The Atlanta Braves were already going to have some interesting decisions to make with their pitching staff for their postseason roster and that was before it was known that Charlie Morton was going to miss the Division Series with a finger injury.
Below I took a look at the available options while mostly sticking to players that are on the 40-man roster. This obviously could change over the final week of the season, but this seems like a good starting place. Remember that there are enough off days during the Division Series that the Braves can get through it using just three starting pitchers.
Rotation (3): Max Fried, Spencer Strider, Bryce Elder
The big question mark here is Max Fried, who is on the Injured List with a blister on his left index finger. Fried will be eligible to return from the shelf the day before the Division Series starts, and the Braves expect him to be ready to start one of the first two games. The loss of Morton makes Fried’s availability even more important.
Bryce Elder is Atlanta’s likely starter for Game 3. He’s struggled a bit down the stretch, but the Braves should have the benefit of a quick hook and there are enough off days in the series that they could potentially turn the Game 3 start into somewhat of a bullpen game.
Other options: Dylan Dodd, Jared Shuster, A.J. Smith-Shawver, Darius Vines, Allan Winans
Darius Vines and Allan Winans are probably the most logical choices if the Braves need another starter. Dylan Dodd worked in relief Saturday for Gwinnett while A.J. Smith-Shawver still isn’t fully stretched out since returning from a shoulder injury. Both could also figure into the bullpen mix.
Bullpen (9): Raisel Iglesias, A.J. Minter, Joe Jimenez, Pierce Johnson, Michael Tonkin, Kirby Yates, Brad Hand, Jesse Chavez, Kyle Wright
I don’t think there are any real surprises in this bullpen projection, with the exception of Kyle Wright. Brian Snitker said Sunday that Wright will shift into a bullpen role for the remainder of the regular season to audition for a spot on the postseason roster. If he shows promise as a reliever over the final week of the season, he could be a valuable multi-inning option and perhaps even a piggyback partner for Elder in Game 3.
Jesse Chavez’s return looks bigger every day. Brad Hand will slot in as the second lefty behind A.J. Minter.
Other options: Nick Anderson, Ben Heller, Daysbel Hernandez, Collin McHugh, Jackson Stephens
Jackson Stephens is probably the player to watch here if the Braves carry 12 pitchers and elect to leave Wright off the roster for the NLDS. Stephens struggled in his last appearance, but is another multi-inning option that could eat innings if needed. Collin McHugh is currently on a rehab assignment at Gwinnett after going on the Injured List with shoulder inflammation. He struggled in his first appearance, but struck out four over two scoreless innings last time out. McHugh’s struggles down the stretch though make me wonder if he is truly an option. Ben Heller could also seemingly figure into the mix along with Dodd and Smith-Shawver.
Nick Anderson has made two appearances at Gwinnett and has allowed three runs in 1 1/3 innings, but hasn’t struck out a batter. It feels like a stretch to think at this point that he could contribute in the Division Series.
Catchers (2): Travis d’Arnaud, Sean Murphy
The only question mark at the catcher position for the Braves is how they will divide up playing time between Travis d’Arnaud and Sean Murphy. Both have struggled a bit at the plate down the stretch, but have the team’s full confidence. Murphy’s problems are different than d’Arnaud’s in that his inputs are still fine, but it’s hard to know at this point whether that will make him a consistent postseason starter.
Other options: Chadwick Tromp
If the Braves elected to carry a third catcher, it would likely be Chadwick Tromp. Given that Marcell Ozuna has a tight grip on all of the DH at-bats and how little the team uses pinch-hitters, carrying a third catcher doesn’t seem like a likely option.
Infielders (6): Ozzie Albies, Orlando Arcia, Vaughn Grissom, Nicky Lopez, Matt Olson, Austin Riley
If the Braves carry 12 pitchers or less, then that opens up opportunities on the position player side. I included Vaughn Grissom here as well as a potential right-handed bat off the bench. They wouldn’t have to worry about his defense with Nicky Lopez also on the roster.
I never really considered Luke Williams an option for the postseason roster, but here we are. He has some positional flexibility and is a good runner. He’s probably the next position player to be added if the Braves choose to carry, say, only 11 pitchers.
Outfielders (6): Ronald Acuña Jr, Michael Harris II, Kevin Pillar, Marcell Ozuna (DH), Eddie Rosario, Forrest Wall
There are no surprises in the outfield. It has felt like the Braves were sold early on Forrest Wall as a part of the postseason roster due to his speed. His ability to play all three outfield spots is an added bonus.