The Atlanta Braves would have likely faced an even bigger roster crunch for the postseason if not for injuries to Ender Inciarte, Johan Camargo and Charlie Culberson. The Braves had been hopeful that Inciarte would be an option for the Division Series but he was ruled out earlier this week after he continues to experience discomfort in his injured hamstring. Atlanta was also hopeful that Camargo might be able to return but he also has not progressed the way they were hoping after suffering a fractured shin.
I took a look at the pitching staff earlier today and predicted that the Braves will carry 12 pitchers against the Cardinals. That leaves room for 13 position players.
Catchers: Brian McCann, Tyler Flowers, Francisco Cervelli
A few weeks ago I didn’t think that carrying three catchers was a serious option for the Braves. Now in the wake of the injuries, it appears more likely. Brian McCann and Tyler Flowers will see the bulk of the playing time but the presence of Cervelli on the roster will make it easier to play the matchups late in games. The reality is that the Braves just don’t have many good position player options at this point.
Infielders: Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, Josh Donaldson, Adeiny Hechavarria
Freddie Freeman has been dealing with a bone spur in his right elbow that caused him to sit out Atlanta’s recent trip to Kansas City. Freeman may or may not have experienced further discomfort in the elbow during the final regular season series in New York. He acknowledged to reporters that he is not one hundred percent, but that he is good enough to play and that the bone spur won’t have an effect on his performance. His presence in Sunday’s starting lineup suggests that the Braves are approaching the situation with the thinking that Freeman will be ready to go when the Division Series begins on Thursday.
Adeiny Hechavarria’s spot on the roster would have been in serious jeopardy had Camargo or Charlie Culberson been healthy. They aren’t, though, which leaves Hechavarria as Atlanta’s only middle infield bench option left.
Outfielders: Ronald Acuña Jr., Matt Joyce, Nick Markakis, Billy Hamilton
Ronald Acuña Jr. sat out the final four games of the regular season due to a sore groin but all reports suggest that he is moving well and will be ready to go on Thursday. Matt Joyce and Nick Markakis are locks while Hamilton is as well given Inciarte’s injury.
Bubble: Adam Duvall, Austin Riley, Rafael Ortega
That is 12 spots which means we have room left for one more fielder. Adam Duvall would seem to have the edge here in that he is a solid option against left-handed pitching and is a plus defender in both corner outfield spots.
Austin Riley could theoretically play corner outfield spots as well as first and third in the infield. However, his offensive struggles since returning from the injured list makes one question whether the Braves would spend a roster spot on him.
Rafael Ortega has seen playing time down the stretch and is a left-handed outfield option who could also probably play center field if called upon. He seems to be squarely behind Duvall/Riley in terms of serious options though.
The Braves could ultimately opt to leave off Cervelli or go with 11 pitchers and carry both Duvall and Riley. Riley’s presence on the postseason roster would seem to suggest that the Braves may not be fully certain about Freeman’s status. Had Camargo, Culberson and Inciarte been healthy, the outlook for the bench in particular would have been significantly different.
Prediction: Brian McCann, Tyler Flowers, Francisco Cervelli, Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, Josh Donaldson, Adeiny Hechavarria, Ronald Acuña Jr., Matt Joyce, Nick Markakis, Billy Hamilton, Adam Duvall