9. How good is Tommy Hanson?

Have the Braves finally found their ace? The Braves Show's Bill Shanks has more.

Very good. Very, very good.

Can we end this article now?

Ok, we'll talk more about the kid who has a chance at the National League Rookie of the Year. Chances are he'd be the runaway winner if he had started the 2009 season in Atlanta.

Hanson was very impressive in spring training, but the Braves sent him back to the minor leagues anyway. They believed he needed a little more seasoning in Triple-A.

So he went to Gwinnett, and he dominated. In 11starts, Hanson went 3-3 with a 1.49 ERA. He allowed only 40 hits in 66.1 innings, 11 earned runs, 17 walks, and 90 strikeouts.

Here were Hanson's final minor league career statistics: 23-18, 2.52 ERA, 271 hits allowed in 389 innings, 136 walks, an 463 strikeouts.

At the end of May, Hanson was plum getting bored. In his last four minor league starts, Hanson allowed just two runs in 25.2 innings (0.70 ERA), with four walks, and 33 strikeouts.

And the Braves knew then they had to bring him up to the big leagues. Hanson debuted on June 7 against the Milwaukee Brewers, and it would turn out to be his worst start of his rookie major league season.

Hanson allowed seven runs (six earned) in six innings. He wouldn't factor into the decision in his debut. But Hanson would win his next four starts, posting an ERA of 0.78 in games against the Orioles, Reds, Yankees, and the Red Sox.

Hanson's final statistics for Atlanta: 11-4, 2.89 ERA, 105 hits allowed in 127.2 innings pitched, 41 earned runs, 46 walks, and 116 strikeouts.

If you look at his monthly totals, Hanson had five starts in each of the final four months of the season. His worst month, if you want to call it that, was July. He posted an ERA of 3.94. Not bad for being your ‘worst' month.

In late August, Hanson turned 23 years old. He is arguably the most promising major league starting pitcher in the big leagues.

It's obvious by watching Hanson that he's got electric stuff. His fastball blows by hitters. His curveball has them off stride. His slider can be his deadliest pitch. And his changeup is improving every time he takes the mound.

It's arguable that Hanson was already one of the Braves best pitchers in 2009. Technically, he was their fifth starter. But he pitched more like the number two starter. And it's conceivable that in 2010 Hanson will be the Braves' best starting pitcher.

After searching for years for a true ace to replace ‘the big 3,' the Braves have found one. Hanson will pair with Jair Jurrjens to form the most dangerous young starting pitching duo in the major leagues.

Hanson has a great shot at being one of the best pitchers in the game for many years to come. We Braves fans had the pleasure of watching Hanson pitch in 2009, and there are many more enjoyable games to watch in the future with the big red head from California on the mound wearing that tomahawk across his chest.

Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on WFSM Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, Georgia and The Braves Show Talk Show. Shanks writes a weekly baseball column for The Macon Telegraph and is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. You can email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.

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