As 2022 begins, the Atlanta Braves still have a number of question marks remaining for their position player group. Freddie Freeman remains unsigned and is still the top priority. Beyond Freeman, Atlanta still needs to address its outfield situation, particularly in center. The bench should be another area of focus as the team operated with a thin group before reinforcements arrived at the trade deadline in 2021.
Atlanta currently has 15 position players on the 40-man roster including four catchers and seven outfielders.
Additions: Manny Pina
Subtractions: Johan Camargo, Terrance Gore, Ehire Adrianza, Freddie Freeman, Eddie Rosario, Jorge Soler, Stephen Vogt, Joc Pederson
William Contreras - (2021: 52 G, 185 PA, 8 HR, .215/.303/.399, 86 wRC+ 0.0 fWAR)
Contreras was pressed into duty early on following the injury to Travis d’Arnaud. He showed potential but was eventually shipped back to Gwinnett where he put up solid numbers hitting .290/.357/.516 with nine home runs. Atlanta currently has four catchers on the 40-man roster not counting Shea Langeliers leading to speculation that Contreras could be available via trade. Atlanta’s catching corps was decimated due to injury in 2020 so they may be comfortable with the added depth. Contreras will head into the spring looking to build on last season and should be in line to return to the majors if d’Arnaud or Manny Pina suffer an injury.
Travis d’Arnaud - (2021: 60 G, 229 PA, 7 HR, .220/.284/.388, 78 wRC+, 0.6 fWAR)
A fractured thumb limited d’Arnaud to just 60 games in 2021 and he wasn’t able to duplicate the big offensive numbers that he put up in 2020. The Braves announced a two-year extension for d’Arnaud in August that also includes a club option for 2024. He will go into camp again as the primary catcher but perhaps Atlanta will have enough depth behind him this time around to somewhat limit his workload.
Manny Pina - (2021: 75 G, 208 PA, 13 HR, .189/.293/.439, 95 wRC+, 1.5 fWAR)
The Braves struck early this offseason locking up Manny Pina with a two-year, $8 million contract to back up d’Arnaud. The move raised some eyebrows given that Atlanta has two young catchers in Contreras and Langeliers waiting in the wings, but 2020 showed that you can never really have enough depth. Pina will slot in behind d’Arnaud and is capable enough to somewhat limit his workload.
Chadwick Tromp - (2021 SFG Triple-A: 55 G, 204 PA, 6 HR, .224/.265/.380, 54 wRC+)
Still concerned with their depth at catcher, the Braves claimed Chadwick Tromp off of waivers from the Giants last September. He appeared in five games at Gwinnett but is still on Atlanta’s 40-man roster. His spot could be in jeopardy depending on what other moves are made once the lockout is lifted but if he sticks, he will go to Spring Training as depth and an emergency option.
Ozzie Albies - (2021: 156 G, 686 PA, 30 HR, .259/.310/.488, 107 wRC+, 4.2 fWAR)
While the Braves currently have a Freddie Freeman sized hole at first base, the rest of the infield appears to be set. Ozzie Albies turned in another banner season while setting career highs in homers, RBI and stolen bases.
Orlando Arcia - (2021: 36 G, 89 PA, 2 HR, .198/.258/.309, 48 wRC+, -0.4 fWAR)
One area that Atlanta may want to address this offseason is bench depth. They avoided arbitration with Orlando Arcia in November agreeing to a two-year, $3 million deal. Arcia hit well at Gwinnett in 2021 but didn’t produce much at the major league level. He has a career 70 wRC+ in over 1,900 plate appearances as a professional so a two-year deal was a little surprising. Still, he has the versatility to play around the infield and can fill in behind Dansby Swanson at shortstop.
Austin Riley - (2021: 160 G, 662 PA, 33 HR, .303/.367/.531, 135 wRC+, 4.2 fWAR)
Austin Riley went into Spring Training last February looking to prove that he was the longterm answer for the Braves at third base. He proved that and then some with a breakout 2021 season where he set career-highs across the board. With Marcell Ozuna missing most of the season, it was Riley that filled in the middle of the order spot behind Freddie Freeman. He will come into the spring this season with his spot in the lineup secure and looking to prove that last season wasn’t a fluke.
