The Atlanta Braves haven’t clinched a 2023 postseason spot yet - although at this point it seems to be a foregone conclusion. Assuming the team doesn’t have a historic collapse, chances are that the Braves will begin play in the National League Division Series.
Over the years, there have hundreds of players whose legacy with Atlanta is minimal - if not almost forgotten. A handful of those players have appeared in the postseason for the Braves, even though they had little-to-no impact during the regular season.
The modern-day poster child for this club is Terrance Gore. The deep reserve outfielder did not appear for Atlanta in the regular season but did make a postseason appearance in 2021 as a pinch-runner in the NLDS against Milwaukee.
That 2021 season was notable in that multiple Braves appeared in the postseason despite little experience in the big leagues that season. That included World Series starting pitchers Dylan Lee - who appeared in two games during the regular season - and Tucker Davidson who pitched in one game in 2020 and four games in 2021.
Over the years, other relatively unknown players have also appeared for Atlanta. Before taking a look ahead to this season, here’s a look back at some of the players who blazed this obscure trail in seasons past.
The COVID season of 2020 was weird all-the-way-around, and so the postseason saw several players make the postseason after a negligible stay on the pandemic-shorten regular season roster. That included former top outfield prospect Cristian Pache, who appeared in two games in the regular season and 12 games in the postseason, including all seven games of the NLCS. The Braves picked-up three-time World Series champion Pablo Sandoval late in the season and he appeared in one game in the regular season before appearing in three games in the NLCS.
Outfielder Billy Hamiton and catcher Francisco Cervelli both made the Braves’ 2019 postseason roster despite only appearing in 26 and 14 games respectively. Both saw action in two games in the postseason for Atlanta. Not to be outdone, Darren O’Day returned from injury to make eight appearances out of the bullpen for Atlanta down-the-stretch and saw action in four games in the NLDS.
In 2018, Touki Toussaint brought seven games of regular season big league experience to the postseason, picking up a win in the NLDS. That same year, Atlanta brought in former New York Mets first baseman Lucas Duda after starting the year in Kansas City. He got 18 at-bats for Atlanta in the regular season before going 0-for-3 as a pinch-hitter in the postseason.
Catcher Steve Torrealba doubled for Atlanta off-the-bench in the 2001 NLDS despite only having two at bats for Atlanta in the regular season. For his career, he had two career regular season hits, but his only extra base hit was in the postseason.
Howard Battle appeared in five postseason game for the Braves in 1999 a number that was only 10 games less than his total appearances for Atlanta during the regular season, primarily as a pinch-hitter. Battle’s teammate, catcher Jorge Fabregas, went 0-for-8 with Atlanta during the 1999 regular season but got three at-bats for the Braves in the postseason and went hitless in those games as well.
Odalis Perez won his first major league game in 1998 during the NLDS. Perez had pitched in 10 games as a 20-year-old during the regular season. That same season saw infielder Marty Malloy make the postseason roster - and appear in four games in the NLCS - despite playing in only 11 games at the big-league level that season.
In 1997, Atlanta brought back outfielder/pinch-hitter Tommy Gregg for last run with the team after a multi-year run earlier in his career. He appeared in 13 games during the regular season and appeared as a pinch-hitter four times in the NLCS.
In 1996, the Braves rostered Joe Ayrault in the World Series but he did not appear in a game. The 24-year-old catcher had gone 1-for-5 in seven games during the regular season; his only major league experience.
Tony Tarasco appeared in 24 games in his first taste of the big leagues in 1993. Despite only getting 37 plate appearances, the outfielder appeared in two games in the NLCS.
Javy Lopez is a Braves legend but in 1992 he made his debut for Atlanta in the regular season, appearing in nine games. The Braves added him to their postseason roster that season and he appeared in one game during the NLCS. That same year, pitcher David Neid was on the postseason roster but didn’t appear in a game after making six appearances in the regular season.
Rounding out this list of former Braves is Jerry Willard, a back-up catcher and pinch-hitter (and last player to wear number 31 before Greg Maddux) who appeared in 17 games during the 1991 regular season and three more times in the postseason. He provided a critical at-bat in the postseason when he provided the game-winning, pinch-hit sacrifice fly in Game Four of the World Series.
Turning attention to 2023, here’s a list of players who have either appeared in a minimal number of games for the Braves this season - or not at all - but qualify to be added to the postseason roster.
