?  That is possible, but considering the fact that the Pirates need starting pitching more than anything right now, they would likely have him audition for a starting job in spring training.    

At only 29 years old, Medlen still has plenty of time to bounce back from his injury.  

The Pirates don’t have to look any further than within their own organization to find an example of a guy who has bounced back brilliantly from the operation in his career.  

Volquez underwent the procedure in 2009 when he was a member of the Cincinnati Reds, and he has made at least 31 starts in the last three seasons.  

Although the Pirates starting rotation currently consists of all right-handed pitchers except for Jeff Locke, offering Medlen a deal makes a lot of sense.

First of all, he likely will not come at too steep of a cost, as he has not pitched in a game in over a year now.  Most importantly, however, he could bounce back from the injury and return to form, which would have a huge impact on the Pirates’ chances of heading back to the postseason for the third straight year.

Imagine what the Pirates would be capable of achieving in 2015 with a healthy Medlen and Gerrit Cole at the top of that rotation.  Add a seasoned veteran like Burnett along with lefty Locke and Vance Worley to the combination, and suddenly the Pirates rotation is rounded out from top to bottom.

Of course, the Pirates would be taking a gamble by signing him, but the rewards he can potentially offer are worth it.


Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

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Kris Medlen, Jarrod Parker Can Still Be Same After Second Tommy John Surgery

Atlanta Braves pitcher Kris Medlen is headed for Tommy John surgery, according to MLB.com. The same is true for the A’s ace, Jarrod Parker. It’s also true for Brandon Beachy, who follow Corey Luebke and Daniel Hudson.

While this is all too common among pitchers at all levels, all of them are headed through the process for a second time.

He previously had the surgery after rupturing his ulnar collateral ligament in 2010. Medlen made it back and excelled both in the rotation and the bullpen. His ascension to dominant starter was surprising and occasionally attributed to his Tommy John surgery, though there is absolutely no evidence that he or any other pitcher has seen a performance gain from the procedure.

Facing a second procedure, Medlen faces the same year away from the game and grueling yearlong rehab. Many Braves fans are asking whether or not he faces the same sort of potential when he returned. Second replacements are called revisions by surgeons and are rare in terms of surgery. Only a handful of specialists like James Andrews, Neal ElAttrache, and Tim Kremchek will do more than a few of these.

Medlen is hardly alone. Brandon Beachy is also headed for a second Tommy John surgery, adding to the long list of Braves trekking from Atlanta to Dr. James Andrews’ office. Add in Patrick Corbin from the Arizona Diamondbacks and Jarrod Parker, who would also be having a second surgery and had his first while with the Diamondbacks, to the list of recently injured pitchers. 

There’s not much in the way of evidence or even anecdote, but what we know gives us a good look at Medlen’s future. He should be able to return sometime in early 2015 and there’s no physical reason why he couldn’t return to the Braves rotation and even return to his previous level of performance.

While Tommy John surgery allows a player to come back, it doesn’t make them invulnerable. In fact, it’s the coming back that is likely the problem. Pitchers, especially mature and successful pitchers, aren’t likely to make significant mechanical changes. Do the same thing and you’ll get the same result, which, for these pitchers, was a ruptured ligament. 

It’s important to note that this is not a failure of the surgery, the rehab or even the pitcher. This is like blaming the car for a tire going bald. It’s a recurrence of a problem with a known etiology. Calling this a failure demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the procedure.

It’s easy to suggest biomechanics should be changed, that hip and shoulder strength and flexibility could be augmented, but it’s much harder to tell a multi-million dollar pitcher to change what has made him successful. 

On top of that, the use of biomechanics is spotty at best in the major leagues. Even with the use, teams don’t have a perfect prediction system.

One of the teams that uses biomechanics extensively is the Baltimore Orioles. In spite of this and several other factors, the Orioles lost prize pitching prospect Dylan Bundy for a year after he injured his elbow last season. He had Tommy John surgery and should be back this summer. Most teams ignore biomechanics altogether, including the Braves.

So even if we don’t know the force that Medlen, Bundy or many individual pitchers are exerting on their elbows on each and every pitch, we do know that there’s clear evidence that the ligament broke down, either insidiously or traumatically. Given the same tasks, similar force and any other significant changes, a transplanted ligament is likely to break down again after a period of time. 

