Okay, I admit it. When the Braves first signed Ervin Santana, the first thing I thought was, “Oh, man, they have to give up a first round draft pick!”
That might have been silly, considering how great Santana has looked in his first two starts. But that emotion was based on the lack of minor league talent I saw on the back fields at Disney. The Braves are down in the quality of prospects, at least compared to years past.
But what an addition Santana has been so far. Sure, it’s only two starts, but is there any reason to believe this guy will not continue to have a great season?
No, there’s not. He’s going to have a great season.
Santana has been an innings-eater throughout his career. He’s passed the 200-inning mark in five of his eight full seasons in the big leagues. Chances are he’ll get close to or over that level again this season as long as he stays healthy.
And that’s exactly what the Braves needed after losing Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy in spring training. They needed a veteran that could show the kids in the rotation how it’s done, and Santana has done just that so far.
They needed a leader, too, and with his experience, Santana can fill that role. Aaron Harang is older than Santana, and while he’s been terrific it’s still up in the air if he’ll even remain in the rotation after Gavin Floyd comes back next month.
That brings up another issue. If Harang continues to do well, what are the Braves going to do? It’s assumed David Hale will go to Triple-A Gwinnett once Mike Minor is ready to re-join the rotation in a couple of weeks. But the Braves signed Floyd to be in the rotation, and when he’s ready he’s probably going to get a spot.
You might think the Braves would be tempted to put Alex Wood in the bullpen, as they originally thought about doing in spring training. But Wood has been great in his first three starts, so that might be foolish.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And so far, the Braves rotation is far from broke.
We all thought it might be, after the March injuries, but through the first two weeks the rotation has the best team earned run average in baseball with a 1.80 mark. It is second in the big leagues with 10 quality starts in the first 13 games.
That’s crazy, really, considering the Braves probably weren’t sure for a few days in late March who would even fill out the rotation. Seriously, there was Wood and Julio Teheran, and they weren’t really sure after that.
But the news guys have led the way. What would you have said in early March if you knew that on April 15 the top two starters in Atlanta’s rotation would be Santana and Harang?
The rotation must stay strong, especially with the news Monday night that closer Craig Kimbrel has some shoulder issues. They are all saying right now that it’s not a big deal, but he’s Craig Kimbrel. If he doesn’t feel 100%, it’s a big deal.
We’re used to having the rotation lead the Braves, but the storyline this year is about as unpredictable as ever. Santana has been so good, even though it’s two starts, you almost wonder if the Braves will float a long-term offer in his direction. Heck, chances are if Medlen and Beachy are even back next year it will be for a cheaper price, and there’s no doubt they won’t get raises through arbitration. So the money might be there to make an investment in Santana.
In wondering who will be the Braves’ ace, perhaps they’ve found one. Santana certainly does look good so far for a team that desperately needed everything he can provide.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at email@example.com.