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Projecting the Braves’ roster for the NLDS

The field is pretty set, but there are a couple of decisions to be made

Atlanta Braves v Miami Marlins Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

The Atlanta Braves will get some much-needed rest this weekend as they watch the Wild Card Series and await either the Philadelphia Phillies or the St. Louis Cardinals in the Division Series, which will get underway on Tuesday, October 11 at Truist Park. In past seasons, there have often been questions regarding to the postseason roster. A rule change, though, has taken a lot of the intrigue out of the process. MLB instituted a 13-pitcher limit for the regular season in 2022 and that will carry over to the postseason. There are still a couple of decisions to be made, but below is a look at where things currently stand.

Starting Rotation (4): Max Fried, Kyle Wright, Charlie Morton, Spencer Strider

Max Fried, Kyle Wright and Charlie Morton are locks for the postseason rotation and the Braves got some good news Wednesday in regards to Spencer Strider. Strider threw off flat ground for the second straight day Wednesday and Brian Snitker said after the game that things were heading in the right direction. He will ramp up his activity in the coming days and the hope will be that he will be ready for the Division Series.

Strider last pitched on September 18 and was placed on the Injured List on September 24. He’s been on the shelf for a while so it is unclear as to how many innings he might be built up for. Having him available at all as an option for the Division Series though is a huge boost for Atlanta.

Bullpen (9): Jesse Chavez, Raisel Iglesias, Kenley Jansen, Dylan Lee, Tyler Matzek, Collin McHugh, A.J. Minter, Jackson Stephens, Jake Odorizzi

The bullpen is pretty cut and dried with the exception of one spot. Kenley Jansen, Raisel Iglesias and A.J. Minter from an impressive back end. Collin McHugh and Dylan Lee have emerged as good options for the middle innings while Jesse Chavez and Jackson Stephens can provide bulk if needed. Tyler Matzek’s role is a bit unclear, but he is another lefty arm that will figure in somewhere.

The controversial choice is Jake Odorizzi for the final spot. Odorizzi largely struggled since he was acquired from the Astros at the Trade Deadline although he did pitch well in Tuesday’s division-clinching game. Odorizzi pitched out of the bullpen with Houston last season and could potentially start a game with a short leash if the situation presented itself.

Other Options: Bryce Elder, Kyle Muller, Kirby Yates

Other options for that last spot would appear to be Bryce Elder and Kyle Muller. Elder finished the season in the rotation and could provide bulk if needed. Muller could do the same, but could also be an interesting power lefty arm in the late innings as well. Kirby Yates has completed a couple of bullpen sessions and was slated to throw a sim game Wednesday. If healthy, he could work his way into the mix as well, but it seems like a long shot at this moment.

Catchers (2): William Contreras, Travis d’Arnaud

The Braves are in good shape at catcher heading into the postseason which is a stark contrast to where they were at this point last season. Travis d’Arnaud will likely see the bulk of action behind the plate, but Contreras has shown that he is capable of stepping in if needed. Contreras should probably be the primary option at DH as well.

Infielders (5): Orlando Arcia, Vaughn Grissom, Matt Olson, Austin Riley, Dansby Swanson

Most of the infield picture for the Braves is set with Austin Riley, Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson. Orlando Arcia has seen the bulk of playing time at second over the last couple of weeks. Vaughn Grissom has done enough that if he isn’t at second, he will serve as a bench bat and another infield option.

Outfielders (6) : Ronald Acuña Jr, Robbie Grossman, Michael Harris II, Guillermo Heredia, Marcell Ozuna, Eddie Rosario

The Braves will be hoping that Ronald Acuña Jr. will see most of, if not all of his time in right field going forward. Atlanta is a much more dynamic team with Acuña in the outfield. He has looked more like himself after seeing action as the DH during a 12-game stretch at the end of the season. Michael Harris II will be in center and it looks like a potential platoon situation for Robbie Grossman and Eddie Rosario in left. Grossman’s ability to play both corners adequately is an added bonus.

Which brings us to Marcell Ozuna. Had I been writing this in August, I probably would have left him off the list entirely. Ozuna thought put together a solid September hitting .321/.368/.585 with three home runs and a 164 wRC+ in 16 games. I still might be inclined to leave him off had he not started the final two games of the Mets series, arguably the most important series of the year, as the DH. I think he did enough down the stretch to earn a spot and there is a decent enough chance that he’s going to get some starts as the DH.

The other big question mark in the outfield will be with Guillermo Heredia. Carrying him would give the Braves a pinch-running option and a late inning defensive replacement for the outfield. If they decide that they need more depth on the infield, then Heredia may be on the outside looking in.

Other Options: Ehire Adrianza, Ozzie Albies

If the Braves elect not to carry Heredia, then Ehire Adrianza would likely get the spot. Adrianza provides some defensive flexibility given that he is capable of playing all over the infield and saw plenty of time in the corner outfield spots for the Braves in 2021. He has played sparingly since coming over, but the versatility could make all the difference.

Ozzie Albies has been taking ground balls before games and is doing everything he can to stay in shape, but his finger remains in a cast which takes him out of the equation for the Division Series. He could return at some point if the Braves advance.

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