One thing we do not know for any pitcher is how much their ulnar collateral ligament can handle. There’s simply no way to know this, though we know that it will be significantly different for every pitcher, just as they exert different forces in their pitching motion. Some pitchers are likely to have “weak” ligaments and some have strong, making the same force give different results.

There is a “Tommy John honeymoon,” a period after the surgery where it appears there is a significantly lower risk of damaging the replaced ligament. Studies have shown that over a period of four to five years, the transplanted tendon becomes a ligament. However, remember that there’s at least a chance that the pitcher’s ligament was structurally unable to handle the load of pitching. A strong harvested tendon helps, but at a cellular level, will change.

Medlen was inside the normal “honeymoon” period, so it would be interesting to know what Dr. Andrews will find inside his elbow. Was the transplanted tendon fully ligamentized? Was his natural ligament weaker? No pitcher is going to let a surgeon open up the non-dominant side to check. 

The surgery for a revision is different as well. It’s not substantially different in technique, but requires some changes. The bone has already been drilled for the previous ligament replacement, but new holes are required. There’s less space for that, as well as further damage and “mileage” on the elbow. 

The upside is that the player has been through the process before. He’s not likely to be surprised by anything in the rehab and understands the effort and patience necessary. As long as the player is not struggling on a performance level and is not advanced in age, there’s little to show currently that a revision is less successful than an original.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine and conducted by the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic focused on the rate of return from Tommy John surgery. Previous studies peg the number anywhere from about 75 percent up to 87 percent. This recent study shows that only five players out of 179 did not return to play. 

Dr. Neal ElAttrache, a Kerlan-Jobe surgeon and team physician for the Los Angeles Dodgers, told me in a phone conversation that the return rate doesn’t surprise him. “The surgery itself isn’t the problem any more. It fixes something that was previous career ending and gives the player a chance to come back and play at the same level.” 

The study is clear that there is no performance boost and there may be a bigger cost. Currently, there are no pitchers in the Hall of Fame that have had Tommy John surgery. John Smoltz is likely to be the first in the next couple years, but behind him, there’s not much coming.

Adam Wainwright is the most likely, with almost no one else “on pace.” Pitchers like Chris Carpenter, AJ Burnett and Joe Nathan simply don’t have Hall of Fame numbers and little time to accumulate them.

I spoke with Jay Jaffe from SI.com, who has done extensive work on quantifying Hall of Famers. Jaffe believes that there are three factors holding back Tommy John pitchers (including Tommy John himself!) from being inducted. The first is that the BBWAA has been stingy in electing pitchers, putting in only 15 since 1981.

The second is that durability is key to getting to huge numbers, like 300 wins. Of the pitchers that have hit major milestones, few have had major surgeries, with only Roger Clemens having a major surgery, though he missed almost no time after it.

Finally, Jaffe believes that because the operation was done so seldom into the mid-1990s, there were fewer opportunities. I agree, but I’m focused on the second with the dearth of likely Hall of Famers coming.

There are a number of players that have had two Tommy John surgeries, or even more. The “record” is five, but Jose Rijo is a special case and several of the failures were caused by external forces rather than being an actual redo. Nine current players, including Brian Wilson, Joakim Soria, Chris Capuano, Jason Frasor and Kyle Drabek have had two. 

While it may appear that there are few starters that have returned after a repeat Tommy John, it’s still a small sample size. Since relievers tend to be max effort pitchers, one theory is that they are more likely to do a traumatic sprain of the repaired ligament. There simply haven’t been any studies done, though anecdotally this matches up with surgical findings. 

As more pitchers have the surgery when they are younger, the two will collide and could open up the possibility that we see an explosion of second and third revisions. How baseball as a whole deals with this could be one of the most important sports medicine decisions they make in the next decade.

Medlen’s revision will not make him invulnerable any more than the first surgery did. If he continues to put too much force on the elbow, it will break down again. However, there’s no reason to believe that he will not be able to return. The last decade of sports medicine research shows us that. 

