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Sizing up the Braves’ roster after Monday’s surprising cuts

Monday’s moves pretty much answered every question for the Opening Day roster.

Atlanta Braves v Seattle Mariners Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Atlanta Braves will enjoy their final off day of the spring Tuesday and with just over a week of Grapefruit League action remaining, the team’s roster is taking shape for Opening Day. The Braves answered many of the questions that were lingering Monday night with a surprising round of cuts that included not only Vaughn Grissom and Braden Shewmake, but also Jordan Luplow and Nick Anderson. Barring an unforeseen trade, those moves have siphoned much of the drama out of the Opening Day roster reveal. With that said, below is a look at where things stand currently and what the Opening Day roster is likely to look like.

Note: An asterisk denotes that the player is not on the 40-man roster

Starting Rotation (5): Max Fried, Spencer Strider, Charlie Morton, Kyle Wright, Dylan Dodd*

Others remaining in camp: Jared Shuster*, Kolby Allard (Inj), Mike Soroka

Atlanta entered the spring with four of the five spots in their rotation accounted for and a group of pitchers in competition for the final spot. What originally looked like a competition between Ian Anderson, Michael Soroka, Bryce Elder and Kolby Allard has turned into a competition between rookie left-handers Jared Shuster and Dylan Dodd.

Soroka is scheduled to make his spring debut Wednesday, but a sore hamstring delayed his start to the spring and robbed him of any chance to break camp with the club. Allard pitched well early before he was sidelined by an oblique injury. He will begin the season on the injured list. Before Monday, the most surprising move Atlanta had made during camp was optioning Anderson and Elder to Triple A. That opened the door for Shuster and Dodd to step forward and neither have disappointed with their performance. Neither are on the 40-man roster so whoever wins the spot will need to be added. At this point, it feels like the competition is too close to call. I went with Dodd for this exercise because of the situation I am about to cover.

The chance also exists that the Braves break camp with Shuster or Dodd and they are available out of the bullpen early on as a multi-inning option. It wouldn’t be the first time they have operated in that capacity with Brian Snitker saying “we will see how we get there” when talking about a rotation spot. Kyle Wright’s start to the spring was delayed after he needed a cortisone shot in his shoulder shortly before camp opened. Wright is scheduled to make one more Grapefruit League start and then throw a game against minor leaguers. The Braves expect him to be ready to start in the second series of the season in St. Louis, but whether he is fully stretched out remains to be seen.

Bullpen (8): Raisel Iglesias, A.J. Minter, Joe Jimenez, Collin McHugh, Dylan Lee, Lucas Luetge, Kirby Yates, Jesse Chavez*.

Others remaining in camp: Michael Tonkin

The Braves answered all of the bullpen questions with roster moves earlier this week. Jackson Stephens cleared waivers and was outrighted to Gwinnett. Then Nick Anderson was among the group of players optioned to Triple A on Monday. That will pave the way for Jesse Chavez to claim the final bullpen spot for Opening Day. Chavez is currently in camp on a minor league contract and will need to be added to the 40-man roster.

Michael Tonkin is on the 40-man roster and remains in camp, but he is out of options. Once he is designated for assignment, that will open up another spot on the 40-man.

Catchers (2): Travis d’Arnaud, Sean Murphy

No controversy here. Travis d’Arnaud and Sean Murphy are set for the regular season and should give Atlanta one of the best catching situations in the league. The only question might be how much we will see either as the DH?

Infielders (5): Ozzie Albies, Orlando Arcia, Matt Olson, Austin Riley, Ehire Adrianza

What a strange path we have taken to get to Orlando Arcia as the team’s Opening Day shortstop. The decision to option both Grissom and Shewmake Monday still doesn’t make that much sense to me. I understand the desire to accumulate and hold on to as much depth as possible, but I think in this instance it overcomplicates things.

Grissom was hyped as the leading candidate all offseason and didn’t disappoint when on the field. Shewmake was one of the biggest surprises of camp although he doesn’t have the a great track record of success at the plate in the higher levels of the minors.

Some are suggesting that Arcia is the safer fall back option and I would have agreed had Grissom not looked ready. Arcia has appeared at shortstop a total of six times since the 2020 season. He has experience at the position and a good arm, but may have the same type of range concerns as Grissom.

He has been a league average hitter once in his career which was last season in a 234 plate appearance sample. A large part of that was his success against the Nationals where he hit .400/.468/.775 with five of his nine home runs coming in 14 games.

Arcia may be nothing but a stopgap, but jumping through these hoops in order to keep Ehire Adrianza is also eye raising. By all accounts, Adrianza is a great clubhouse guy and had plenty of big moments for the 2021 team on their way to a World Series title, but he produced a 38 wRC+ in 37 games between the Nationals and Braves last season. Maybe he wouldn’t have accepted the assignment to the minor leagues, but there are going to be a lot of players of that caliber or better available by the end of next week if they were that concerned about their infield depth. Also remember, the Braves had the chance to turn to Adrianza last season, but instead chose to promote Grissom from Double A to play a position that he had virtually no experience.

If this is where they always thought they would end up, then it begs to question why addressing the shortstop position wasn’t a bigger priority during the offseason.

Outfielders (6): Ronald Acuña Jr, Michael Harris, Sam Hilliard, Kevin Pillar, Marcell Ozuna, Eddie Rosario

How the outfield situation shakes out is going to be interesting as well. Ronald Acuña Jr. and Michael Harris have two spots locked up. Eddie Rosario had a nice showing the World Baseball Classic, is back in camp and will likely see the bulk of time in left field. The Braves answered many of the other questions Monday by optioning Jordan Luplow and Eli White to Triple A.

Luplow got a late start to the spring due to a sore oblique, but saw extensive playing time over the last week. He will figure back into the picture at some point and his success in his career against left-handed pitching would seem to make him a good platoon candidate with Rosario. If we base things solely on spring performance, then Eli White deserved to be on the Opening Day roster. However, he had options remaining and that was always going to play a factor. Additionally, White doesn’t have a good track record at the plate in his brief major league career, but he did seem to have made some adjustments this spring, has good speed and can play all three outfield spots. We should see him at some point in 2023.

Sam Hilliard has also had a solid camp, can play all three outfield spots and could serve as a lefty bat off the bench. He was out of options and was unlikely to clear waivers so keeping him isn’t a surprise. Keeping Pillar shouldn’t be either given how glowingly Brian Snitker and others have spoken about him during the spring.

It also looks like Marcell Ozuna will get another shot and will probably see a lot of time as the DH early on. Given what we have seen from him since signing his big extension, the leash should be short, but apparently the $37 million owed to him is still too big of a number to cut bait. Given the amount of available options Atlanta has, there is zero reason to ever see Ozuna in left field during the upcoming season. He has looked better at the plate this spring, but we will have to see whether that is the new norm or is he still the same player that the previous 700 plate appearance sample over the last two seasons suggest.

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