There's an interesting battle going on for the available spots on the Braves' bench, as everybody knows. I believe that I know which players should get those spots, and I think I can convince you that I'm right.
David Ross will make the team and needs no explanation.
Eric Hinske is also a lock, but it's worth mentioning that he is our primary left-handed pinch hitter, and that he can play left field and first base. He has not played third base extensively since 2003, and the Braves only had him play there one time last year. It might not matter that he can play third base, because Prado will move in when Chipper gets hurt. Keep in mind, however, that he is left handed and is best utilized when not asked to hit left handed pitching. Also keep in mind that Freeman is a very young left handed hitter, and is our everyday first baseman. We need somebody to platoon with Hinske in left field when Chipper is hurt, and we need a right handed backup at first base.
That's why Joe Mather makes the team. He's hitting well in Spring Training. He's right handed . He can play first base to backup Freeman, and he can play left field to platoon with Hinske when Prado is at third while Chipper is on the DL. His handedness and versatility in the field fits perfectly with the team we have in place. He can also play centerfield in a pinch, but I'll get to that later.
The other vital position to be filled on the bench is the backup shortstop. That should be Ed Lucas in my opinion. In 2009, Lucas only played 5 games in AAA, but he played 103 in AA and posted a .392 wOBA. Last year in AAA, he posted a .390 wOBA.
Diory Hernandez on the other hand played 54 games in AAA in 2009, and he played 30 games in AAA during 2010. His wOBA in those years was .369 and .336 respectively. Both are performing well in Spring Training so far, but Lucas has been better in recent years. What puts him over the edge, though, is that he's a better baserunner. Hernandez has never even come close to having an acceptable stolen base percentage, while Lucas has had a season in which he stole 18 bases and was caught only 3 times ('09) and last year he stole 7 bases and was caught once. I'm not saying he's exceptionally fast; I have no idea how quick he is, but he's obviously a better basestealer than Hernandez, and I'm guessing that means he's a bit faster. Lucas gets my vote.
Young fills the centerfield void and he gives us speed off the bench. Yes, the Braves are saying they'd be comfortable having Mather as the backup in center, but Matt Young gives us a legitimate base stealing threat off the bench. While Lucas does get the nod over Hernandez in part because of his speed, it does not mean that he is an ideal pinch-runner late in games when the Braves really need to get a runner in from first base. Young has stolen 72 bases in the past two seasons and was caught 28 times. He is the legitimate pinch-runner that the Braves must have on their bench. That's on top of being able to play centerfield, which already makes him a great candidate to be on the bench.
In summation, Lucas wins the shortstop spot because he's better than Hernandez. Young wins a spot because his speed is needed on the bench, and he can actually play good defense in center field unlike Mather. Mather wins his spot because he's the right handed backup we need for Freeman, and he's the ideal platoon partner for Hinske if/when Chipper misses time due to injury.
Also keep in mind that third base is well covered on this team beyond the fact that Prado can move in if needed. Both Mather and Lucas can play there as well. Also, Lucas and Mather should both be decent pinch hitting options from the right side of the plate.
Here's your bench:
C - David Ross
LF/Primary LH Pinch Hitter - Eric Hinske
1b/LF/RF - Joe Mather
SS/2B - Ed Lucas
CF/Pinch Runner - Matt Young