As a symbol, Medlen and the other pitchers headed to operating tables remind us that as a whole, baseball doesn’t know how to prevent arm injuries. A decade plus of pitch counts, cautious progressions and long toss have not reduced pitching injuries one iota. It’s time to step back and maybe even start over, or else get used to seeing the best pitchers heading to surgery time and again.

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Should the Atlanta Braves Be Panicking About Recent Pitching Injuries?

There is no such thing as a five-man rotation anymore. Looking around the league, teams are planning ahead for injuries to their pitchers to determine how deep they can go, packing in seven or eight guys rather than trying to prevent injuries or shorten up the rotation. A great example of this is the Atlanta Braves, a team that is already suffering through injuries to Mike Minor, Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy, as well as a known issue with new acquisition Gavin Floyd. 

The Braves announced Tuesday morning that an MRI on Medlen showed “ligament involvement.” Given that Medlen had Tommy John surgery in 2010, this is not a good sign. Dave O’Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution had more info: 

While Medlen will have more tests, many speculate that he will need a second replacement of his UCL. Leo Mazzone, a former Braves pitching coach, was on 680 The Fan in Atlanta and said, “Any ligament involvement is bad.” Medlen does not have a complete tear (rupture) of the ligament, though it is also more difficult to read the ligament after the replacement, due both to physical changes and the hardware used.

What the Braves have now is a mess. If the season were to start today, the most likely scenario would have Freddy Garcia as the second starting pitcher and Alex Wood, who would be the bullpen lefty in a perfect world, would shift over to be the third man in the starting rotation. Behind them, the Braves would have to get creative, with prospect Cody Martin being the top possibility. 

That not only puts pressure on the back of the rotation, it puts a ton of pressure on the ace-by-default Julio Teheran. The young pitcher only went 185 innings last season, and to expect much more than 200 would be stretching things. While Teheran does project as a potential ace, the Braves also have to protect him in the first season where he’ll jump the 190-innings hurdle.

That one, more than any other mark, is a real test for pitchers. While 200 innings is used more because it’s a round number, my research from 2003 showed that 190 seemed to be the bigger test. Pitchers that stayed above that mark tended to do it year after year, but once they dropped below it, even by a little, it was tough to come back. There are a lot of pitchers who never make that mark, though they can be very productive otherwise.

A team goes into a season planning for 1,500 innings. The season is set to be 1,458, but there’s extra-innings games and maybe the playoffs, so 1,500 is a good number. For starters, the team needs to get somewhere between 900 and 1,000 innings. Having five 200-inning pitchers is unlikely, so a team either needs one or two to go above the mark, for the bullpen to take more of the load or for the load to be distributed over more than five pitchers. 

Given the situation now, general manager Frank Wren and his team are likely looking at all the options. Panic is a poor negotiating position, but when the plan for depth that they had—signing Garcia and Floyd to protect younger pitchers like Martin—has failed in mid-March, every other team is going to know the situation. I imagine that scouts are already watching the back fields at Disney for an ask.

Many are wondering if the Braves will make a last-minute offer for Ervin Santana, the last solid free-agent pitcher on the market. After firing his agent, Santana has received several offers and was strongly linked to the Blue Jays. While Santana has a preference to stay in the AL, the Braves could be forced to up their offer and make him consider Atlanta.

Others are asking whether Wren will hit the trade market. There’s very little available, with crazy Twitter ideas coming fast and furious. Options like David Price and Jeff Samardzija have been mentioned, but neither the Rays nor the Cubs would give up either of their aces without a ridiculous return, something the Braves just don’t have, even if they were willing to add on to a package starting with Christian Bethancourt. A major trade would gut the team’s system, though the Braves could give a lower-level prospect for a more ready pitcher.

On pure stats, the Braves had a terrible 2013. They ranked 27th out of 30 teams, losing over 1,500 days to the DL. For pitchers, it was over half the total, with four pitchers losing more than 100 days each. That is significantly up from losing pitcher totals in the 500-day range in the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

Most of those major losses was to Tommy John surgery. While many say it’s unavoidable, the sheer numbers that the Braves have had demand some attention. Compare having multiple pitchers in various stages of rehab to the Rays, a team that’s had three Tommy John surgeries in the past decade. Yes, it’s possible to reduce injuries, though it requires a serious commitment. 