Dansby Swanson - (2021: 160 G, 653 PA, 27 HR, .248/.311/.449, 98 wRC+, 3.2 fWAR)
Like Riley, Dansby Swanson was enjoying a breakout like season before slumping badly over the final month. Swanson appeared in a career-best 160 games and you have to wonder if his late season slide was due to fatigue. He is arbitration eligible for the final time this offseason and is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the 2022 season.
Ronald Acuna Jr. - (2021: 82 G, 360 PA, 24 HR, .283/.394/.596, 157 wRC+, 4.2 fWAR)
Ronald Acuña Jr. was on his way to an MVP caliber season before a torn ACL ended his season just before the All-Star break. Acuña seems to be progressing nicely in his rehab but the Braves won’t rush him back. Despite his injury status, Acuña looks like the one sure thing in Atlanta’s outfield entering 2022.
Travis Demeritte - (2021 AAA: 81 G, 300 PA, 21 HR, .282/.363/.575, 146 wRC+)
Atlanta added Demeritte to the 40-man roster in early November to keep him in the organization as he would have been eligible for minor league free agency. He only appeared in 81 games with Gwinnett due to injury but put up excellent numbers. Still, given the amount of issues Atlanta had in the outfield, Demeritte never saw an opportunity at the major league level. He will go into the spring trying and attempt to establish himself as a right-handed bench option.
Adam Duvall - (2021 2 Tms: 146 G, 555 PA, 38 HR, .228/.281/.491, 103 wRC+, 2.4 fWAR)
Adam Duvall returned to Atlanta at the trade deadline as part of their remade outfield. He slugged a career-best 38 home runs and captured a Gold Glove in the outfield. The Braves tendered him a contract and he is arbitration eligible for the final time this offseason. Where he fits in the outfield likely depends on what other moves are made this offseason and whether or not the Universal DH is implemented in the National League. He started in center field during the postseason run and could get another look there given Atlanta’s lack of experienced options.
Guillermo Heredia - (2021: 120 G, 347 PA, 5 HR, .220/.311/.354, 79 wRC+, 0.5 fWAR)
Guillermo Heredia came into the 2021 season looking like nothing more than organizational depth but ended up playing a big part logging 347 plate appearances while assuming a leadership role on the bench. He and the Braves avoided arbitration with a one-year, $1 million deal at the end of November. Heredia hit .258/.330/.427 against left-handers and is capable in centerfield. His spot on the roster is probably contingent with what else happens this offseason but he looks like a safe bet as a bench option.
Marcell Ozuna - (2021: 48 G, 208 PA, 7 HR, .213/.288/.356, 73 wRC+, -0.3 fWAR)
Marcell Ozuna was slapped with a 20-game retroactive suspension by Major League Baseball for a Domestic Violence arrest against his wife while he was on the injured list with two broken fingers. Ozuna appeared in just 48 games after signing a four-year, $65 million contract last offseason. The Braves haven’t said much in regards to Ozuna who will be carrying a lot of baggage into the spring.
Cristian Pache (2021: 22 G, 68 PA, 1 HR, .111/.152/.206, -8 wRC+, -0.7 fWAR)
Cristian Pache began the 2021 season as the Braves’ Opening Day centerfielder, but struggled mightily and was shipped back to Gwinnett where he put together a solid if unspectacular season. Pache’s defensive prowess is well documented and he could very well be the answer in center for the Braves again. However, he will have to show some progress offensively in order to do so. Atlanta’s outfield situation still feels like it is incomplete and Pache’s chances to start the season in the majors probably hinge on whether or not the DH comes to the NL and or whether or not Ozuna remains on the roster.
Drew Waters (2021: 103 G, 459 PA, 11 HR, .240/.329/.381, 94 wRC+)
The Braves added Drew Waters to the 40-man roster in order to protect him from the Rule 5 deadline. Waters spent the 2021 season at Gwinnett and didn’t do much to quiet the concerns surrounding his prospect status. He will start the season at Triple-A and will have the chance to work himself into the mix. While there has been a lot of negativity surrounding Waters, it wouldn’t be smart to close the book on him given that he just turned 23 and missed an entire minor league season due to the pandemic.