The Shanks Report - March 7

Here's the latest from Braves Spring Training at Disney.

* Sources have told The Braves that a trade involving Scott Thorman this spring is very possible. The Braves are considering their other options for first base, including Mark Kotsay (28 games in his career), Brayan Pena (22 games at first in AAA last season), Matt Diaz (2 games there last year), and Joe Borchard (1 game). Thorman is out of options, so the Braves are having to make a decision on him. Pena is also out of options, but with his time at first and his ability to be a third catcher he could have more value than Thorman. What could the Braves get for Thorman? Maybe a reliever?

* I'm going to take a wait-and-see attitude with Mike Hampton. Certainly there is concern and he has to prove he can be ready to go, but the main thing with him is that arm. As long as the arm can produce 20 or more starts, the Braves are going to be better off this season.

* The element of speed is something that we could see on this Atlanta roster this season. Brent Lillibridge and Josh Anderson both stole over 40 bases last season in the minor leagues. The Braves really haven't speed as a factor since Rafael Furcal left two years ago.

* Last year it was Willie Harris, a six-year free agent signed over the winter who wound up making an impact on the Braves' season. Could Joe Borchard be that player this season? He is making a strong case for a spot on the Atlanta bench with a .455 (5-11) batting average and 8 runs batted in. Borchard is a power hitting switch-hitter, which may make him even more attractive to the Braves. He's played only one game at first base in his career, but could Borchard be a backup option at first if the team decides to trade Scott Thorman? The Braves worked Borchard out there on Friday morning, and it was obvious he hasn't played the position much at all in his career.

* Chuck James threw a bullpen session and live batting practice on Wednesday and again felt very good. We'll see if the Braves move him up from his scheduled spring debut of next Thursday. Since there will be only two weeks left in camp once James does pitch for the first time, it's unlikely he'll be ready to break with the team. But if he continues to feel good, what's going to happen in April if Jair Jurrjens is pitching well and James wants his job back?

* Gonzolo Lopez threw a live batting practice on Thursday morning and continues to look very good this spring. The ball is flying out of his hand. Lopez probably has one of the easiest deliveries in this camp. He's got a chance to make the Mississippi or Myrtle Beach rotation.

* Speaking of the Mississippi rotation, we have talked a lot about what the Richmond rotation might look like with the trickle down from Atlanta. But the Double-A rotation might be pretty strong as well. James Parr is having a good camp. He could be the ace of the staff. Parr is a good candidate to have a breakout season. Jairo Cuevas is in big league camp and he'll be in Mississippi. Dustin Evans and Jonny Venters have a good shot at going to Double-A. And Kelvin Villa will probably return to Pearl.

* The Braves have infielder John Nelson in minor league camp. Nelson played in Memphis and Iowa last season. He got some big league time in 2006 with St. Louis, playing in eight games and going 0-for-5. Nelson is mainly a shortstop, but he played first and third last season and has also seen time in the outfield.

* The more I see of Gorkys Hernandez, the more I realize why the Braves wanted him in the Edgar Renteria deal. He's got a body that is going to mature, but his swing is very solid and you can see the power being generated right now. I've also seen him run and the kid can fly. He's a legit prospect and it's going to be fun to see how he performs in the Carolina League this summer.

* Minor league pitchers primed for a Charlie Morton-like breakout season in 2008: James Parr, Jeff Lyman, and Mike Broadway.

* The buzz on pitcher Julio Teheran is very similar to when Elvis Andrus first showed up on the Disney fields back in 2005. He's attracting a lot of attention. Thursday when Teheran threw a bullpen session Frank Wren, Bruce Manno, and two other front office folks were on hand to watch, along with every single pitching coach in the system. Teheran wasn't fazed one bit and had another outstanding performance. This kid is special and it will be fun to see how he fares this season.

Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can be heard on 680 the Fan in Atlanta and 105.5 the Fan in Macon. Email Bill at

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