As I mentioned earlier, one of the possibilities for filling in behind the injured starters is to transfer some of the load to the pen.

For the Braves, that may not work either. They already have Jonny Venters rehabbing to return and had lost Eric O’Flaherty to Tommy John as well, though O’Flaherty signed with the Oakland A’s this offseason despite his status. The Braves pen has more depth, even if Wood gets shifted to the rotation, but the pitchers are young and untested—precisely the type of pen that a team shouldn’t shift the load to if there’s another option. 

In fact, more of this pen may need to be shifted over. Wirfin Obispo is fighting for a pen slot, but at age 29, he might be pushed to make a couple spot starts. The same is true for David Hale, who has the advantage of having worked as a starter for much of last season at Triple-A Gwinnett. Besides Cody Martin, the bulk of the Braves’ pitching prospects are in the low minors, making that a tougher shift. 

Some of this may recall the Toronto Blue Jays. For over a decade, the Jays have had a terrible time keeping pitchers healthy. Their medical staff is well regarded, but pitchers at all levels and of all types end up with all sorts of arm issues. It’s a major hole in their plans and has held them back by causing depth issues and taking out some top prospects from longer-term usage. 

The Braves are also well regarded, but their pitching problems have seemingly been coming to a head over the past few seasons.

One source I spoke with believes that the pitching program the Braves use is at fault. “You can’t look right at when Leo Mazzone left. That’s been too far out, but his influence and his program has faded. There’s probably no one left that worked with him,” I was told Monday. 

There are no easy solutions here, though the Braves are looking at all possibilities. The team has not been progressive in regard to biomechanics, but the Braves do use video heavily to assess pitchers. My source also told me that the team is willing to get creative with organizing its staff and would consider a four-man rotation if it felt that was the best way to get through the season. 

Frank Wren and skipper Fredi Gonzalez have a big task ahead of them. It’s hard enough to build a pitching staff in modern baseball. It’s even harder to rebuild one on the fly.

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Atlanta Braves: Grades for Every Player in April

The Atlanta Braves (16-9) have all but wrapped up the first month of the 2013 season.

Highs include a 10-game winning streak and a sweep of the National League East preseason favorite, Washington Nationals. The low point came over the weekend as the Detroit Tigers swept the Braves.The tough series with the Tigers knocked a few players’ grades down a letter.

Here’s a look at the April edition of every player’s’ grade in 2013.

Begin Slideshow

Kris Medlen: Is the Atlanta Braves Starter Seriously THIS Good?

Prior to blowing out his elbow in 2010, Kris Medlen was 5-0 as a starter. Since his return to the starting rotation this year, Medlen is 6-0 in seven starts. An 11-0 record over the last two seasons as a starter is pretty impressive. But, just how impressive is Kris Medlen?

Sporting his flat-billed Braves cap, the “California Wonder Kid” has quickly asserted himself as the staff ace since his return to the rotation on July 31st. All Medlen has done as a starter is win. In his 25 starts over his career, he is 12-2 with a 3.08 ERA in 152 innings pitched.

What makes Medlen so successful? He doesn’t have the arm strength of Stephen Strasburg. His curveball is not as vicious as Clayton Kershaw’s. Johnny Cueto’s windup, where he turns his back to the hitter before uncoiling and coming to the plate, is much more complicated and deceiving to the hitter than that of the fluid and simple Medlen wind-up. What is it that makes this 26-year-old so effective as a starter?

Simply put, Medlen is a gamer. He doesn’t rely on overpowering stuff, but instead, mixes his pitches, stays ahead in the count and keeps the ball in the yard.

Medlen limits the number of free passes by pounding the strike zone. Since returning to the starting rotation, Medlen has thrown 456 of his 642 pitches for strikes—an impressive 71percent. For the purposes of comparison, Kershaw has thrown 64.5 percent of his pitches for strikes this year, while Felix Hernandez has a solid 65 percent strike rate.

Furthermore, of the 36 hits Medlen has given up over his 49.2 innings pitched as a starter this season, he has given up only one home run, three doubles and zero triples. That means 32 of the 36 hits he has given up have been singles.

