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Braves Mailbag: William Contreras, Rotation options and more

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Part 2 of this week’s mailbag is here.

Atlanta Braves v New York Mets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Here is the second part of this week’s mailbag. Thanks again to everyone who sent in questions. If you missed the first part you can find it here.

Travis d’Arnaud is under contract for 2021 and Tyler Flowers is a free agent. With William Contreras playing well in his very short stint and assuming Shea Langeliers has taken even a small step forward, what are your thoughts on one of those two (probably Contreras) being the back up to d’Arnaud next year instead of signing another veteran?

This is a good question and one I have been thinking about all season. Had we had a normal minor league season, I do not think it would have been as big of a question mark. Assuming things are somewhat normal for 2021, there may be a chance that the Braves want to give Contreras a little time at Gwinnett. If that turns out to be the case, then we may likely see Flowers return on a one-year deal or another veteran added to the mix. I was pretty impressed with what I saw from Contreras this season and the reports coming out of the alternate site were good. I think it is possible he could play himself into the picture for next season.

Do we think the organization will have enough faith in their young starting pitchers to bypass signing a free agent and instead pivoting to resigning Ozuna with that money?

I believe the Braves top priority this offseason will be adding a middle of the order bat to the lineup. Whether that is keeping Marcell Ozuna or looking elsewhere remains to be seen. I am not confident that it is going to be a strong free agent market and whether or not the DH sticks around in the National League is still unknown. Both of those will factor into how hard the Braves pursue keeping Ozuna.

While a middle of the order bat may be the top priority, I think adding an experienced and capable starter will be a close second. The 2020 season allowed the Braves to lean on their young starters and we saw some encouraging signs. However, navigating a full 162 game schedule without an addition or two may prove difficult. Building some rotation depth with the guys we have already seen in the majors along with the potential additions of Tucker Davidson and Kyle Muller at some point would be ideal.

Chances of an entirely new bench in 2021? It better be at least like 90% likely. Sandoval, Culberson, Camargo should not be the pieces a legit contender should be playing with. Let’s get some of that depth everyone is talking about?

If a postseason with the DH showed us anything it is that bench depth doesn’t matter quite as much unless there is an injury. Sandoval is a free agent and I would not expect him back. Culberson was non-tendered last offseason and I am expecting the same this offseason although he will probably be given a chance in spring training if he doesn’t sign elsewhere. Camargo will be an interesting case in that he is arbitration eligible but is still relatively inexpensive. All of those good feelings from his 2018 season are pretty much gone, but I would still be surprised if he doesn’t return.

Who plays third base next year?

Austin Riley and I don’t even think it is in question.

What has been going on with minor leaguers (not in the major league camp) during this pandemic time? Do they practice somehow? Did their development continue some way? Was it simply a lost year for minor leaguers?

Guys that were not included in the player pool at the alternate site were left to train on their own. For some, it is likely that it worked out well but it no doubt probably hurt others. We saw guys, especially pitchers, who returned from the shutdown at various different states depending on how they were able to train. I am sure that was true for a lot of the minor league guys that may not have had access to facilities. Player instructs are going on now but again it isn’t a very large list although it is limited only to players not on the 40-man roster. In a lot of cases it probably will be looked at as a lost year.