Starting pitching has long been an area of strength for the Atlanta Braves and that trend doesn't seem likely to end any time soon. The Braves have a great crop of right handed starting pitchers coming up the pipeline, and this second half of the top 10 includes a number of players who had great 2012 campaigns, though most of them may eventually end up in the bullpen.
6. Cody Martin: B: R, T: R, Ht: 6'2", Wt: 210, DOB: 9-4-89
The Braves selected Martin in the 7th round out of Gonzaga in 2011 and he turned in a fine debut season, posting a 1.08 ERA, a 0.75 WHIP, 13.2 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, and 9.8 K/BB in 33.1 innings over 22 relief appearances between Rookie level Danvile and Low A Rome. He moved into the rotation with High A Lynchburg in 2012 and flourished, earning a 12-7 record, a 2.93 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP, 10.3 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, and 3.6 K/BB in 107.1 innings over 22 games, 19 starts, before being shut down in July after reaching his innings limit for the season.
Martin's thick and sturdy frame combined with his bulldog mentality makes him an imposing presence on the mound. He has a very good fastball that sits in the 92-94 range with late movement and he throws a slurvy slider that works between 70-75 and can be used as an effective strikeout pitch when he has a feel for it. His best pitch is his cutter, which sits in the mid-80s and looks like a fastball coming out of his hand. It's a dominating pitch for him, and the reason he's been able to rack up big strikeout totals as a professional. Martin works best when he can limit himself to a fastball-cutter combo and save the slider for show, which is why he may end up moving back to the bullpen down the line.
While Martin's future may lie in the bullpen, his results as a starter were outstanding, and the Braves will give him every opportunity to thrive out of the rotation. At 23 years old, he's about as close to a finished product as you can find in the system, and while he'll begin 2012 in AA Mississippi's rotation, there's a very real chance that he finishes the year in Atlanta's bullpen.
7. Navery Moore: B: R, T: R, Ht: 6'2", Wt: 212, DOB: 8-10-90
Moore, a college teammate of fellow Braves Mike Minor and Mark Lamm at Vanderbilt, signed late after the team selected him in the 14th round in 2011 and didn't make his professional debut until this season, putting up a 8-3 record, a 3.86 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP, 7.4 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, and 1.9 K/BB in 102.2 innings for Rome. His maturity was on full display this year, as he was able to maintain his consistency despite the inconsistency in his role. He began the year in the rotation, then moved into the bullpen, working in tandem with 2012 2nd rounder Alex Wood, then moving back into the rotation late in the season. In 65.1 innings over 13 starts, he had a 3.44 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, and 2 K/BB and in 37.1 innings over 13 relief appearances he had a 4.58 ERA, a 1.31 WHIP, 7 K/9, 4.3 BB/9, and 1.6 K/BB.
Moore was Vanderbilt's closer and possessed a high 90s fastball before undergoing Tommy John surgery. The heat isn't all the way back, though he was hitting the mid-90s again by the end of the season. More importantly, Moore was learning how to control his fastball and pitch more effectively by taking a bit off and throwing more consistently in the 91-93 range. His secondary pitches, a curveball and a changeup, are solid, but not above average, which further leads to the belief that Moore will eventually end up back in the bullpen. He does enjoy the routine of being a starter, and given his success this year, the team will certainly give him every chance to succeed in that role. To be a Major League starter, he's going to have to turn his secondary pitches into weapons.
At worst, Moore looks like he'll be a dynamite Major League reliever, but with his work ethic and natural leadership abilities, he could develop into a very solid starter. He'll get another crack at the rotation with Lynchburg as a 22 year old in 2013, and he could work his way up to Atlanta some time in 2014.
8. Abraham Espinosa: B: R, T: R, Ht: 6'1", Wt 175, DOB: 6-3-93
The Braves signed Espinosa as an international free agent out of Panama and he spent 2010 and 2011 playing in the Dominican Summer League, combining to put up a 7-7 record, a 1.75 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP, 6.9 K/9, 1.5 BB/9, and 4.7 K/BB in 128.2 innings over 28 games, 20 starts. He made his US debut this season in the Gulf Coast League, earning a 3-6 record, a 3.80 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP, 7 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, and 2.5 K/BB in 47.1 innings over 11 games, 8 starts.