Medlen has limited the damage against him by keeping the batters off balance and in the yard. If you factor in that he has only walked five batters during that same span, Medlen’s recipe for success is a tasty one. 

Can Medlen pitch a full season as a starter with a 0.54 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 10.00 SO/BB? Probably not. If Medlen were to do that, he would have the single-best season as a pitcher in baseball history. So while he has been lights out since returning to the starting rotation, it is safe to assume that he will have some sort of statistical regression going forward—and that’s OK.

In the 23 starts following his rocky first two starts of his career, Medlen has posted a 2.69 ERA over 143.2 innings pitched. Because he has done so well over a span of years, instead of just a single season, it appears the Braves’ righty is the real deal. 

The Braves were just as knowledgeable of Medlen’s success as a starter, so what took the Braves so long in putting Medlen back in the starting rotation?

Apparently, it was a similar situation that the Nationals are going through with Strasburg—an innings limitation (via Yahoo! Sports). In the postgame wrap-up of Medlen’s most recent start against the Rockies, AP sports writer Charles Odum quotes manager Freddi Gonzalez discussing the innings cap for Medlen as saying, “it was basically the number that Strasburg is facing right now, 160 to 170, because they both were coming off the Tommy John surgery.” 

If Gonzalez ever deserved praise for how he manages the Braves, how he has handled the situation with Medlen is definitely one of them. While the Nationals will have their best pitcher on the sidelines during the playoffs, the Braves will have their new staff ace on the mound.

Just because Medlen won’t be able to pitch at a sub-1 ERA as a starter for a full season doesn’t mean that he isn’t on the verge of establishing himself as one of the games best starting pitchers. He was pitching very effectively in his early 20s and won’t turn 28 until the end of the 2013 season.

The Braves’ pitching future looks bright now that Medlen has returned to his rightful spot as a starter. With the return of Beachy in 2013 and the further improvement of Mike Minor, the Braves have much to look forward to for years to come. 

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Fantasy Baseball: Is Kris Medlen for Real?

Atlanta pitcher Kris Medlen, who threw a shutout as my recent streaming pitcher option, has been lights out since joining the Braves’ rotation. Is he for real?

It is truly hard to argue with the results. Since joining the rotation Kris is 3-0 with a 1.05 ERA, a 0.90 WHIP and 22 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings, including the aforementioned shutout against the San Diego Padres.

On the season he is 4-1 with a 2.03 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP and 58 strikeouts in 80.0 innings. Whether he is starting or relieving he has been spot on, aside from a bumpy May.

It doesn’t matter if Medlen is pitching at home or on the road. He is 2-1 with a 2.08 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and .234 batting average against at Turner Field. He has been even more difficult to hit on the road, posting a 2-0 record with a 1.95 ERA, a 0.93 WHIP and a .212 BAA.

His day numbers (2.81 ERA, 1.21 WHIP) aren’t as nasty, but they are still solid. Meanwhile, at night he is nearly untouchable (1.66, 0.94).

He had a 1.42 ERA in April, a 2.79 mark in June, a 0.84 mark in July and has a 0.87 ERA so far in August. His lone hiccup came in May when he posted a 5.17 ERA, but he quickly righted the ship.

Medlen is owned in about thirty-five percent of Yahoo! and about sixty percent of ESPN fantasy baseball leagues. He has SP and RP eligibility, which makes him even more valuable to fantasy owners.

As long as he remains in the rotation, he is certainly worth riding the hot hand. His next start is Wednesday against the Nationals.

Your thoughts?


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Atlanta Braves Demote Kris Medlen to Prepare Him for the Rotation

Mark Bowman of MLB.com has confirmed what the Atlanta Braves faithful have been hoping for recently when he reported Kris Medlen has been optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett to prepare for starting duties.

He will likely need two or three starts in order to get stretched out for the rotation.

Medlen hasn’t started a big league game since 2010, spending all but 2.1 innings last year recovering from elbow reconstruction surgery.

He has been inconsistent at best in the bullpen this season, posting a 3.49 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 28.1 innings of work, albeit using primarily his fastball.

It seems Mike Minor would be the obvious choice to be sent down when Medlen is ready, but that is unconfirmed at the moment.

