You have to love this time of the preseason. About 24 hours into Brandon Beachy’s reign as the Braves’ number five starter, the team could be forced to reshuffle the rotation and use Mike Minor in the spot instead. Not because of Beachy, mind you, but rather an injury to Jair Jurrjens. According to David O’Brien, Jurrjens left his start today after one inning with “discomfort in his right side”. It would be premature to suggest Minor will start the season in the major leagues, but do not the demotion fool you since Atlanta should feel comfortable with him in the rotation.
The best explanation for Beachy’s victory involves Minor’s service time. Peter Hjort of the excellent Capitol Avenue Club site pointed out on Twitter yesterday that by keeping Minor in Triple-A through early June, the team will gain an extra season of control. Some may wonder why Beachy’s service time is being handled without regard and it comes down to perceived upside. Minor seemingly has the better ceiling, so maximizing his cost and team control is more important in the long-run. In addition, Atlanta has a number of stud pitching prospects in the system, which combined with their current rotation means anyone who profiles as a back-end starter is an afterthought, even with the high attrition rates considered.
That’s not to completely write off Beachy’s chances of success either. He’s a nice story, a former undrafted free agent who spent his time at Indiana Wesleyan University playing the field and managed to catch the eyes of a Braves’ scout. Since signing with the club, Beachy has been on an accelerated developmental path, taking him from the low minors to the big leagues in an absurdly quick fashion. Along the way, Beachy did manage to briefly rock the minors with outstanding peripherals. Kevin Goldstein ranked Beachy inside of the Braves’ top 10, while praising his command and suggesting his stuff is limited.
Despite limited experience and an unusual story, PECOTA seems to think Beachy is comparable to Minor. In fact, a single point of ERA –3.77 to 3.78 in favor of Minor— separates the pair’s projections. A direct comparison of the two implies a zero-sum game, where one will be in the minors and the other in the rotation. That is unlikely to be the case throughout the season, as the pair is one injury away from being in the rotation together.
An injury to one of the other Braves’ starters seems more likely than you may expect too. The CHIPPER system sees Tim Hudson as a high risk to miss two-to-three weeks and Derek Lowe as a moderate risk. Meanwhile, Marc Normandin and Corey Dawkins singled out Tommy Hanson as someone whose workload may exceed his physical capabilities given the rotation around him. Beachey himself could even have some question marks as he attempts to top 150 innings for the first time in a professional season.
For now, Beachy is the Braves’ fifth starter. By next week, that could all change.