-- Brian G., West Palm Beach, Fla.
There is always a chance a team could get to Spring Training and determine that it has to make a run at Jurrjens or another starting pitcher. But I think it's pretty safe to assume that Jurrjens and Martin Prado are going to begin this season with the Braves. This is not typically the time of year when clubs are willing to provide the kind of return Atlanta would have needed to pull the trigger on a deal regarding either of these players.
As has been mentioned since this became a topic in early November, the Braves could find themselves very thankful that they did not make a significant trade this past winter. Prado's presence will provide Chipper Jones the confidence that he can rest on a regular basis with the hope that it will allow him to remain valuable throughout the season.
Atlanta certainly has enough depth to part with one of their starting pitchers. But with the likelihood that Tim Hudson will be a few weeks behind schedule as he recovers from back surgery, there is seemingly a need for the Braves to have the experience Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson possess at the front of the rotation to begin the season.
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Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran have proven they are at least close to being ready for the Major Leagues. At some point this year, one or both of these pitchers will likely be playing a key role in Atlanta. But with Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy already projected to be a part of the rotation, I don't think it's in the club's best interest to add yet another youthful and inexperienced arm to the mix. If Jurrjens pitches well during the season's first couple months, there certainly could be reason to trade him in June or July. His stock will be higher than it is now, and each of the young pitchers would have gained a little more experience during this time.
I love to watch the hustle that Dan Uggla and Matt Diaz play with. Do any of the upcoming prospects play the game with the intensity of these two?
-- Jason M., Huntsville, Ala.
There are a number of questions surrounding Tyler Pastornicky as he prepares to make the rise to the Majors and serve as Atlanta's starting shortstop. Some fans have expressed genuine concern about his defense. Others have wondered what he might be able to provide at the plate.
Really, the only certainty surrounding him is the fact that he will bring a tremendous work ethic and blue-collar approach to the field every day. He's going to be that guy who tries to run down the first-base line in 3.5 seconds after a chopper back to the mound. And he'll make every effort to get to every ball in the hole.
Unfortunately, this does not provide any guarantees about the value he will bring the club. There is no doubt he could have benefited from a little more time in the Minor Leagues. But with virtually no financial flexibility, the Braves have been forced to take a gamble on him with the hope that he proves his doubters wrong.
With so many people raving about Christian Bethancourt, could we see Brian McCann move to another position?
-- Ed J., Louisville, Ky.
The short is answer is no. The answer some of you might not want to hear lies in the fact that McCann could choose to play elsewhere within the next couple years. The six-time All-Star catcher will make $12 million courtesy of an already-vested option for the 2013 season. From there, he will almost certainly become one of the highest-paid catchers in baseball history.
If McCann enters the free-agent market when he is eligible at the end of the 2013 season, he might find some American League teams willing to pay him in the neighborhood of $18 million per season. The Braves and some other National League teams will also show interest. But his value is obviously much greater in the AL, where he could serve as a designated hitter when he is not catching.
This does not mean the Braves will not attempt to keep McCann. They may take the proactive route by trying to lock him up this summer or next winter. Whatever the case, to keep him in Atlanta, they would have to make a significant financial commitment to a catcher who will be 30 years old by the start of the 2014 season.
The fact that the 20-year-old Bethancourt is on the horizon makes things even more interesting. He made great strides last year and impressed during the Arizona Fall League. But he still has plenty to prove as he prepares to make the big jump to the Double-A level this year.
How do you envision the Opening Day lineup looking?
-- Brian G., Lancaster, Pa.
There are a number of different ways manager Fredi Gonzalez could shape the lineup this year, and I will discuss that in next week's Inbox. But to answer your question, I'm thinking the Opening Day lineup will be: Michael Bourn, Jason Heyward, Jones, McCann, Uggla, Freddie Freeman, Prado and Pastornicky. I'll also predict Hanson to get his first Opening Day start.
Some of you are going to question why Heyward goes to the three-hole, and others are going to question why I would put him so high. There are a number of ways Gonzalez could shape his lineup this year. Let's evaluate those next week and stick with this Opening Day projection.
And I'll close with a question of my own: If Mets ace Johan Santana proves he is ready to make the Opening Day start against the Braves, doesn't Diaz have to start in left field?
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less