With Atlanta having an off-day on Thursday, it will be interesting to see if Minor gets skipped in the rotation. If that happens, look for Minor to be sent down instead of rookie Randall Delgado, who is the other possible option.

Minor has posted a 9.94 ERA in his last six starts, allowing 12 home runs and 43 hits in 31.2 innings during that span.

Atlanta might have been tempted to turn to Jair Jurrjens until he recently gave up 16 runs in two starts, although his outing Sunday was another step in the right direction.

The highly touted Julio Teheran has been solid thus far in Triple-A posting a 3.57 ERA in 10 starts, but his command issues have yet to subside as he has walked 21 batters in 45.1 innings.

In almost a side note, Bowman also mentioned that shortstop Andrelton Simmons might not be long for Turner Field.

Simmons is currently hitting .299/.380/.431 with 14 extra base hits and 10 stolen bases for Double-A Mississippi.

Atlanta might prefer to get Simmons’ Gold Glove caliber defense on the field if they are going to basically take a mulligan in the eighth spot in the batting order, especially with Tyler Pastornicky being limited defensively.

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Atlanta Braves: Who Needs Starting Pitching? The Braves Sure Don’t

Rumors rumors everywhere.  Where will Cliff Lee land?  The Yankees, duh.

It seems every off season that pitching is the biggest issue for those teams looking to make a big splash in free agency.

The Atlanta Braves are looking at a 2011 season that very much like 2010 will include much depth at starting pitching.  Carl Pavano, Andy Pettitte, Jorge de la Rosa, Javier Vazquez, and Chris Young are just a few names that come quite popular upon the signing of Cliff Lee if and when Brian Cashman signs him to come to the Bronx.

The biggest need of the offseason was fulfilled with the trade for Dan Uggla on November 16, 2010.  His right-handed power will bring a much needed boost to the Atlanta Braves offense.

It is safe to say, I don’t see the Braves shopping for any above average starting pitching this offseason.  If anything, the Braves could consider adding a veteran arm to their bullpen.

Let’s take a quick peek at what the Braves have to look forward to in 2011 when it comes to starting pitching.

1.) Tim Hudson (Prediction: 210 IP, 18-9, 2.95 ERA, 135 Ks)

What can you say about Tim Hudson in 2010?  17-9 with an ERA of 2.83.  He does walk a batter from time to time but he held hitters to a .229 BAA last season.

What was the most significant part of 2010 for “Huddy”?  228.2 IP.  Not bad for a guy that just came back from major surgery the season before.  You could certainly make a case that Tim Hudson is as good as ever right now and that his only season better than 2010 was when he pitched for the A’s back in 2003.  He may very well be in the Cy Young race yet again in 2011.

2.) Tommy Hanson (Prediction: 215 IP, 15-10, 3.10 ERA, 200 Ks)

2011 will very much be a breakout season for the young Tommy Hanson.  Next season Tommy Hanson will be listed first and Hudson second.

Hanson has a knack for getting in trouble and blowing up, but he has also pitched his way out of trouble several times.  This is typical for a young star.  I don’t think he will compete for the Cy Young just yet in 2011, but in 2012 he will be running the show against the big boys.

2010 showed that Hanson has good control when he is on his game.  His K to BB ratio was right around 3:1.  With a little more run support, I think Hanson would have been able to log a few more innings this season and get very close to 200 Ks.

3.) Derek Lowe (Prediction: 190 IP, 15-12, 4.10 ERA, 125 Ks)

If Derek had only been as dominant all years as he was in the month of September he would have been an easy pick for the Cy Young.  In the final month of the season Lowe went 5-0 with a 1.17 ERA.  With a little run support in the playoffs, Lowe could have pitched the Braves to a NLCS if he had just had a little more run support from an injury plagued lineup.

I think Lowe has reached his peak, but feel he will give the Braves one more good season.  His 2010 numbers aren’t out of reach, but I’ll suggest he will be slightly above average and more consistent this season.

4.) Jair Jurrjens (Prediction: 185 IP, 14-10, 3.80 ERA, 140 Ks)

If I were a betting man (which I’m not) I would suggest J.J. will be more similar to his 2008 and 2009 self in 2011.  Between his injuries (June through August) JJ carried a 6-1 record with a 3.75 ERA in 12 starts.  By September, Jurrjens was already beginning to feel the effects of his injuries.  I feel like this section of the season more clearly portrays what a healthy Jair Jurrjens will pitch like in 2011.  One day, Jair will be one of the most recognized pitchers in the league alongside Tommy Hanson.

