The starting pitchers just keep rolling along

Brandon Beachy

Bill Shanks talks about how the rotation continues to amaze everyone this season.

There is an assumption going around that at some point in the future the Atlanta Braves are going to have to make a trade. It's a good assumption, considering the depth in the organization.

We saw that depth the last two games. The two pitchers who battled in spring training for the final spot in the rotation both pitched in Atlanta against the Blue Jays. And both were outstanding.

Mike Minor has actually filled in for Brandon Beachy off and on for the last five weeks, as Beachy recovered from an oblique injury. The left-hander had his best game of the season on Tuesday, as he allowed only one run on five hits in seven innings, with one walk and eight strikeouts.

For the season, in six games with Atlanta, Minor's ERA is 4.59. He's allowed 38 hits in 33.1 innings, with 15 walks and 26 strikeouts. Three of his starts have been quality starts.

Minor headed back to Triple-A Tuesday night after his outstanding performance at the big league level. He's probably not bothered by this, knowing what the numbers are in Atlanta right now. The Braves expect Tommy Hanson back next Tuesday, meaning once again Minor does not have a big league job.

But his performance Tuesday reminded everyone why the Braves still have high hopes for Minor. He's got good stuff, and once he continues to develop the breaking ball, Minor could be a very talented major leaguer.

However, don't expect Minor to replace Beachy anytime soon. As if we forgot, Beachy reminded us all on Wednesday why he beat out Minor for the fifth starter's job in spring training. He's good, really good.

Beachy struck out 11 Toronto batters Wednesday on his way to six strong innings in his first game back off the disabled list. He allowed one run on four hits, with only two walks.

Beachy now has a 3.22 ERA in his nine starts this season. He's allowed 40 hits in 50.1 innings, with only 14 walks and 57 strikeouts.

These two are, in effect, the fifth and sixth starters in the Atlanta rotation. They are the bottom two, the worst two, or whatever you want to call them. And yet they just shut down one of the best offenses in baseball.

We all know the deal. The Braves have Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe as the veterans in the rotation, with Jair Jurrjens and Hanson as two of the top young pitchers in the game. And then, on top of everything, the Braves have two of the top right-handed pitching prospects in the game in Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado.

But in between, you have Beachy and Minor – who are actually pretty good themselves.

If you ask Braves fans who they think has the better long-term upside, or whom they would prefer to trade, you'd probably get some good arguments. Minor is essentially the only left-hander of the whole bunch, and that is a feather in his cap.

Beachy is someone people are suspiciously intrigued by with every starts he makes in the big leagues. He's impressive, with a solid fastball, solid secondary stuff and a mound demeanor of a veteran. Is Beachy perhaps a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher? Well, maybe so. He gives no reason to think so far he might not be that good one day.

You could make an argument that next spring, if no moves are made, the Braves could have eight legit starting pitchers. So realistically, two could be moved at some point this summer or this offseason and the Braves would still have depth.

But as we've seen the last two days, it might not be a good thing to have Minor or Beachy be part of a deal. They are good, and if they are moved, the Braves better get a lot back for them. That depth is something every other team in baseball envies, but the Braves are the ones in the catbird seat.



Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, GA and WCOH Fox Sports 1400 in Newnan, GA. Shanks is a columnist for The Macon Telegraph. Email Bill at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.

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