Two days ago I shared a link over to Tomhawk Take, our Atlanta Braves partner site here at the FanSided Network. One of their Staff Writers, Carlos Collazo, had reached out to me about answering a few questions about the Nationals. In turn, he also answered some questions about the Braves. I’ve said time and time again that I believe it’s important to take stock in what the other teams in the NL East are up to and this seemed like a great way to get some insight directly from one of our Braves bloggers. Without further ado, here are the responses Carlos provided to some Braves-related questions:
DoD: Atlanta’s pitching staff has long been the team’s strength – going all the way back to the early 1990s with a rotation led by Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Tom Glavine. Looking at the team’s current roster there are numerous rotation options – Brandon Beachy, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Mike Minor, Jair Jurrjens, Kris Medlan, Randall Delgado, Arodys Vizcaino, and Julio Teheran. How do you see the team’s starting rotation playing out come April? Who gets pushed into a bullpen role instead of spending more time in the minor leagues? If you were making the decisions, how would you set things up differently than what the Braves may actually do?
TT: We do have a ton of arms and several ways to make up a deep, effective rotation. Fredi Gonzalez has said that Medlan will initially be a starter. Whether that means during Spring Training or beyond I can’t really be sure, but I’m guessing he is going to be in the rotation for a limited amount of time and only due to injuries (Hudson, Hanson, and Jurrjens aren’t 100% healthy) and the younger guys might need more time. I think Vizcaino might stay in the bullpen. I get the feeling they want to turn him into an effective setup man or closer. Jurrjens I think will be traded, either in Spring Training or before the July trade deadline. I can’t tell you what the rotation is going to look like early in the season because it will probably change quite a bit. However, I think it’s going to look something like Hudson/Hanson/Beachy/Minor/Teheran by midseason. Delgado would be the guy to step in if an injury occurs or if someone proves ineffective. Other than that it’s all purely speculation.
DoD: It’s no secret just how important to the Braves organization Chipper Jones has been. But with the persistent knee injuries and the fact that he’s not getting any younger, what do you expect from Jones in 2012? How much do you think he really has left in him? What are the organization’s plans once he retires – who replaces him and does Jones take a role working for the team in some capacity?
TT: Jones is certainly injury prone. He is arguably the most injury prone player in the game, but he’s still an extremely good hitter when in the lineup. Last year’s .274/.344/.370 line is a good idea of what we’re going to get out of him, though I’d expect the OBP to go up slightly. His BB% dropped to a career low last year due to either his decreasing power or because of a need to overcompensate for an under-achieving Braves offense. I think he has at least one more good year left in him, but we can’t expect that he’ll play in more than 120 games.
This is where Martin Prado comes in, both in 2012 and beyond. The reason Prado is “over valued” by Atlanta is because he actually provides us more value. Due to Jones’ constant injuries we have to have a guy who can play a decent amount of games at third and Prado can be that guy. We need to keep him and all of the trade rumors about him have started to irk me. As far as Chipper’s future replacement, I would guess that Prado is that guy. We do have Andrelton Simmons and maybe Joey Terdoslavich in the minor leagues but I feel as though they are still a ways off. I think it’s extremely likely that Jones eventually takes a coaching job with the team, but again that’s just speculation. I don’t know the guy personally, he may not have interest in coaching.
DoD: The Braves have had a relatively quiet offseason so far, while others in the division have made moves to improve. I, for one, think the division is becoming one of the toughest in all of baseball (aside from the lowly Mets). What are you expecting in 2012 from the NL East?
TT: I’d agree, the NL East is becoming one of the more dominant divisions in the league (I’d still put the AL East ahead but we aren’t far behind). Both the Marlins and Nationals have taken strides this offseason and the division will be much more competitive than recent years. Although the Marlins could have one of the better offenses in the league with Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Mike Stanton, and Logan Morrison they still don’t have a solid rotation even with the addition of Mark Buehrle. The Nationals have a better rotation and if they sign Prince Fielder I think they will be on the same level as Atlanta. I’m predicting the division to go Philadelphia, Atlanta, Washington, Miami, and New York. I think the top four teams will be extremely close.
DoD: Center fielder Michael Bourn will be a free agent at season’s end. Is he looking at a career type year in 2012 before hitting the open market? Are there any indications one way or another what the Braves plan on doing with regards to resigning him?
TT: Bourn is coming off of the best season in his career and will likely improve upon that in his last year before free agency. I know the Braves are interested in resigning him but he is a Scott Boras client and it is extremely unlikely in my opinion. As of right now, management hasn’t had talks with him about an extension and I think that Boras and Bourn would decline in order to reach free agency unless the Braves make an incredible offer (which I don’t see happening). We do have a lot of money available next offseason but I doubt the Braves will get into a bidding war for him. The only way I can see Bourn coming back is if he is extended before season’s end, which again is pretty unlikely.