After a spring training-long battle, the Braves have decided to resist temptation that March performances can bring and go with their original plan at shortstop, giving the nod to prospect Tyler Pastornicky, reports Adam Berry of MLB.com. Pastornicky's struggles at the plate early this spring, coupled with the excitement generated by fellow prospect Andrelton Simmons in the field, led the Braves to seriously consider going with Simmons at shortstop, despite his lack of experience above A-ball.
The Braves ultimately made the right decision, although no one expects this move to be permanent. While Pastornicky is a capable shortstop and is expected to hit more than Simmons, he's not projected to be an all-star caliber shortstop. In fact, once Simmons arrives in the majors, he should push Pastornicky into a utility role, as Pastornicky profiles to be able to handle any infield position.
The team has not yet announced where in the minors Simmons will head to begin the 2012 season, but it's hard to imagine it would be any lower than Double-A, and should Pastornicky struggle, the team could call Simmons up at any point. Neither is expected to carry themselves with their bat, but Simmons is the superior defender and if neither is going to hit, then Simmons may ultimately give the team more value this season. In fact, Carson Castulli of FanGraphs.com argues that, even though Simmons could use much more development offensively, the prime of his career could be earlier than most prospects because of the fact that most of his value is in his glove.
Pastornicky won't be the only rookie on the Braves roster. As Franklin Rabon of CapitalAvenueClub.com points out, Randall Delgado will be the team's fifth starter and is scheduled to make three starts in April. This move seems a little stranger, not because Delgado can't handle the role, but because of the existence of Kris Medlen in the Braves bullpen. Medlen, back this spring after missing the 2011 season due to Tommy John surgery, was a starter before he got injured and has more experience in the role. Delgado did have success in seven starts last season, but only went more than five innings in one of them. For a team whose bullpen wore down last season the way the Braves did, an option like Medlen, who might be able to go deeper into games, could be a better fit. Regardless, it's only three starts, so the Braves may want to see if Delgado is ready for major league action full time.
Delgado's time in the rotation could be an audition for a bullpen role later in the season, as Tim Hudson is scheduled to return to the team in mid-May, and the team recently signed Livan Hernandez as insurance for their starting rotation. Most likely, however, is that after making his starts in April, he will head back to the minors to get experience in Triple-A where he has made just four career starts.