With raw power and excellent off-speed stuff, rookie RHP David Hale could become a major bullpen asset for the Braves in 2014. Photo: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

2014 MLB players to watch: Atlanta Braves RHP David Hale

The 2013 season was a rough one for the Atlanta Braves. If not for an April 4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, the Braves would have held first place in the National League East from wire-to-wire. Yet, the season was still hard to swallow for Braves fans after a 3-1 series loss in the Division Series round of the 2013 playoffs. But with spring training just weeks away, fans are looking toward the future. And when they look towards that future, what do they see? They see a typical Braves roster built on strong, young pitchers like RHP David Hale.

Taken in the third round of the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft, Hale heads into spring training with an outside chance of making the Braves rotation. While he’ll more than likely make the team as a long reliever and extra starter, he has the talent to make a significant impact out of the bullpen.

Hale made his MLB debut September 13 against the San Diego Padres and immediately made a name for himself. Despite failing to get a decision in the 4-3 Atlanta loss, Hale pitched five scoreless innings with nine strikeouts and yielded just four hits and a walk. Twelve days later, he fanned five Phillies in six innings to earn his first big league win. While that closed the door for him in 2013, it gave a glimpse of what Hale is capable of. It also showed veteran catcher Brian McCann what Hale is made of. After catching the rookie, McCann went on record as saying:

I didn’t even get a chance to catch him in the spring.  But I went down there early and caught the whole bullpen, talked to him before the game, talked to him about executing and dictating the count, and he did that to a T tonight. He pounded the zone early, got ahead, then made them hit his pitch. His sinker darts all over the place.  What a debut that was.  I tip my hat to him. He came out and battled, pitched about as well as you could pitch.

As for what others have to say about Hale, Baseball America ranks him the #7 prospect in the organization. According to a few scouting reports, Hale has raw power and talent that will rely on the effectiveness of a great slider and changeup. Like the many Braves pitchers before him, he has an opportunity to outsmart his opponents. With well-placed off-speed and breaking pitches, his fastball will seem even faster to opposing hitters.

2014 projection

While Hale may only get a handful of starts in 2014, expect him to get a nice chunk of innings. He could end up with around 10 starts and 95 innings pitched, and I believe Braves management would be thrilled with this. It wouldn’t tax his arm, but would get enough use out of him that he’d gain significant MLB experience. If things go right, he could have a 3.50 ERA with 85 strikeouts and 25 walks.

Tags: 2014 MLB Players To Watch Atlanta Braves David Hale MLB MLB Prospects MLB Rookies 2014