Sporting a 96-66 win-loss mark, the Atlanta Braves took home the N.L. East crown in 2013. Although they did indeed feature a solid lineup anchored by All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman, the pitching staff largely led the way to the team’s third playoff appearance in the last four years. Even though 200-game winner Tim Hudson, who missed the last two months of the season due to an ankle injury, departed for San Francisco earlier this offseason, the Braves still fashion a solid rotation headed up by a trio of young arms who each enjoyed great success last summer.
2014 Atlanta Braves - Pitching Staff Preview
Mike Minor - LHP
At the 2012 All-Star Break, in the midst of his first full season as a part of the Braves’ five-man rotation, Minor stood at 5-6 with a 5.97 ERA and 1.42 WHIP. Allowing 19 homers in just 92 innings to that point, most of his struggles came as a direct result of an inability to keep the ball in the yard. However, during that mid-summer sojourn, a light seemed to turn on for the young southpaw. Since then, over a stretch of 46 starts, Minor has put up a 19-13 mark while sporting very solid numbers across the board. That list includes a 2.89 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 7.6 K/9, placing the 26-year-old hurler awfully close to “ace” status.
2014 Projection: 15-8, 3.30 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 190 K, 210 IP
Draft Position: At age 26, Minor is an All-Star level starting pitcher, best valued in mixed-league drafts somewhere among the 20-25 range at the position.
Kris Medlen - RHP
Down the stretch of the 2012 season, no Major League starter was better than Medlen. Fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, the right-hander spent the first four months of that season in the Braves’ bullpen before being inserted into the rotation on July 31. The 12-start stretch that began on that day and lasted through the end of the campaign placed Medlen in the franchise history books, as he went 9-0 with an incredible 0.97 ERA and 0.80 WHIP. Needless to say, he was a hot commodity in fantasy drafts heading into 2013. Medlen responded to the expectations by fashioning a 15-12 record to go along with an impressive 3.11 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 157 strikeouts. He capped off the summer by being named NL Pitcher of the Month for September, going 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA and 33 K over 36 innings.
2014 Projection: 15-10, 3.42 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 175 K, 208 IP
Draft Position: Medlen would be a strong No. 2 in most MLB rotations, and you should be target him just outside the top 25 SPs in mixed leagues.
Julio Teheran - RHP
Teheran finished his first full MLB campaign at 14-8 with a 3.20 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 8.2 K/9 across 30 starts. That effort landed him fifth in a very crowded field of 2013 NL Rookie of the Year candidates. Now at 23 years of age, the Colombian-born righty should only improve in his sophomore season. Don't let his poor playoff performance against the Dodgers in the NLDS be deceiving-- let's just chalk that outing up to inexperience. Armed with a four-pitch arsenal and solid command, Teheran is the real deal, though with a smaller body of work than his two aforementioned teammates, he is a little more difficult to project at this point.
2014 Projection: 16-7, 3.19 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 180 K, 202 IP
Draft Position: Teheran definitely has breakout potential and could end up as the Braves’ “ace” by season’s end. However, for the safe-minded fantasy player, looking his way around SP No. 30 would be wise and leave plenty of upside.
Brandon Beachy - RHP
Beachy burst onto the fantasy radar in 2011 as he cruised to the tune of a 7-3 record, 3.68 ERA and 10.7 K/9 over a 25-start campaign. The following summer, just as he seemed to be taking another step forward, the right-hander’s summer was cut short after just 13 outings due to a partially torn UCL that led to Tommy John surgery. After sporting a 2.00 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in 2012, Beachy became popular as a draft-and-stash player at the backend of fantasy drafts heading into 2013. Rumors had it that he would make a mid-season return and could offer big help down the stretch. That would not turn out to be exactly true. Beachy did step back atop the hill on July 29, but would go on to make just five appearances in 2013 (2-1, 4.50 ERA, 1.03 WHIP) before elbow inflammation sent him back to the bench. Now reportedly at full strength, Beachy is slated to start the season in the No. 4 spot of the Braves’ rotation.
2014 Projection: 9-6, 3.47 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 132 K, 145 IP
Draft Position: Beachy will have to show that he is healthy enough to make 30 starts in order to climb back up the rankings. At this point, taking him inside the top 50 starting pitchers would be a reach.
Gavin Floyd - RHP
A common theme among Braves hurlers, Floyd is currently in the recovery process from the Tommy John surgery he underwent last May. Originally signed by the Braves off the free-agent market back on December 16, the veteran should take over the last spot in the rotation upon his return. In a best-case scenario, that should happen in early June. The front office will be satisfied with their investment if the 31-year-old righty is able to deliver 15-20 solid starts. Heading into 2013, Floyd was on a run of five consecutive seasons with double-digit wins for the White Sox, but he finished with a sub-4.00 ERA only once during that stretch. Turner Field is a much better environment for pitchers than U.S. Cellular, but the question is whether he will be healthy enough to take advantage of the new surroundings.
2014 Projection: 7-6, 4.20 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 84 K, 104 IP
Draft Position: Considering that he will start the season on the disabled list, Floyd is best suited as a possible waiver-wire pickup when he returns. Even then, the 10-year big leaguer is little more than a matchup-based streaming option. A late-round flyer may be worth the trouble in NL-Only leagues.
Alex Wood - LHP
Wood was a Minor League stud, albeit for a stretch of just 24 starts, as the young lefty made it to the show less than a calendar year after being selected in the second-round of the 2012 Draft. Apparently, the hard-throwing southpaw didn't need much seasoning down on the farm. Over 31 appearances (11 starts) for the Braves in 2013, Wood posted an impressive 3.13 ERA and 77 strikeouts while only allowing three homers across 77.2 innings. It remains to be seen how manager Fredi Gonzalez will utilize the talented 23 year old heading into the regular season, though. Considering how the roster is currently constructed, he appears to be the top option to man the fifth spot until Floyd is ready. Even coming out of the bullpen, Wood carries value with his K-rate potential, and he will have value in leagues that feature holds as a category.
2014 Projection: 5-4, 2.80 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 93 K, 97 IP
Draft Position: Wood figures to be a permanent member of the Braves’ rotation at some point, so obviously his value in keeper leagues is elevated. At the present time, he could make for a very nice late-round acquisition in standard mixed leagues.
For All Things Fantasy Sports Follow Nate Miller on Twitter @Miller_RotoDad
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