Please note: Vaughn Grissom will not be included in this list since his exclusion from the postseason roster would be more surprising than his inclusion, assuming he is healthy. At the time of this writing, he is on the 7-day IL in Triple-A. Despite only 23 games for Atlanta this season, his offensive performance at Triple-A would seem to make him the likely candidate for a postseason roster as he’s slashed .332/.417/.511 with eight home runs for Gwinnett through Labor Day.
- Forrest Wall: The speedy outfielder made his MLB debut earlier this season and was added to the regular season roster when the postseason expanded. He stole 52 bases at the minor league level each of the past two seasons, so that alone might make him the most likely little-known player to be added to the postseason roster despite appearing in only a handful of games for Atlanta before he returned to the active roster.
- Chadwick Tromp: As seen above, third catchers are always a possibility to be added to the postseason roster, so Tromp is another of the more obvious candidates despite only appearing in six games this season and one majestic regular season game in 2022.
- Darious Vines/Allan Winans/AJ Smith-Shawver/Jared Shuster: All four rookie pitchers made starts for Atlanta this season while also making their major league debut. If Atlanta advances to the NLCS or World Series, it is possible any of these three could be added to the postseason roster if injury, ineffectiveness or overuse strikes another pitcher.
- Adam Kolarek: Atlanta claimed the 34-year-old reliever on August 31, just in time to make him eligible for the postseason. He hasn’t pitched with Atlanta yet, but he appeared in seven postseason games for the Dodgers in 2019 and 2020 with 175 regular season games under his belt during the regular season since his rookie season with Tampa in 2017.
- Seth Elledge: Elledge was called up to Atlanta earlier this season but did not appear in a game before being designated for assignment. He ended up back in Gwinnett where he’s had a good season pitching in 20 games, including a WHIP of 1.037 while striking out almost 11 batters per nine innings. Like Kolarek, he could get an opportunity before the end of the regular season, especially if injuries open up a roster spot in the bullpen.
- Ehire Adrianza/Luke Williams/Charlie Culberson/Branden Shewmake/Hoy Park/Yolmer Sanchez: Adrianza, Williams and Culberson each held down the last bench spot as the deepest reserve position player for a significant amount of time during the regular season. Adrianza is beginning a rehab assignment - which reminded many he was still on the roster. Williams, Culberson and Adrianza collectively have had a grand total of 12 at-bats while on the bench with Atlanta. If, heaven forbid, an injury was to strike a middle infielder or three, then it is at least plausible that Shewmake, Park or Sanchez could get a call. Shewmake only has two big league games to his name, while Park offers a big more experience with 68 games and Sanchez has 674 games as a starter and reserve dating back to 2014. If either of those three are on the roster, something horrible has happened to Atlanta’s middle infield.
- Joe Dunand: The 27-year-old corner infielder has had a solid second campaign at Triple-A after joining the Braves organization last season. Through Labor Day, he has slashed .282/.372/.533 with 17 home runs in only 336 plate appearances. He had a cup-of-coffee with the Marlins last season, appearing in three games, and is a player that the team could plausibly call-up to Atlanta before the end of the regular season and sneak on the postseason roster as a power bat off the bench.
- Jesus Aguilar: If you weren’t paying attention earlier this season, the Braves signed “El Causa” to a minor league contact after he was released by Oakland. The burly former All-Star first baseman with Milwaukee has yet to replicate his 35-home run season from 2018, but he does have 114 career home runs and was a full-time starter at the MLB-level until earlier this season. At Gwinnett, he’s slashed .295/.402/.434 with five home runs in 209 plate appearances. Like Dunand, he too could get a look before the end of the season in Atlanta, and possibly find a way onto a postseason roster as a pinch-hitter/emergency corner infielder, especially in the NLDS where the five-game series would allow the Braves to carry an extra position player, if they chose to do so.
- Hurston Waldrop: There’s no way this would happen, right? The Braves 2023 first round pick has only appeared in six minor league games as of Labor Day, and has one game at Double-A. There’s no way this would happen, right? Right? Queue the Natalie Portman meme. It seems overwhelmingly unlikely to happen, but still, there’s always a possibility that Waldrop could be the latest major leaguer to make him big-league debut in the postseason.
Chances are, only one or two of these names may join the few who have their legacy immortalized in a postseason box score. While many end of being only trivial footnotes, as was the case with Willard, they could also provide a World Series game winning at bat.