The Atlanta Braves appear to be set in the outfield for next season but have a young player in Mallex Smith that could push for playing time. Smith had his rookie season cut short due to injury but should he be on Atlanta's opening day roster as a reserve outfielder?
Scott Coleman: No, and that’s a good thing. Given the injury last season, Mallex really missed out on prime development opportunity in the bigs. He could certainly be a 4th outfielder behind Kemp, Inciarte and Markakis to open the year, but I would prefer that he play every day in Gwinnett until an opportunity arises in Atlanta. He won’t turn 24 until May. Give him time.
Demetrius Bell: If he makes it, he’ll be a fourth outfielder. I do agree with Scott in that he’d definitely be better served getting regular playing time in Gwinnett instead of just being a pinch runner or “defensive sub” to start out the season. Right now, there’s just no room for him to get regular playing time and the Braves aren’t in a position to just throw the young guys to the wolves anymore. He’ll get his shot at regular playing time in the bigs eventually, though.
Ben Poplin: I think we will see Mallex Smith on the Opening Day roster. He will have to understand his new role, and that will most likely be as a platoon option with Ender Inciarte in center.
Ivan: I’d say there’s a 60% chance he starts the season as a fourth outfielder, and a 40% chance he gets traded. In the former scenario, I think it will drive some Braves fans nuts that he outplays one or both of Nick Markakis and Matt Kemp on a rate basis, yet doesn’t get to start except in case of injury or when one has a scheduled off day.
Brad Rowland: This is a weird one. Mallex is pretty clearly the player most qualified for the 4th-OF job, but I would prefer that he received more playing time to continue his growth. Quite honestly, I think it is fairly likely that Smith would out-perform Markakis if given the opportunity to do so, but that isn’t happening and I think I would choose an extended stint in Gwinnett early on over a purgatory position as the 4th-OF. What the team will do? I think it’s equally likely he is just penciled into that 4th-OF role, for better or worse.
Eric Cole: I think it’s more likely that he ends up in Gwinnett, although taking the 4th outfielder spot is a possibility. Guys like Sean Rodriguez and Dustin Peterson could be pushing for time in the outfield, too next year and Mallex’s injury cost him a lot of time. I see a lot of wisdom in giving him some time in Gwinnett to get back those reps. He showed some real defensive value in a small sample size, so I wouldn’t be shocked that he made the big league club as a defensive replacement/pinch runner type who gets playing time every now and again. However, I don’t think that would do much for him as a developing player. It will be an interesting situation to look at going into Spring Training as it could help give us an idea of what the Braves think of Mallex as a player.
Kris Willis: I think that Mallex Smith will begin the season in Triple-A and that is probably the right call provided Atlanta’s other three outfielders make it out of spring training healthy. Smith had his rookie season cut short due to a thumb injury and needs to see regular playing time. He would slot in nicely as a fourth outfielder, but I think the Braves need to resist that urge at least early on.