We are entering the final stretch of the Grapefruit League season, and the Atlanta Braves are going to have a few decisions to make soon for their Opening Day roster. Major League Baseball took a bit of the drama out of the situation when they announced that rosters will expand to 28 players for the first month of the season, and that there will be no limit on the number of pitchers that a team can carry for the first month. 28 roster spots may have opened up extra drama for some teams with a bunch of similar players on the fringes of a roster spot, but the Braves have a roster that’s mostly set in stone, so there’s not much to debate or assess in this home stretch before the season opens.
Given the shortened Spring Training slate along with the implementation of the universal DH, it seems likely that the Braves will use their extra roster spots on pitchers and carry 15 to start the season. Below, we are going to take a look at the guys that are still in camp and try to identify who is in the running for the final spots.
It is worth mentioning that this is where things stand entering Tuesday’s off day. If we have learned anything from the past, Alex Anthopoulos will continue to look for ways to improve the club. As teams around the league pare down their rosters, we could see another starter or bench option added to the mix.
Rotation Locks (3)
- Max Fried - LHP
- Charlie Morton - RHP
- Ian Anderson - RHP
The only question mark among this group entering the spring was whether Charlie Morton would be ready for the start of the regular season. He answered that question with a good performance in his debut and appears to be on track. The biggest question for this group is whether it will be Morton or Max Fried taking the ball to kick off the season on Opening Day.
- Kyle Wright - RHP
- Huascar Ynoa - RHP
- Tucker Davidson - LHP
- Kyle Muller - LHP
The Braves entered Spring Training knowing there would be a competition for the final two rotation spots. Brian Snitker told reporters last week that Kyle Wright and Huascar Ynoa had the inside track for the remaining two spots. Snitker also suggested that the team would consider a six-man rotation to start the season, given that the late start has forced the Braves into a stretch of 14 straight games to begin the year. If that is the case, then Tucker Davidson, who has been impressive in his first two spring appearances with eight strikeouts in five innings could get a roster spot. Kyle Muller is another option who has also gotten off to a good start during the exhibition schedule.
Carrying a sixth starter makes sense in that it affords the Braves a chance to throw another starter in the mix without a roster move if someone needs an extra day of rest. The sixth starter could also function as a piggyback option should a starter exit early. It looks like Davidson is the leader at this point, but things could change between now and when they break camp. Twinges and tweaks late in March often cause short-lived shakeups and unexpected Opening Day rosters.
- Spencer Strider - RHP
Spencer Strider started Monday’s game against Toronto and looked good again. He is also part of the group competing for one of the final rotation spots. It is unclear if he ahead of guys like Muller and Davidson, but he should make an impact for the Braves at some point in 2022.
The bullpen situation is more clear with what looks like a competition developing for the final three spots. If Luke Jackson has to start the season on the shelf due to injury, that opens up a bit more flexibility for one of the fringe candidates to make the Opening Day roster.
- Luke Jackson - RHP
- Kenley Jansen - RHP
- Tyler Matzek - LHP
- Collin McHugh - RHP
- A.J. Minter - LHP
- Will Smith - LHP
No surprises here. Kenley Jansen and Collin McHugh are solid additions to a group that was dominant during the postseason. There is plenty of depth here and the opportunity to mix and match depending on the matchup is there. Jackson, Minter, and Smith have all had various issues in the not-so-distant past, but that’s true with most pitchers.
- Dylan Lee - LHP
- Sean Newcomb - LHP
- Tyler Thornburg - RHP
- Darren O’Day - RHP
If Atlanta carries 15 pitchers including six starters, that leaves nine spots for the bullpen. Six guys are locks leaving what appears to be four competing for the final three spots. Among them is Sean Newcomb, who is out of options. Newcomb allowed one hit and struck out five over his first two spring appearances. He was tagged for three hits and three runs in just two-thirds of an inning in his last outing. Of course, if Luke Jackson has to miss some time early with injury, this may not be a case where any of these four gets pinched off the roster, though it kind of depends on what the Braves do in terms of carrying a sixth starter to start the season or not.
Alex Anthopoulos has mentioned veteran Darren O’Day, who is a non-roster invitee to camp, by name a couple of times during the spring. If he can get through camp healthy, then it feels like he has a good chance of locking down a roster spot. It probably wouldn’t be hard for him to latch on with another team out of camp if the Braves don’t have room for him.
Tyler Thornburg and Dylan Lee are two other options. Thornburg is on the 40-man roster, but has a non-guaranteed deal. Lee got a taste with the Braves at the end of the regular season and again during the postseason, but is an unheralded name that wasn’t really on anyone’s radar until a solid relief season at Gwinnett last year.
The position player group for the Braves is essentially set. It just comes down to how many pitchers they end up carrying. A four-man bench is something we may see a lot more of now with the DH in place as teams won’t need that many pinch-hitters on a nightly basis.
C - Travis d’Arnaud
1B - Matt Olson
2B - Ozzie Albies
3B - Austin Riley
SS - Dansby Swanson
LF - Marcell Ozuna
CF - Adam Duvall
RF - Eddie Rosario
DH - Alex Dickerson
Alex Dickerson is in camp on a non-guaranteed deal but looks like a safe bet to land a spot on the roster. Dickerson is a lefty that could DH against right-handed pitching.
C - Manny Pina
INF - Orlando Arcia
UTIL - Brock Holt
OF - Guillermo Heredia
The Braves added Pina at the start of the offseason to add some depth behind Travis d’Arnaud. Orlando Arcia returns as infield depth and Guillermo Heredia is likely to start in center field against left-handers until Ronald Acuña Jr. returns from the injured list.
The Braves added several veteran options on minor league deals during the spring, including Brock Holt, Pat Valaika and Phil Gosselin. None of the group has seen a ton of action yet and Atlanta could be on the lookout for an upgrade here as other teams cut their rosters down.