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Roster outlook 2.0: Braves still short on position players

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Atlanta’s bench is taking shape but there is still more to do

Los Angeles Dodgers v Atlanta Braves Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

When we took a look at the Atlanta Braves roster back prior to the Winter Meetings, the overarching theme was the need for an impact bat, preferably at third base. Josh Donaldson seemed like a good possibility then, but as we now know, he will be spending at least the next four seasons in Minnesota barring a trade. The Braves were also short of position players in general and while that is still the case, the bench unit is starting to round into shape with the addition of Adeiny Hechavarria.

Atlanta is reportedly still in search of an impact bat to replace Donaldson. That could come in the form of a corner outfielder or possibly in a trade for a third baseman. We won’t speculate on those moves for now but below is a look at where the Braves’ roster stands with less than a month remaining before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.

Lineup

Position Player 2019 Stats
Position Player 2019 Stats
C Travis d'Arnaud .251/.312/.433, 16 HR, 98 wRC+
1B Freddie Freeman .295/.389/.549, 38 HR, 138 wRC+
2B Ozzie Albies .295/.352/.500, 24 HR, 117 wRC+
SS Dansby Swanson .251/.325/.422, 17 HR, 92 wRC+
3B Johan Camargo .233/.279/.384, 7 HR, 67 wRC+
LF Nick Markakis .285/.356/.420, 9 HR, 102 wRC+
CF Ender Inciarte .246/.343/.397, 5 HR, 93 wRC+
RF Ronald Acuna Jr. .280/.365/.518, 41 HR, 126 wRC+

The projected lineup is the same as it was in December although the odds are now way better that Johan Camargo is the third baseman on Opening Day. Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson round out the infield while Travis d’Arnaud and Tyler Flowers will form the catcher tandem.

The interesting discussion here would be how will things change if Atlanta brings in a corner outfielder. The option I would lean towards would be keeping Acuña in right and Inciarte in center while sliding Markakis into the role that Matt Joyce occupied last season. Another option would be moving Acuña to center and giving a bench role to Inciarte. There is also the possibility that acquiring another outfielder would make Inciarte a trade candidate. Right now it is unclear which way the Braves are leaning, but this is still an area of the roster that we should keep an eye on.

Bench

Position Player 2019 Stats
Position Player 2019 Stats
C Tyler Flowers .229/.319/.413, 11 HR, 88 wRC+
OF Adam Duvall .267/.315/.567, 10 HR, 121 wRC+
3B/OF Adeiny Hechavarria .241/.299/.443, 9 HR, 93 wRC+
Bench Charlie Culberson* .259/.294/.437, 5 HR, 85 wRC+
Bench --

We probably won’t know for sure what the bench will look like on Opening Day until the final few days of Spring Training. One thing that is clear right now is that the Braves will have to make some 40-man roster moves at some point. Major League rosters are expanding to 26 players for the 2020 season with pitching staffs capped at a maximum of 13. Atlanta currently has 15 position players on its 40-man roster and that group includes catchers William Contreras and Alex Jackson along with top outfield prospect Cristian Pache. Contreras and Pache will open the season in the minors and the only path Jackson has to the Opening Day roster would be an injury to either d’Arnaud or Flowers. So, something will have to give here at some point.

Flowers, Duvall and Hechavarria look like locks for the bench as things stand currently. The Braves brought back Charlie Culberson on a minor league contract earlier this offseason. He will go to Spring Training in hopes of earning a spot on the team’s bench. Given his familiarity and ability to play multiple positions, he appears to have the inside track at this moment.

Austin Riley would also be another option however, with Camargo penciled in at third, it seems at least plausible that the Braves consider starting Riley at Gwinnett where he can play every day and focus on making some adjustments at the plate. If he can regain his form then it wouldn’t be surprising to see him take over third base full time and push Camargo back into a bench role.

Rotation

Position Player 2019 Stats
Position Player 2019 Stats
RH MIke Soroka 2.68 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 174.2 IP, 60 ERA-
LH Cole Hamels 3.81 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 141.2 IP, 87 ERA-
LH Max Fried 4.02 ERA, 3.72 FIP, 165.2 IP, 91 ERA-
RH MIke Foltynewicz 4.54 ERA, 4.97 FIP, 117 IP, 102 ERA-
LH Sean Newcomb 3.16 ERA, 4.24 FIP, 68.1 IP, 71 ERA-

The rotation is exactly the same as we projected back in December. The only question here is the fifth starter spot where Sean Newcomb is currently penciled in. Newcomb was effective as a reliever so a return to the bullpen would not be out of the question. Atlanta could at some point still look to add another veteran starter to soak up some innings.

They have several internal options already on their 40-man roster in Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson and Touki Toussaint who have all had a taste of the major leagues. Top pitching prospect Ian Anderson will also be in camp this spring and will likely be an option at some point.

Bullpen

Position Player 2019 Stats
Position Player 2019 Stats
LH Will Smith 2.76 ERA, 3.23 FIP, 65.1 IP, 66 ERA-
RH Mark Melancon 3.61 ERA, 2.86 FIP, 67.1 IP, 84 ERA-
RH Shane Greene 2.30 ERA, 3.79 FIP, 62.2 IP, 51 ERA-
RH Chris Martin 3.40 ERA, 3.25 FIP, 55.2 IP, 71 ERA-
RH Darren O'Day 1.69 ERA, 2.09 FIP, 5.1 IP, 38 ERA-
RH Luke Jackson 3.84 ERA, 3.24 FIP, 72.2 IP, 86 ERA-
LH A.J. Minter 7.06 ERA, 4.61 FIP, 29.1 IP, 159 ERA-
RH Chad Sobotka 6.21 ERA, 5.56 FIP, 29.0 IP, 140 ERA-

The bullpen situation is largely the same as well. The top six appear to be set barring an injury with the final two spots up for grabs. A left-handed reliever such as A.J. Minter or Grant Dayton would appear to have the inside track for one of the spots. Josh Tomlin played a key roll as a long reliever in 2019 and is still a free agent. Atlanta could look to add him or someone similar in Spring Training to fill that role but there are also a lot of internal candidates with a lot of potential who are short on experience.