Espinosa isn't a flame thrower, instead working with a fastball that sits in the low 90s and advanced secondary pitches, including a changup, a slider, and an evolving curveball. At 19, he's still incredibly raw, but the Braves have been more successful than any team at pulling talent out of Panama over the years, and Espinosa is at roughly the same developmental stage fellow countryman Randall Delgado was at the same age.
Espinosa will get his first of full season ball in 2013 as he moves up to Rome, likely working in a tandem with another young pitcher. It will be a surprise if he doesn't struggle, but he has as much potential as any of the young arms in the Braves system and the team will have no trouble being patient and letting him develop at his own pace.
9. Aaron Northcraft: B: R, T: R, Ht: 6'4", Wt: 225, DOB: 5-28-90
The Braves drafted Northcraft out of high school in the 10th round in 2009 and he turned in solid years in 2009 and 2010, but really seemed to flourish in 2011 with Rome, posting a 7-8 record, a 3.34 ERA, a 1.32 WHIP, 7 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, and 2.2 K/BB in 113.1 innings over 23 games, 19 starts. This season, he was one of the best pitchers in the Carolina League for Lynchburg, leading the league with 160 strikeouts while putting up a 10-11 record, a 3.98 ERA, a 1.29 WHIP, 9.5 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, and 3 K/BB in 151.2 innings over 27 starts.
Northcraft utilizes a low 3/4 delivery and throws a diving fastball that sits between 89 and 91. He also employs a sweeping slider, but his best pitch is his sinker, which is unhittable when he's in a groove. He's been an effective groundball pitcher and his low-stress delivery allows him to eat up innings. He's getting better every year, as his strikeout rates have kept going up and hit hit and walk rates have kept going down. As a prospect, he's a bit boring, he's big and sturdy without any real question marks in his repertoire, but he also doesn't wow on the radar gun. Still, he has the kind of talent and consistency that teams crave, and seems well on his way to becoming a useful Major League arm.
Whether he develops into a back of the rotation innings eater or a bullpen specialist, Northcraft was a great find for the Braves scouting department, and his development as a player is a testament to their Minor League coaching. He'll move up to AA Mississippi in 2013 as a 22 year old, and it will be a huge test for his future. With another solid year, Northcraft could find himself in Atlanta's pitching plans for the 2014 season.
10. Gus Schlosser: B: R, T: R: Ht; 6'4", Wt: 220, DOB: 10-20-88
After the Braves selected Schlosser in the 17th round in 2011 out of Florida Southern College he had a dominant debut, putting up a 1.56 ERA, a 0.81 WHIP, 10.9 K/9, 1.3 BB/9, and 8.4 K/BB in 34.2 innings over 21 relief appearances between Danville and Rome. He moved to the rotation for Lynchburg this season and was named the Carolina League Pitcher Of The Year, leading the lead with 13 wins and 165.1 innings, posting a 3.38 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, and 4.2 K/BB over 27 starts.
As a sidearmer, Schlosser's success as a starter is hardly typical, which leads many to believe that he'll end up back in the bullpen. His stuff is only average, he uses both a two-seam and a four-seam fastball, with both sitting in the low 90s and the two-seamer acting like a cutter, and he compliments them with a diving, biting slider and a changup, though the change is his weakest pitch and he typically only uses it for show. Schlosser is an intelligent and meticulous pitcher, and he gets the most out of his pitches by coming in with a solid game plan, executing it well, and utilizing well above average control. He has a huge, strong body, and his sidearm delivery causes almost no stress on his arm, so he should have no problem with being durable if he can remain in the rotation. Even if he ends up in the bullpen, there's little doubt that his sidearm delivery, bulldog mentality, and rigid control would make him a successful reliever.
Schlosser will be 24 during the 2013 season, and given his success at High A in 2012, there's a very good chance he could skip over AA and begin the season with AAA Gwinnett. Regardless of where he starts, with a good season he could find himself pitching out of Atlanta's bullpen late in the year, and could force his way on to the staff for good in 2014.