Something the Braves thought would be a strength going into the 2007 season was the pitching staff, which was lackluster to say the best last year. Mike Hampton was coming back and Lance Cormier was coming off a great end to last season and spring training to fill out the back end of the rotation. In the pen Macay McBride, Chad Paronto, Oscar Villareal, Bob Wickman, and Tyler Yates were returning after good seasons last year and we added two of the most dominant relievers in baseball in Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano. Now that Macay McBride has forgotten how to throw strikes, Hampton is done for another year, Cormier is rehabbing in the minors, Chad Paronto is on the DL, Redman and Davies are getting hammered, and Oscar Villareal has been totally ineffective, the Braves are looking for talent again.
The Braves have a lot of options in the organization, especially for the bullpen. Soriano, Wickman, Gonzalez (recently), Moylan, and Yates with his 90 mph slider have been very impressive but Colyer and Villareal need to be replaced. Phil Stockman, the big hard-throwing† righty should be the first to get the call. After rehabbing from hamstring surgery this offseason, Stockman got a late start in Richmond but has been nothing short of amazing. In 6 innings, Stockman has given up one hit, one walk, and struck out six. I assume a couple more outings by Stockman, and Villareal is headed to Richmond with Moylan showing he can handle long-relief duties. Devine is another guy who could be in Atlanta soon. He has held hitters to under a .200 BAA with a 2.45 ERA and good strikeout numbers but his command, which has been his Achilles Heel, hasn't been as good as the Braves would like.† He will have to make his way through Richmond before he gets the call. Macay McBride actually started yesterday, but the explanation is that they want to get him multiple innings of work at a time. While he wasn't dominant, McBride didn't walk anyone either, which is a good sign. Blaine Boyer will certainly be up this year but he won't even get a chance to get some work in at Richmond until early May as he is recovering from his oblique strain.
Major-league ready starters are much less abundant in the Braves farm system, but there are a couple options. Lance Cormier, even though he felt some discomfort in his right triceps in his first rehab start, will make another rehab start for Richmond and probably would get the call around then. That replaces one of the two; Redman is just awful, but Davies needs to go back down and work on his command and confidence. An option that some thought might force his way on by the end of the season, could get a look earlier. Matt Harrison, the Braves' top pitching prospect has not put together solid overall numbers, but one improvement that I think could make for a successful transition to the majors is his groundballs. After allowing about one fly out for every ground out last year, he is allowing only one fly out to every three ground outs now.
I think that a little later into the season, the Braves are going to be forced to move one of the infield prospects for a reliable starter but Schuerholz doesn't need to make any moves to shore up the pen.