5.) Mike Minor (Prediction: 165 IP, 9-13, 4.80 ERA, 155 Ks)

Mike Minor will be the man until Kris Medlen comes back from injury.  If Minor pitches well enough, Medlen upon his return could be used as a valuable bullpen arm in August or September of 2011.  Brandon Beachy may give Minor a run for his money in spring training, but the former Vanderbilt stand-out was drafted to be a Braves pitcher for several years to come.  My prediction will be based on a full season.  This is subject to change depending on what Fredi Gonzalez does with Medlen when he returns.

Aside from the five starters above, others will likely see some time in the rotation with a spot-start here and there.  Brandon Beachy as mentioned will give Minor some competition but will likely be used as a long reliever or a spot starter.  If he isn’t traded, Kenshin Kawakami may see some time on the big club if he can regain some form at AA early in the season.

What I believe most fans hope for is a late season return by Kris Medlen.  Medlen was a great benefit to the team last season and would be an excellent late season addition to what is expected to be a competitive Braves squad in 2011.

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MLB Spring Training: Projection of the 2011 Atlanta Braves 40-Man Roster

The Braves had a very good season in 2010 as they went 91-71 and returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2005. The emergence of some rookies as well as the presence of off-season acquisitions gave Bobby Cox one last postseason run as the Braves’ manager.

The Braves were a patient team, ranking fourth in the MLB in OBP at .339 while hitting at an average clip of .258, 14th in the league. They were also third in the league in ERA at 3.56, trailing only the world champion San Francisco Giants and the playoff-less San Diego Padres.

Some low-lights included an uncharacteristic 126 errors in the field, one error off the lead in the MLB behind the lowly Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates. Those two teams had a combined record of 122-198.

Who are the players that could make an impact in spring training for the 2011 Braves under Freddi Gonzalez?


So far, relief pitchers Billy Wagner, who followed his promise to retire after the season, and Takashi Saito, who has been let go, have set the stage for Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters to stabilize the bullpen.

Derrek Lee 1B, Rick Ankiel CF, Eric Hinske LF/1B, Troy Glaus 1B/3B, and Kyle Farnsworth RP have all declared for free agency and most likely will not return to the Braves. Contractual options on SS Alex Gonzalez and INF/OF Omar Infante were picked up. Assuming no trades or free-agency pickups, next year’s lineup could appear as follows:


(Player – position – 2010 BA/HR/RBI/OBP/SLUG.)

1. Omar Infante LF .321 / 8 / 47 / .359 / .416 in 471 at bats

2. Jason Heyward RF .277 / 18 / 72 / .393 / .456 in 520 at bats

3. Chipper Jones 3B .265 / 10 / 46 / .381 / .426 in 317 at bats

4. Brian McCann C .269 / 21 / 77 / .375 / .453 in 479 at bats

5. Martin Prado 2B .307 / 15 / 66 / .350 / .459 in 599 at bats

6. Alex Gonzalez SS .250 / 23 / 88 / .294 / .447 in 595 at bats (267 with the Braves)

7. Nate McLouth CF .190 / 6 / 24 / .298 / .322 in 242 at bats

8. Freddie Freeman 1B .167 / 1 / 1 / .167 / .333 in 24 at bats (.319 / 18 / 87 / .378 / .521 in 519 AAA at bats)


Omar Infante had an all-star season in 2010 and his bat is too valuable to come off the bench. He is used to play many infield positions and left field. Chipper has stated he will make a return in 2011 after having a surgery on a torn ACL suffered in mid-season. Prado has been moved down to a run producing spot as he has more power than Infante.

Alex Gonzalez came over from Toronto as a source of power, but only offered 6 home runs as a Brave in 267 at-bats, as opposed to 17 in 328 at-bats as a Blue Jay. The probable departure of Derrek Lee means a starting job for Freddie Freeman, who had great numbers at AAA Gwinnett.


