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Braves load up on arms, veteran position players in initial player pool

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Ian Anderson is among a group of pitchers who could play a big part in the 2020 season for the Braves

MLB: All Star Game-Futures Game David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Spring Training 2.0 for the Atlanta Braves is rapidly approaching and the team announced an initial 56-man player pool on Sunday. Having four open roster spots gives Atlanta the flexibility to add to its pool from outside the organization or to add more prospects to the list at a later date. So keep that in mind when you see guys like Trey Harris and Greyson Jenista missing. Another thing to keep in mind is that this group of players will be split into two groups and training at Truist Park and at Gwinnett. That is a big part of the decision to carry seven catchers to help handle the 30 pitchers who are in the pool.

Left-handed pitchers (12): Tucker Davidson, Grant Dayton, Max Fried, Cole Hamels, Tyler Matzek*, A.J. Minter, Kyle Muller*, Sean Newcomb, Philip Pfeifer, Chris Rusin*, Jared Shuster*, Will Smith

No real surprises in the left-handed group. Both Tyler Matzek and Chris Rusin were in spring camp and Matzek was particularly impressive. It isn't a surprise that they would hang onto a couple of more left-handed relief options. Kyle Muller is one of the team’s top pitching prospects and likely isn’t that far away from an opportunity. The other non-roster player is 2020 first-round pick Jared Shuster who will get his first taste of pro ball with the big club.

The Braves are reportedly expecting Cole Hamels to be ready when the season does get underway. Hamels was slowed during the spring by shoulder inflammation and was expected to miss at least the first month of the regular season. Atlanta may try to limit his workload early but he should be ready to go barring a setback.

Right-handed pitchers (18): Ian Anderson*, Jasseel De La Cruz, Mike Foltynewicz, Shane Greene, Felix Hernandez*, Luke Jackson, Chris Martin, Mark Melancon, Darren O’Day, Chad Sobotka, Mike Soroka, Josh Tomlin*, Touki Toussaint, Jacob Webb, Patrick Weigel, Bryse Wilson, Kyle Wright, Huascar Ynoa

The right-handed group includes three non-roster additions in top prospect Ian Anderson and veterans Felix Hernandez and Josh Tomlin. It looked like Hernandez was on his way to securing a spot in the rotation before spring training was shut down. He will resume that push again when camp opens next week. Anderson appeared to be set for a 2020 debut and could be an option as the Braves will no doubt load up on arms in the early going. Tomlin was brought back at the start of spring for depth and could serve as a multiple-inning relief option.

Atlanta placed reliever Jeremy Walker on the 45-day injured list earlier this week opening up one spot on the 40-man roster. If the team adds more than one non-roster player, it will require a subsequent 40-man roster move.

Catchers (7): Logan Brown*, William Contreras, Travis d’Arnaud, Tyler Flowers, Alex Jackson, Shea Langeliers*, Jonathan Morales*

This is a large group but remember the Braves will have 30 pitchers training at two different sites and Atlanta currently has four catchers on the 40-man roster. Shea Langeliers is the big name here and he was impressive in big league camp this spring. Logan Brown spent last season at Rome and Florida while Morales is organizational depth at this point.

A lot of roster projections have had teams carrying three catchers but I don’t think the Braves are in a position where they need to do that. Travis d’Arnaud and Tyler Flowers are the clear cut starters barring injury. With Alex Jackson and William Contreras already on the 40-man roster, Atlanta could assign one to the Taxi squad and activate one if an injury to d’Arnaud or Flowers occurs.

Infielders (12): Ozzie Albies, Yonder Alonso*, Johan Camargo, Charlie Culberson*, Freddie Freeman, Adeiny Hechavarria, Pete Kozma*, Peter O’Brien*, Austin Riley, Braden Shewmake*, Yangervis Solarte*, Dansby Swanson

As expected, Atlanta is bringing a lot of veteran infielders to camp as insurance. This group includes six non-roster players including 2019 first round pick Braden Shewmake. The others include Yonder Alonso, Charlie Culberson, Pete Kozma, Peter O’Brien and Yangervis Solarte. Culberson figures to be the most likely of the group to challenge for a roster spot but keep an eye on O’Brien who could serve as a right-handed power option off the bench. The others will be available should an unexpected injury occur.

Outfielders (7): Ronald Acuña Jr., Adam Duvall, Ender Inciarte, Nick Markakis, Marcell Ozuna, Cristian Pache, Drew Waters*

Top prospect Drew Waters is the only non-roster addition for the Braves’ outfield group. I don’t particularly see Waters as a likely option for the team in 2020 but being included in this pool should help his development. It will be interesting to see what happens with Cristian Pache who is already on the 40-man roster. Right now he appears to be on the outside looking in at an already crowded situation but could push the issue as Austin Riley did last season.

One other thing to keep any eye on with this outfield group is the status of Adam Duvall who has type 1 diabetes and could opt out of the 2020 season.

Wrapping up, there wasn’t a large number of surprises with this initial pool. Atlanta’s farm system is top heavy and that is reflected in this group as a number of their top prospects have already made their major league debut or are knocking on the door. The position player group appears to have a lot of veteran depth while any of the 30 pitchers in camp could realistically see some action.