The Atlanta Braves will travel to Houston on Sunday to enter the National League Playoff Bubble. The team will hold a workout at Minute Maid Park on Monday with Game 1 of the Division Series against the Miami Marlins scheduled for Tuesday. Rosters will remain at 28 players for the remainder of the playoffs but Brian Snitker wasn’t ready to announce Atlanta’s roster plan Saturday for the upcoming series.
The Braves made a few surprise additions to their Wild Card round roster carrying 15 position players including a third catcher in William Contreras, infielders Johan Camargo, Charlie Culberson and Pablo Sandoval along with top outfield prospect Cristian Pache. For Culberson, the team had to open a 40-man roster spot by releasing trade deadline addition Tommy Milone to add him to the playoff roster. Even more surprisingly, Atlanta left Ender Inciarte and Adeiny Hechavarria off the roster entirely.
Catchers (3): William Contreras, Travis d’Arnaud, Tyler Flowers
Infielders (7): Ozzie Albies, Johan Camargo, Charlie Culberson, Freddie Freeman, Austin Riley, Pablo Sandoval, Dansby Swanson
Outfielders (5): Ronald Acuña Jr., Adam Duvall, Nick Markakis, Marcell Ozuna, Cristian Pache
The decision worked out for the Braves who were able to dispatch the Cincinnati Reds in a two-game sweep of the opening series. Still, the bench wasn’t utilized much in the opening series as none of the extra players logged an at-bat. Tyler Flowers, Cristian Pache and Charlie Culberson made appearances as late inning defensive replacements or as pinch runners but, Contreras, Camargo and Sandoval didn’t get in any of the two games against the Reds.
Atlanta’s pitching staff came up big against Cincinnati holding them scoreless over 22 innings while striking out 28 and walking just five. Perhaps even more impressive, the Braves used just nine of the 13 pitchers they carried for the opening round.
With the Division Series increasing to a best-of-five scenario, Atlanta is likely to add at least one if not two more pitchers to the mix against the Marlins.
Starting Pitchers (3): Max Fried, Ian Anderson, Kyle Wright
Bullpen (10): Grant Dayton, Shane Greene, Chris Martin, Tyler Matzek, Mark Melancon, A.J. Minter, Darren O’Day, Will Smith, Josh Tomlin, Jacob Webb
The top two candidates to join the active roster would appear to be Huascar Ynoa and Bryse Wilson. Snitker was non-committal during Saturday’s media session about his pitching plans for next week but it is expected that Max Fried will start Game 1 and then be followed by Ian Anderson and Kyle Wright. Snitker indicated that he would consider bringing back Fried on short rest for a possible Game 5 depending on how Fried’s start in Game 1 goes as well as the rest of the series.
Game 4 looks like it might be a bullpen game situation for Atlanta. Ynoa or Wilson could be asked to turn over a lineup once or twice. Josh Tomlin would be another multi-inning relief option that could figure into the plan for Game 4.
Of the position player group, Culberson and Camargo appear to be the most redundant. Atlanta probably doesn’t want Sandoval playing in the field in any scenario but may prefer to have his bat available. The case can be made that a third catcher isn’t necessary with the DH but having Contreras available would provide more flexibility. Pache was a surprise inclusion but a necessary one as the only other outfielder capable of playing centerfield behind Acuña. If I had to guess, I would say Camargo is the most likely player to lose his spot for a pitcher but the team went way off what I was expecting for the Wild Card round so we will just have to wait and see.