I see Mike Minor as only a No. 4 starter. Wouldn't it make sense to trade him now to capitalize on his value before he gets too exposed? -- Brent W., Kailua, Hawaii
When the Braves were hesitant to part ways with any of their young pitching prospects before this year's Trade Deadline, I couldn't understand why they were still placing so much value on Minor. At the time, I was still evaluating him as the same guy I had seen in Spring Training and during a disastrous April start in Milwaukee.
In short, Minor seemed to be a guy who lacked confidence in his secondary pitches and his ability to compete at the Major League level.
While that assessment might have been accurate, it could be better termed as ridiculously short-sighted. By the time this season concluded, it was apparent that the most obvious thing Minor was lacking was experience.
Given the opportunity to spend most of this year's first four months gaining experience with Triple-A Gwinnett, Minor found confidence both in his secondary pitches and his ability to compete.
After watching him fill a rotation spot in Atlanta during the season's final two months, I felt like he had realized more improvement during the course of one calendar year than any other pitching prospect the Braves have had in the past decade.
Minor may never be an ace, and his ceiling might not be as high as those projected for Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado. But he's now a little more developed than either of these highly regarded prospects, giving Atlanta reason to confidently project him to begin the upcoming season in their starting rotation.
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There's always a fear that a young prospect will be exposed before a team has a chance to trade him. But my argument against trading Minor is the same one I've used against dealing Jair Jurrjens. With uncertainty surrounding Tommy Hanson's shoulder, the Braves need to keep all of their young pitchers unless they are simply blown away with a trade offer.
Why have Martin Prado and Jurrjens become expendable all of a sudden? They're both good and young. -- Ryan B., Madison, Wis.
As you've likely read over the past six weeks, there are plenty of reasons to argue that neither Prado or Jurrjens are expendable right now. The Braves need to keep all of their pitching depth, and they need to keep Prado to provide Chipper Jones a chance to experience some regular rest.
It's better to describe them as the "most tradeable" assets on Atlanta's roster. They draw interest from other clubs, and with the right return, the Braves could justify taking the gamble that would be associated with dealing either of these players.
Some of the recent rumors surrounding Prado have been ridiculous. The Braves have no need to gain another left-handed hitter, like Rockies outfielder Seth Smith, and they have never been very interested in Tigers outfielder Delmon Young. But there's no doubt Detroit and Colorado have interest in Prado.
Likewise, with limited starting pitching available on this year's free-agent market, there are a number of pitching-hungry teams that could continue to show interest in Jurrjens. But as the past couple weeks have indicated, general manager Frank Wren is not going to trade either of these players without gaining a significant return.
Wren has said he can take care of all of his offseason needs without the financial flexibility he would gain by trading Prado or Jurrjens. But at the same time, he wouldn't be doing his job if he wasn't at least evaluating what he might be able to get for any of his players that have drawn interest from other teams.
What role do you expect Kris Medlen to have next year for Atlanta? Do you see him ever being a starter again? -- Zach M., Buchanan, Tenn.
Medlen will likely begin the season in the bullpen and be available to move to the starting rotation, if necessary. He was invaluable, going 5-0 with a 3.86 ERA in 14 starts with the Braves before blowing out his elbow in August 2010.
There is no doubt that Medlen is capable of serving as a reliable starting pitcher. But there is seemingly a greater need for him to begin this upcoming season in the bullpen, where he will be able to handle the role that was reserved for Peter Moylan before his season was lost to a back injury two weeks into 2011.
With Medlen, Arodys Vizcaino, Eric O'Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta has a chance to have one of the game's top bullpens next year.
Are the Braves going to give John Smoltz the respect he deserves and retire his number? -- Brian E., Griffin, Ga.
There's no doubt that Smoltz's No. 29 will soon sit beside the already-retired numbers of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Bobby Cox. The only question is whether it will happen in the summer of 2012 or '13.
Smoltz and John Schuerholz obviously stand as the next two inductees to the Braves Hall of Fame. But like Maddux, Glavine and Cox, both deserve to have this special event solely reserved to celebrate what they have done for the organization.
So I would expect one to be inducted next summer and the other the following summer. If they were inducted at the same time, there would certainly be something comical about the fact that Smoltz would be sharing the attention of this special event with the man he once referred to as "the homeboy upstairs."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.