Braves beat reporter Mark Bowman participated in a live web chat with fans on Thursday. During the chat, he answered questions about rookie shortstop Tyler Pastornicky, fans' concerns about a lack of offense and whether outfielder Jason Heyward will rebound from a difficult sophomore season.
Mark Bowman: Good morning from sunny Florida. It's early in the Grapefruit League season. But there is plenty to talk about. Send your questions now.
wilburn7: If Martin Prado and Jair Jurrjens both have a good first half of the season, could you see one or both of them being traded?
Mark Bowman: Depends on where the Braves are in the standings and how confident the team is in the depth of the rotation when June and July arrive. If Tim Hudson is fine and Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado live up to expectations, Jurrjens would be the more likely player to be moved. Either way, at least one of these guys will likely be playing elsewhere by the start of the 2013 season.
wingatsm: Do you think Heyward will make big strides in his third year in the Majors?
Mark Bowman: Heyward worked hard during the offseason to make changes and now he and all involved will have to be patient. He's healthy and confident that he has fixed the mechanics of his swing. But results are not realized overnight. He will get a lot of at-bats over the next couple of weeks. Don't judge the early results as much as the ones he produces during the last week of March.
turner95jj: Mark, say Pastornicky struggles at shortstop. Where do the Braves go from there?
Mark Bowman: Patience also needs to be shown with Pastornicky. He probably would have benefited from more time in the Minors. If he struggles, the Braves have a solid option with Andrelton Simmons, who has impressed teammates, scouts and many others over the past couple weeks. Some have opined the Braves should start the season with Simmons at short. But it's in his best interest from a developmental standpoint to spend at least half this year compiling plate appearances at the Minor League level. If he is forced to come up early, he can do the job in the eighth spot of the lineup. But it's best to give him a little more time in the Minors.
AsphaltCowboy816: If you had to project a rotation right now, who would it be, and who goes down when Huddy's back?
Mark Bowman: Entering the season, I'd project the rotation to be: Tommy Hanson, Jurrjens, Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor, Delgado. Delgado would be the guy to get bumped when Hudson returns (possibly in early May). If Teheran and Delgado extend their struggles throughout this month, Kris Medlen will be ready to fill that fifth spot at the beginning of the season.
StaffACE: Do you think Brian McCann will be given an extension this year or will they wait until next year and risk paying him more money later?
Mark Bowman: I think Yadier Molina's five-year, $75 million contract probably wiped out the likelihood of McCann getting an extension this year. Even before Molina signed his deal, the thought was McCann could get $17 million to $20 million a year when he hits the free-agent market after the 2013 season. This kind of offer will likely come from an American League club that could feel comfortable giving him a four- or five-year deal with the understanding that he will save his legs by frequently serving as a designated hitter. It would be tough for the Braves to offer this kind of money to a 30-year-old catcher. It would be a great story if McCann could play his entire career in Atlanta. But there might be some offers elsewhere that he can't refuse.
justin3b: At what point do we begin to worry about the Braves' offense? I understand it's early in Spring Training, but the offense has picked up where it left off last year. It is Spring Training, but I don't like losing any time. I love the Braves, but they really need more runs.
Mark Bowman: You're right, now is not the time to worry about the offense. Nor should you be excited if the Braves had spent this week putting up impressive offensive numbers. McCann looks good at the plate and Prado has hit some balls hard. As I said in response to the Heyward question, let the guys make their preparations now and evaluate the results you see later this month.
turner95jj: Mark, digging deep into depth charts, starting rotations, bullpens and team chemistry, are the Nationals and the Marlins a serious threat in the National League East?
Mark Bowman: There's no doubt. The Nationals are much better than they were at this point last year and you could have said that even before they added Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson to the rotation. Remember that bullpen you saw them use against the Braves during the last weekend of the 2010 season? The Nats are moving in the right direction, and the Marlins obviously have plenty of reason to be excited about a lineup that now includes Jose Reyes and a pitching staff that now includes Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell. With all of those personalities in Ozzie Guillen's clubhouse, the Marlins could be their own worst enemy. Or they could prove to be one of the NL's best teams.
justin3b: How have the players taken to our new hitting coach? What if anything is being done differently?
Mark Bowman: The noticeable difference is the interaction. It just seemed non-existent last year with Larry Parrish. Greg Walker and Scott Fletcher gained immediate respect from the players and they have spent countless hours working with Heyward and the rest of the players.
ChipChopChip: Does Joe Terdoslavich have a chance at getting called up later this year if he continues to rake? If so, I can't wait to see what the guys who dress up as "McCann's Cans" come up with.
Mark Bowman: Terdoslavich is going to hit. That could earn him a call to the Majors late this season. But looking at his long-term future, the focus should be on how he handles the move back to the third-base position. If he proves he can play the position, you have to think he will end up being Chipper Jones' successor at third base.
Lueds20: With Michael Bourn and Pastornicky locked into the one and eight slots, how do you see the middle shaping up?
Mark Bowman: Projected lineup: Bourn, Prado, Chipper, McCann, Dan Uggla, Freddie Freeman, Heyward, Pastornicky. With the left-handed-heavy mix, manager Fredi Gonzalez may need to do some mixing and matching to prevent clubs from having an advantage in the late innings with a relief specialist. He could also alter the lineup frequently based on whether the opponent is starting a left-hander or right-hander. You also have to remember the middle of the lineup will change frequently as Jones and McCann will both likely rest at least one game per week.
Lueds20: Do you see Robert Fish on the 25-man roster or see him getting returned to the Angels?
Mark Bowman: Gonzalez has said it would be his preference to begin the year with a left-handed specialist in his bullpen. Robert Fish and Luis Avilan are top candidates for this role. But if Medlen is in the 'pen, his ability to neutralize left-handed hitters with his changeup might negate the need for a left-handed specialist.
ColoradoBravesFan: How has Pastornicky looked so far this spring? Does he seem as though he will be able to handle shortstop defensively?
Mark Bowman: There were concerns about his defense entering camp, and the first week has not necessarily eased those concerns. But you have to remember he has plenty of reason to be nervous. He's making a big jump to the Majors and preparing to play significant defensive role.
wingatsm: Who's the next under-the-radar prospect (like Beachy) to break into the Majors with the Braves?
Mark Bowman: It's hard to tell. Remember just two years ago, most of you had never even heard of Beachy. Some of you have likely heard of Ernesto Mejia, the power-hitting first baseman who played at Mississippi last year. He's a little older and blocked by Freeman. But keep your eye on him.
Mark Bowman: I'm going to take two more questions. Thank you for participating this morning. We'll do this again soon.
crimedog1480: Top three non-roster invitees to make the roster from what you've seen?
Mark Bowman: Drew Sutton or Josh Wilson will begin the year as the backup infielder and stay in that role until Jack Wilson returns some time in April. Simmons and Terdoslavich are also non-roster invitees. Going off the board, I'd go with Jordan Parraz, who can play each of the three outfield positions. Durango is interesting with his speed, but he's basically the same guy as Jose Constanza.
Gobraves53: Do you see the Braves re-signing/extending Bourn's contract?
Mark Bowman: No. Scott Boras knows there will be a market for his client when he is eligible for free agency at the end of this year. You have to think he'll be looking for a five-year deal, and the Braves are not going to commit that long to a speed guy who will be 30 years old at the start of the contract.
Mark Bowman: Thanks again for participating today. Like I said, we'll do this again soon.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.