First up there are the D-Back Twins, Lance Cormier and Oscar Villarreal, both of whom spent time in the rotation, as well as some spot starting, last year. Cormier was 2-4 but with a 4.31 ERA in nine starts; the Vulture was 1-0, 3.50 in four. Either is likely to outpitch Davies, and with his efficiency problems he’s a five-inning pitcher just like the others. Also, there’s a looming roster crunch (likely to cause the Braves to jettison either Yates or Paronto, I know you’re all disappointed by that) which would be alleviated if Davies were sent to AAA and replaced by a reliever. Anyway, I’ll cover Cormiareal in individual entries next week.
Bobby is talking up Matt Harrison lately, even though he hasn’t officially (wink, nudge) seen him pitch yet this year. BA considers Harrison the Braves’ #3 prospect; Sickels ranks him fourth; he’s certainly the Braves’ best pitching prospect. Matt is a big lefty who started the season last year at Myrtle Beach, pitching well. After getting promoted to Mississippi, he had some rough outings but righted the ship. His strikeout rate is not what I would like considering the level, but he has great control. Control lefties fall into two categories in my experience. The ones who pitch well in the majors off the bat usually wind up getting crushed their second time through the league and spend the rest of their careers begging for scraps. The ones who struggle at first sometimes turn out to be very good… The Braves jumped Horacio from AA to the majors, and that really did work out pretty well.
Harrison is really the only “top prospect” pitcher on the upper levels of the system. Poor Anthony Lerew was humiliated in Richmond (7.48 ERA) though he pitched well after getting demoted to Mississippi. Lerew had major control issues and I think he was hurt. He did have a lot of strikeouts and was certainly hit-unlucky, but he’s going to have to reestablish himself and may end up in the pen.
The rotations in Mississippi and Greenville were, other than Harrison and Lerew, mostly made up of journeyman types; Matt Wright, the only other pitcher who could be loosely described as a prospect, has left the organization, signed away by Dayton Moore and the Royals. The rest were guys in their late twenties, players like Jason Shiell (and his wife), Daniel Curtis, and Jonathan Johnson, the last of whom is mysteriously on the 40-man roster. (I don’t know if the others are still in the organization.) Johnson, whose middle name is “Kent”, which I guess means he’s named after Superman’s father, is really really bad, a guy with a 4.65 career minor league ERA who nonetheless has gotten 77 major league innings in six different seasons, in which he has a 6.63 ERA. He must have pictures of everyone.
The Braves have brought Trey Hodges back again, though he’s not listed as an NRI on the official site. He’s been alternately hurt, ineffective, and in Japan in recent years. I am guessing that he’ll be in camp but unless he does something remarkable he has no chance. I am also guessing that if he doesn’t totally suck he will pitch in Atlanta at some point this year.
Someone could charge from the lower levels to the majors in one season, ala Kevin Millwood, but I don’t think it’s very likely to happen in March. Still, you never know.
I think that Rafael Soriano would probably be a better choice than any of these guys or really anyone else on the roster but Smoltz, but there seems little likelyhood of that.
Matt Harrison Baseball Statistics
Anthony Lerew Baseball Statistics
Jason Shiell Baseball Statistics
Daniel Curtis Baseball Statistics
Jonathan Johnson Baseball Statistics
Trey Hodges Baseball Statistics