The Atlanta Braves added another piece of the puzzle on Wednesday with the addition of Cole Hamels to their starting rotation. The Braves have thus far worked hard this offseason to beef up their pitching, adding a number of relievers and have plugging at least one hole in the starting rotation.
As things currently stand, Atlanta is in need of a third baseman and another bat to slot into the middle of the lineup. They may also not be finished with the rotation and will at some point have to fill out their bench. The Braves currently have 38 players on their 40-man roster. Below is a look at where things stand currently.
|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+|
Third base remains the only real question mark for the Braves’ lineup. If they are forced to go with internal options then it would likely involve some sort of platoon featuring Johan Camargo and Austin Riley. Tyler Flowers and the newly acquired Travis d’Arnaud will form the team’s new catching combo while Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson slot in on the infield.
Ronald Acuña Jr. is the only sure thing in the outfield at this point. If Ender Inciarte remains on the roster then he seems to be a safe bet to get a chance to bounce back from an injury-plagued season in 2019. Nick Markakis is slated to shift to left field next season and should see a reduction in playing time with Adam Duvall as an internal option to fill the right-handed side of a platoon.
|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+|
With rosters expanding to 26 players this season with pitchers capped at 13, the Braves will have five bench spots to fill next season. Flowers is a lock and Duvall appears likely at this point of the offseason. Austin Riley’s struggles at the end of last season brings the possibility that he may open the 2020 season at Gwinnett. Acquiring a third baseman would push Camargo back into a bench role as a utility player. The only other position players that are currently on the 40-man roster are two catchers, Alex Jackson and William Contreras, and outfielder Cristian Pache. None of them are likely to begin the season on the major league roster. So, the bench is an area where there is still work to be done.
|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-|
Atlanta’s rotation picture became a bit clearer with the addition of Hamels. He, along with Mike Soroka, Max Fried and Mike Foltynewicz are likely assured rotation spots at this juncture. Alex Anthopoulos indicated earlier this offseason that the Braves would stretch out Sean Newcomb and allow him to compete for a return to the starting rotation. I listed him in the fifth spot for this exercise simply because he has had some success there, but in reality if the team doesn’t make any more additions, Newcomb would be competing with the likes of Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson and perhaps Touki Toussaint for the final spot rotation spot.
|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-|
Six of Atlanta’s eight bullpen slots will likely be filled by Will Smith, Mark Melancon, Shane Greene, Chris Martin, Darren O’Day and Luke Jackson, provided they all make it through the spring healthy. There will be some competition for the remaining two spots. If Newcomb gets bumped from the rotation then he would certainly fill one of those openings in the pen.
At this juncture, Atlanta’s biggest remaining need is a strong bat to slot in the middle of the lineup. Given the current roster hole at third base, the ideal solution to this need could be bringing back Josh Donaldson or acquiring another third baseman. The Braves could also consider corner outfield options with Acuña sliding over to center.
There is more work to be done but things are starting to take shape. We will be tracking the changes from now through the start of Spring Training so stay tuned.