The Atlanta Braves have until 11 a.m. ET Friday to reveal their roster for the NLDS and unlike years past, there really aren’t that many decisions to make. From looking at the available options, it really comes down to how many pitchers the team wants to carry in a five-game series. Two potential off days in the series gives them added flexibility which wasn’t there in last year’s postseason run. Let’s take a closer look at the options.
Starting Pitchers (4) Charlie Morton, Max Fried, Ian Anderson, Huascar Ynoa
I am listing Huascar Ynoa in this group but I think his role could be different in the postseason. Many have suggested that Ynoa could be an effective relief option and he is stretched out enough to do so for multiple innings. His two-pitch mix leans more to the reliever side of things so it wouldn’t be terribly surprising if he was used in either of the first two games to bridge the middle innings. That wouldn’t necessarily rule him out for a potential Game 4 star either as that is looking more and more like a bullpen game. So theoretically, Ynoa could be available out of the bullpen in Games 1 & 2 and then start Game 4 where he probably wouldn’t go more than one time through the batting order.
Bullpen (9) Will Smith, Tyler Matzek, A.J. Minter, Luke Jackson, Jesse Chavez, Chris Martin, Spencer Strider, Richard Rodriguez, Drew Smyly
Other options: Dylan Lee, Jacob Webb
For me, the bullpen is where the biggest decisions have to be made. The case could easily be made to go with just eight relievers but a potential bullpen game in Game 4 gives me a bit of pause. Will Smith, Tyler Matzek, Luke Jackson and A.J. Minter are locks. Jesse Chavez has been cast into that versatile reliever role that Josh Tomlin filled the last few seasons. I have questioned Chris Martin’s health but he looked ok in his final appearance and I can’t see them leaving him off if he is healthy, even if he hasn’t been as effective as previous seasons.
Richard Rodriguez would have been a lock for me a few weeks ago but his performance of late I think has at least put him on the bubble. Rodriguez has a 3.12 ERA in 26 innings but has a 6.17 FIP over that span. Additionally, he has just nine strikeouts over those 26 innings which equates to a k-rate of 8.5%. Since September 1, Rodriguez has allowed 14 hits, seven runs and five home runs in just 12 innings. Jacob Webb looked like a lock before he allowed nine hits and six runs over his final three innings of the season.
Their struggles are what makes the promotion of Spencer Strider for the final weekend so interesting. It would be a gamble to place a pitcher with so little experience on the postseason roster but Strider may simply be Atlanta’s best option at this point.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Drew Smyly left off the roster in favor of Webb or Dylan Lee but I think he ultimately makes it. He allowed just two runs in six appearances (11 innings) as a reliever. He could slot into that bullpen game or would be a multi-inning option should one of the starters get knocked out early on.
There isn’t nearly as much discussion on the position player side of things because the Braves aren’t overrun with quality bench options in the first place that would warrant carrying fewer pitchers.
Catchers (2): Travis d’Arnaud, William Contreras
In past seasons, there would have been a discussion about carrying three catchers. That isn’t necessary this year as Travis d’Arnaud will likely start every game with William Contreras as the backup.
Infielders (5): Freddie Freeman, Austin Riley, Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, Ehire Adrianza
The infield group is set as well with Ehire Adrianza a lock as the reserve off the bench. Freeman, Riley, Albies and Swanson played virtually every day during the regular season and if one needed to come out of the game, then Adrianza would fill in.
Outfielders (5): Adam Duvall, Jorge Soler, Eddie Rosario, Joc Pederson, Guillermo Heredia
The Braves have four outfielders with three spots available. Whoever doesn’t start becomes the key bench bat. Guillermo Heredia slots in as a defensive replacement during the late innings and has had some success against left-handed pitching.
Other options: Orlando Arcia, Cristian Pache
That is 12 locks for the position player side leaving one additional spot. The two most likely options appear to be Orlando Arcia or Cristian Pache. I touched on the infield group above. Those guys are going to play every single inning and it is hard for me to imagine a situation where any of that group comes out of the game. That would limit Arcia’s role to that of a pinch hitter and he hit just .214/.282/.343 in 78 plate appearances this season. Yes he would add some positional flexibility but how much of that will really be needed in a five-game series?
Pache hasn’t played in the majors since May 13 and he didn’t set the world on fire at Gwinnett after his demotion. However, if he were included, he instantly becomes Atlanta’s best defensive outfielder, but his role would also be limited. The Braves will no doubt substitute for Jorge Soler in the late innings if they have a lead. I don’t think it would be the worst thing to use that strategy with Eddie Rosario either.
In my opinion, there is not a good option for that 13th position player, but I don’t see them carrying 14 pitchers either. I would go with Pache but I suspect that Arcia will get the spot.