Where does the bench stand for Spring Training 2011?

Matt Diaz LF (he will probably remain as a platoon player due to his good numbers versus left-handed pitching)

David Ross C

Diory Hernandez SS

Brooks Conrad 2B/3B

Brandon Hicks INF


Top Minor Leaguers:

Tyler Pastornicky SS (acquired in the Alex Gonzalez trade that sent Yunel Escobar to Toronto)

Jordan Schafer CF

Barbaro Canizares 1B


What stands out in the projected lineup is the low slugging percentages and the lack of power that has plagued this club for the past few years. It may finally be the year to reach for a power-hitting left or center fielder.

The Braves have already acquired Joe Mather, but he is still a raw player and will most likely remain in the minors. Center field looks to be an obvious hole with the disappointment of Nate McClouth. However, beyond a 41-year-old Jim Edmonds, no 2011 free agents have a track record for power.

The only other option is to acquire a left or right fielder and make a position change. The class is headlined by Carl Crawford, who is more of a base-stealer but still offers some power, Jayson Werth, who would probably have to be a left fielder, and Colby Rasmus.

Adam Dunn is also out there, but would definitely have to be a left fielder, and a terrible one at that—but where else can you pick up 40 home runs a year?


If the Braves can make a big splash in free agency or concoct a smart trade, they would easily make the jump to being championship contenders.


The Braves are and have always been propped up by elite pitching and the makeup of last year’s third-ranked pitching staff will remain mostly unchanged. The San Francisco Giants have proved pitching does indeed win championships. A quick look at the rotation:


(2010 ERA / Record / Strikeouts)

1. Tim Hudson 2.83 / 17-9 / 139 in 34 starts

2. Derek Lowe 4.00 / 16-12 / 136 in 33 starts

3. Tommy Hanson 3.33 / 10-11 / 173 in 34 starts

4. Jair Jurrjens 4.64 / 7-6 / 86 in 20 starts

5. Mike Minor/Brandon Beachy 5.98 / 3-2 / 43 in 8 MLB starts – 3.00 / 0-0 / 15 in 2 MLB starts


Tim Hudson vaulted to the ace position with his Cy Young candidacy-worthy year. Jurrjens was hampered by injuries for most of the year and consequently had a down year. The battle for the fifth starting spot will probably be between Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy, who both had good showings in starts down the stretch.


The bullpen looks like:


Middle Relief:

Erik O’Flaherty

Mike Dunn

Cristhian Martinez


Kris Medlen is possible to return from Tommy John Surgery after All-Star break.


Set-up men (seventh-eighth inning):

Jonny Venters

Peter Moylan


Jonny Venters received a lot of work in 2010. He posted a 1.95 ERA in 83 innings of work, with only one home run given up for the year.




Craig Kimbrel is projected to be the closer with the departure of Billy Wagner. His upper 90s fastball and baffling slider have acted as validation.



Top minor leaguers:

Julio Teheran

Randall Delgado

Arodys Vizcaino

Zeke Spruill


As usual, the Braves farm system contains a bunch of highly regarded pitchers that could break into the majors in 2011. Leading the hype is right-handed pitcher Julio Teheran, who might just make the team from spring training. The only off-season moves in terms of pitching would be to acquire a few low level middle relief pitchers to fill out a bullpen that was one of the best in the majors in 2010.


There was also something of a coaching carousel in the dugout and next to the base paths. The Braves fired first-base coach Glenn Hubbard and bench coach Chino Cadahia named Carlos Tosca bench coach in his place. They also reassigned hitting coach Terry Pendleton to first-base coach and named Larry Parrish hitting coach.

Tosca was the Marlins bench coach under Gonzalez and Parrish came from coaching the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens in the farm system of the Detroit Tigers. Roger McDowell, Brian Snitker, and Eddie Perez remain the pitching, third-base, and bullpen coaches, respectively.


Some how, every year the Braves come out of Spring Training ready to compete for the pennant and there’s no reason to expect 2011 to be any different. 2010 will be marked down as a fluky weak defensive performance, so expect a rebound in that department. With a solid pitching staff, a new face or two inserted into the lineup, and a vaulting of Jason Heyward into stardom, the Braves will have sight of a World Series spot.

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