Hernandez's Injury Gives Braves Roster Flexibility

Diory Hernandez's injury could prevent the Braves from having to lose another player.

Here in the early days of Spring Training we've learned that Braves infielder Diory Hernandez injured his left (non-throwing) shoulder playing winter ball and that that injury required surgery that will keep him out of action until the middle of the season. Hernandez was expected to come into camp and compete with Brooks Conrad and Joe Thurston for the last spot on the Braves' bench. While both have more professional experience and are considered better hitters, Hernandez is a better defender at shortstop, second and third base than either of his competitiors, something that may have been more valuable as the final man on the bench. Hernandez was much maligned for his poor showing with the bat in his short time with Atlanta in 2009, but, as his Minor League numbers show, he is a very good contact hitter and much more capable than his small Major League sample size would indicate.

But, while the injury is certainly a blow for Hernandez personally, it may be an accidental blessing for the Braves. Hernandez is projected to miss the first three months of the season, but even if he only misses the first two months, the Braves can still place him on the 60-day disabled list, a move that creates an additional space on the 40-man roster. Essentially, when a player is on the 60-day DL, he doesn't count against the 40-man, making it a 41-man roster. Even if Hernandez only misses the first month, the team is allowed to keep him on the DL while he completes a 20 day rehab assignment, which would actually allow him to play while technically still on the DL. No matter how you slice it, if Hernandez is out for any number of months, the team can place him on the 60-day DL.

Why is it important to gain this extra roster space from putting Hernandez on the 60-day DL? Because the Braves have a full 40-man roster and it looks like at least one non-roster invitee is going to end up making the team. Every year at least one non-roster player makes the team and when the 40-man is full this necessitates removing a player, either through outright release or exposing him to the waiver process, which could lead to him being claimed by another team. Having Hernandez on the 60-day DL prevents this necessity, meaning that the Braves can keep a player rather than losing one.

Obviously, all kinds of things can happen over the course of a Spring Training that could lead the Braves to decide that any number of players on their current 40-man roster needs to be removed, but it's also possible that the want to keep them all and the roster flexibility that Hernandez's unfortunate injury creates allows for that option. So if the Braves decide to keep Joe Thurston or Mitch Jones for their  last roster spot, or, more likely, choose to start the season with the number one prospect in all of baseball, Jason Heyward, as their starting right fielder, they won't have to make the move at the cost of another player.

CB Wilkins is the author of the baseball novel Four-A which can be purchased here: https://www.createspace.com/3407939

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