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Pipeline Inbox: Is it surprising Braves didn't protect Martin?

Jonathan Mayo responds to fans' questions about baseball's top future stars
MLB.com @JonathanMayo

While it might seem like this is "down" time in baseball, with awards season and the Arizona Fall League come and gone, it's been anything but dull, especially from the MLBPipeline.com perspective.

There have been a number of trades involving Top 20 prospects in the past week or so as teams were maneuvering to maximize space on their 40-man rosters (while also obviously trying to improve their organizations). Thursday night was the deadline to protect any eligible prospects on the 40-man or fear losing them in December's Rule 5 Draft.

While it might seem like this is "down" time in baseball, with awards season and the Arizona Fall League come and gone, it's been anything but dull, especially from the MLBPipeline.com perspective.

There have been a number of trades involving Top 20 prospects in the past week or so as teams were maneuvering to maximize space on their 40-man rosters (while also obviously trying to improve their organizations). Thursday night was the deadline to protect any eligible prospects on the 40-man or fear losing them in December's Rule 5 Draft.

In a sanitized version of Crash Davis' famous line during the mound conference scene in "Bull Durham": We're dealing with a lot of stuff. This week's Inbox attempts to sort some of that stuff out.

Are you surprised the Braves chose not to protect Cody Martin and J.R. Graham?
- Shashank B., Washington, D.C.

Every team obviously has its own reasoning for the decisions it makes regarding who to give coveted 40-man roster spots. With the additions Atlanta made on Thursday, the roster is at 40, so clearly open slots were at a premium. Seven players, including the recently acquired Tyrell Jenkins, were added to the roster on Thursday. Martin, the Braves' No. 11 prospect, and Graham, ranked 13th, were left on the outside looking in, and can now be taken by any team in the Rule 5, provided the team has roster space for the move.

I don't have trouble understanding why Graham was left off. Sure, he looked like he was on the precipice of being a big league starter after his breakout 2012 season. But his shoulder injury in May 2013 forced him to miss the rest of the 2013 season and he threw just 71 1/3 innings this past year. They weren't particularly effective innings, either, and he moved to the bullpen near the end of the year. That might be a better spot for him and perhaps a team could give him a chance to win a relief job with a Rule 5 pick, but his injury history makes that less likely.

Martin's stuff isn't as good as Graham's when the latter is healthy, but he certainly knows how to pitch. He finished sixth in the International League in ERA (3.52) and in innings pitched (156), showing outstanding pitchability and durability. His stuff largely grades out as average across the board, but he knows how to use all of his weapons. So yes, I'm a little surprised he didn't warrant a spot and if I were a team that needed pitching, I'd take him and give him a chance to win a No. 5 spot in a rotation in the spring.

Video: Pitcher Graham bouncing back from shoulder injury

Are the pitchers the Tigers sent to Texas for Joakim Soria better than the ones the Braves got for Jason Heyward? I say yes.
- David K., Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

In July, the Tigers sent Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel to the Rangers to get Soria. The Braves traded Heyward (and Jordan Walden) to the Cardinals and received Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins in return. Figuring out which pitching tandem is better may take a while, as we have to wait to see exactly what Thompson and Jenkins become, but I'll take a stab at it and say I disagree with your assessment.

Let's start by comparing Thompson and Jenkins, the two arms who have yet to pitch in the big leagues. Thompson, the Rangers' No. 6 prospect, is clearly ahead of Jenkins, now No. 7 on the Braves' Top 20. Jenkins has had some injury issues, but is coming off a very strong showing in the Arizona Fall League against much better competition than he's ever faced. Comparing their grades shows there's not a whole lot separating them:

Thompson: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50
Jenkins: Fastball: 65 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 45 | Overall: 50

I think it would be safe to say that Jenkins has a slightly higher ceiling while Thompson's likelihood of starting in the big leagues is greater. If you want to give Thompson a slight edge, I'm OK with that.

Video: Mayo on Braves acquiring pitching prospect Jenkins

The separator is the Knebel-Miller comparison. Knebel, No. 7 on the Rangers' list, has a great arm, with a fastball that touches 98 mph. He misses a ton of bats (12.3 K/9) and I have no doubt he'll pitch in a big league bullpen full-time in the very near future. But outside of his pro debut after being drafted in 2013, he hasn't closed games in the Minors, either with the Tigers or the Rangers. So we're looking at a setup man in the future.

That's nothing to sneeze at, but Miller has two full seasons of big league starting under his belt already, and he's only two years older than Knebel. Were they uneven years at times? Sure, but there's a lot to work with there. At the very worst, you're looking at a workhorse of a No. 3 starter. To me, you combine that with the potential upside of Jenkins, and the Braves tandem wins this argument.

There appears to be a wide range of opinion on Devon Travis. What did your shop see that you liked?

- Luc L, Winnipeg, MB

First, Luc, I like that you call MLBPipeline our "shop." Has a nice ring to it. I can't speak for our entire shop, but I find it hard not to like Travis. I think some of the varying opinion came from not necessarily believing his 2013 breakout season, where he hit .351 across two levels of A-ball to finish third in the Minors in batting average. People wanted to see him do it again at a higher level.

To some, he didn't quite do that in 2014 with the big move up to Double-A. But to be fair to the second baseman now ranked No. 9 on the Blue Jays' Top 20, he missed more than a month with an oblique injury right at the start of the season. He certainly started slowly and was hitting just .236/.253/.361 at the end of May, a span covering just 17 games because of the injury. Then Travis did what he does best: hit. He put up a .309/.364/.526 line in June then followed it up with a .328/.396/.445 July before finishing with .296/.374/.481 in August. His .298 final average still put him in the Eastern League's top 10.

I don't want to oversell Travis -- we did put him at No. 9 on Toronto's list for a reason. But he can really hit, knows how to get on base, and will even steal a base here and there. He's also a solid defender at second. Guys who can hit find their way into lineups and I still believe Travis can be a big league regular at second base.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Atlanta Braves, Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers