Atlanta's rebuilt starting rotation looks plenty strong already with Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, Jair Jurrjens, and Kenshin Kawakami filling out the first four slots, but the Braves also have one of the best pitching prospects in baseball waiting in the wings at Triple-A.
Tommy Hanson began last season with a 28-inning scoreless streak at Single-A and tossed a 14-strikeout no-hitter after a promotion to Double-A, finishing the year with a 2.41 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 138 total innings. Then he headed to the Arizona Fall League and become the first pitcher to take home MVP honors there, allowing just 10 hits in 28.2 innings while racking up 49 strikeouts in the notoriously hitter-friendly environment.
Hanson was the talk of Atlanta's camp this spring and showed flashes of his big-time potential with 18 strikeouts in 17.2 innings, but the Braves smartly decided to give the 22-year-old some additional seasoning at Triple-A. Hanson made his Triple-A debut Thursday and the 6-foot-6 right-hander flashed his mid-90s fastball while striking out 10 batters over 4.1 shutout innings.
Hanson joining the rotation could give the Braves a big boost in the second half, but if their bullpen continues to struggle perhaps getting his feet wet as a Joba Chamberlain-style late-inning reliever will also become an option.