What to do with Hanson and Schafer?
In a little more than a week, the Braves will announce where Jordan Schafer and Tommy Hanson will begin the season. Despite the fact that he has the potential to end the season as the most talented member of their starting rotation, Hanson will likely begin the season with Triple-A Gwinnett.
Hesitance to start Hanson’s arbitration clock serves as only one the reasons the Braves will likely send him to the Minors to begin the year. The 22-year-old right-hander stands as one the key factors to the organization’s bright future, which extends far beyond the first two months of this season.
If Hanson were to begin the season as Atlanta’s fifth starter, he would be scheduled to make two starts in April and four more in May. While with Gwinnett, he’d have the opportunity to make five April starts and then further his maturation process with six May starts.
By the time June arrives, the temptation to bring him to Atlanta will be too great and his days in the Minors will come to a close.
While providing this regular schedule, the Braves would also be able to limit Hanson’s innings without worrying about how early exits might affect the team’s record. Hanson has never thrown more than 138 innings during a professional season and just 18 of his starts have occurred above the Class A level.
With five starters in place in Atlanta and Jo-Jo Reyes seemingly capable to provide assistance in Atlanta if needed during the season’s first two months, it makes sense to protect Hanson during the early months and hope that this decision provides dividends when he could make his greatest contributions during the final months and weeks of this season.
This appears to be the approach the Rays are taking with David Price, who is the only pitcher rated as a greater prospect by Baseball America. The Rays had enough faith in Price to use him in clutch situations during last year’s American League Championship Series and World Series.
But they also recognize the value of allowing him to encounter a natural maturation process and thus it looks like the prized left-hander will also begin this season in the International League.
With Schafer, the Braves have reason to possess a different mindset. The 22-year-old outfielder has provided every indication that he’s the best option to begin this season as the every day center fielder.
In addition, he’s given reason to believe that he’s the best option to use as a leadoff hitter. In comparison to Josh Anderson, he will provide a greater on-base percentage, much beter pop and comparable baserunning skills.
From both an offensive and defensive standpoint, Schafer appears to be much more valuable than Anderson or Gregor Blanco. And the fact that he could provide daily contributions provides the reason why the Braves should be much less reluctant to start his arbitration clock ahead of schedule.
While Hanson might only make 10 starts during the season’s first two months, Schafer could impact games on a much more frequent basis. The five-tool outfielder has the ability to be a difference maker and the decision to keep him in the Minors for the season’s first two months could prove to be the difference if the Braves were to come up just a few games short in a postseason race.
With this being said, I won’t be surprised if the Braves start the season with Anderson in center. He’s out of options and there are some in the organization who believe Schafer could benefit from a few more months of Minor League seasoning.
The Braves could ultimately decide to begin the season with Anderson and Matt Diaz serving as their backup outfielders. But to do this, they’d likely have to send Martin Prado to the Minors and I don’t think they’re in a position where it would make sense to start the year with Omar Infante as the only backup infielder.
Nor do I think they should even contemplate parting ways with Greg Norton. Over the course of an entire season, his pinch-hitting skills would prove more valuable than whatever Josh Anderson might provide until Schafer is deemed ready.
If Garret Anderson isn’t ready to begin the season, the Braves could begin the year with Josh Anderson, Matt Diaz, Schafer and Jeff Francoeur as their outfielders.
Or they could prevent having to send Josh Anderson through waivers by opting to begin the season with a roster that includes an 11-man pitching staff and five outfielders (G. Anderson, J. Anderson, Schafer, Francoeur and Diaz) That would likely mean that Tom Glavine (who isn’t scheduled to start until April 18) and Peter Moylan would begin the season on the disabled list.
There are a number of options to evaulate. But to me the most logical ones put Hanson in Gwinnett and Schafer in Atlanta to begin the year. Whatever the case, by the end of the season they’ll likely be together in Atlanta.