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Inbox: Will Braves deal top pitching prospects?

Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers fans' questions
MLB.com @mlbbowman

There are so many rumors about trading some of the top Minor League pitchers. Why not be patient and see if they turn into the next Steve Avery, Tom Glavine or John Smoltz? We don't want another Adam Wainwright or Alex Wood type of trade.
-- Oscar V., Waterford, Calif.

It must be remembered that the Braves are in a much different position than they were during the Wainwright and Wood trades, and courtesy of their deep pitching crop, they have insurance that didn't exist when those deals were made.

There are so many rumors about trading some of the top Minor League pitchers. Why not be patient and see if they turn into the next Steve Avery, Tom Glavine or John Smoltz? We don't want another Adam Wainwright or Alex Wood type of trade.
-- Oscar V., Waterford, Calif.

It must be remembered that the Braves are in a much different position than they were during the Wainwright and Wood trades, and courtesy of their deep pitching crop, they have insurance that didn't exist when those deals were made.

When Atlanta traded Wainwright in the J.D. Drew deal before the 2004 season, it was left with Bubba Nelson, Dan Meyer, Kyle Davies and Anthony Lerew as its top starting pitching prospects. Given how their careers developed, it's pretty easy to say that group doesn't compare to the Braves' current one. But for now, let's remember Nelson and Meyer were both considered Top 100 prospects when the deal was done.

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Atlanta has six pitchers -- Kolby Allard, Kyle Wright, Mike Soroka, Ian Anderson, Luiz Gohara and Joey Wentz -- listed among MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects. Anderson and Wentz are the only members of this group who likely won't be considered candidates for the Braves' rotation this year.

Who will fill Braves' final rotation spots?

Video: Top Prospects: Kyle Wright, RHP, Braves

To gain a quality return, a team must part ways with value, and pitching prospects certainly hold significant value. This is the first time Atlanta has had this much quality starting-pitching depth in its system since the late 1980s, when Derek Lilliquist was consistently considered a better pitching prospect than Smoltz.

Lilliquist made his Major League debut in 1989, and he was traded to the Padres midway through the following season for reliever Mark Grant. Had then-general manager Bobby Cox known exactly how things were going to pan out for Avery, Smoltz, Glavine, Kent Mercker and Pete Smith, he might have pulled the trigger a year or two earlier and gained a more significant return for Lilliquist.

As GM Alex Anthopoulos attempts to upgrade different areas of his team over the next year, he'll look to deal from his team's area of strength, which is obviously starting-pitching prospects. It's never easy to deal young starting pitchers, but it's a lot easier to do so when depth in that department provides the insurance the Braves possess.

Video: Top Prospects: Luiz Gohara, LHP, Braves

Why did Mauricio Cabrera stay at the Minor League level throughout the 2017 season?
-- Mark C., Manilla, Philippines

Those who were aware of the control problems Cabrera has had throughout much of his pro career had reason to be skeptical about his attempt to extend the success he had in 2016, when he posted a 2.82 ERA and issued 19 walks over 38 1/3 innings for Atlanta. But I don't think anybody expected him to spend the entire '17 season in the Minors, let alone experience a midseason demotion to Double-A Mississippi.

Cabrera struggled to find consistency with his mechanics during Spring Training, and he just never found a groove. There is still some hope that he and his 100-mph heater might return to the Majors. But for now, I don't think anybody is assuming he'll find a spot on the Opening Day roster.

When will the Braves get another catcher like Brian McCann, who hit for power, was a clutch hitter and controlled the pitching staff?
-- James P., Hampton, Ga.

As the Braves prepare to induct Tim Hudson and Joe Simpson into the team's Hall of Fame this weekend, let's look at why McCann will be getting this same honor once he retires. While playing nine seasons (2005-13) for Atlanta, McCann posted a .277/.350/.473 slash line and hit 176 home runs. His .823 OPS in that span ranked second among all Major League catchers, trailing only former Yankee Jorge Posada (.841). (While serving as a catcher, McCann tallied more than 1,800 more plate appearances than Posada during that time period.)

Video: SD@ATL: McCann belts his 20th home run of the year

Simply put, guys like McCann don't grow on trees, and developing a top-notch homegrown catcher might be one of the most difficult challenges teams face on an annual basis. So as questions continue to linger about Alex Jackson's capability of developing into a big league catcher, there is certainly reason for the Braves to continue evaluating the possibility of acquiring J.T. Realmuto and other legit backstops who could provide stability at the position over the next few years.

Do Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair still have a future with Altanta?
-- David F., Rock Hill, S.C.

While it might be best for Wisler to have a chance elsewhere, I'm sticking with my belief that the Braves should remain patient with Blair and give him a chance to prove himself as a reliever.

It's a very small sample size, but it's worth noting that in Blair's two most recent Major League appearances, he has shown great potential with his breaking ball.

Per Statcast™, the Tigers missed 39.39 percent of the curveballs Blair threw as he notched a career-best 10 strikeouts on Oct. 1, 2016. Blair didn't have much success during his only appearance last year (July 26 in Arizona), but the D-backs did swing and miss on 42.31 percent of the curveballs he threw.

Video: DET@ATL: Watch all 10 of Blair's K's in 10 seconds

Blair's long-term future as a successful starting pitcher might be in doubt, but it seems wise to at least see how he might fare when given the chance to feature that curveball one inning at a time.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves