We are just over a week into Grapefruit League play for the Atlanta Braves but Opening Day is already looming. There wasn’t a lot of movement in terms of projecting what the roster will look like on Opening Day but several players are starting to position themselves appropriately with camp underway.
C - Travis d’Arnaud
1B - Freddie Freeman
2B - Ozzie Albies
SS - Dansby Swanson
LF - Marcell Ozuna
CF - Ender Inciarte
RF - Ronald Acuña Jr.
Changes: - NONE
The biggest news in regards to Atlanta’s lineup was that Freddie Freeman was scratched from the lineup earlier this week due to some discomfort in his elbow. Freeman of course was hampered by the elbow down the stretch in 2019 and underwent offseason surgery. The Braves have maintained that Freeman’s discomfort was from an increase in activity. Freeman was to take part in a full workout on Sunday and if all went well, could return to the lineup Monday night.
Third base Competition - Johan Camargo, Austin Riley
Brian Snitker has stuck with the stated plan of alternating starts between Johan Camargo and Austin Riley. While spring stats aren’t the most reliable metric, both Riley and Camargo have gotten off to decent starts at the plate. Riley is 4-for-13 while Camargo is 4-for-12 with a homer through five games.
The thinking here remains that if all things are equal, Camargo would likely begin the season at third with Riley heading to Gwinnett to play third every day while continuing to refine his approach at the plate. However, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reported earlier this week that the Braves wouldn’t hesitate to open the season with any of their young players if that was what was best for the team. While there hasn’t been any separation yet, we should expect to see this battle become a bit clearer over the next couple of weeks.
Brian Snitker casted some doubt on whether he considers Camargo as a viable bench candidate on Sunday saying that you can’t do either player justice by not playing them every day. Still, Riley is the one that at this point that you would not like to see receive limited at-bats.
The Outfield - Ender Inciarte, Nick Markakis, Adam Duvall
The outfield situation is largely unchanged as well. Ender Inciarte appears to be healthy and has gotten into six games so far. Adam Duvall has also seen a lot of action early and has gotten off to a good start at the plate going 6-for-14 with three doubles. Snitker elected to ease Marcell Ozuna and Nick Markakis into action and have seen limited opportunities so far. Largely it looks like the Braves are still on course to open the season with five outfielders although Snitker acknowledged earlier this week that it will be challenging finding enough playing time for everyone.
- Tyler Flowers - C
- Nick Markakis - OF
- Adam Duvall - OF
- Adeiny Hechavarria - SS
Changes - NONE
For now, the bench projection remains unchanged as well. One thing to keep an eye on is that Adeiny Hechavarria was scratched from the lineup earlier this week due to soreness in his oblique and hasn’t played since. The Braves said that they don’t think Hechavarria suffered a strain but it will be interesting to see when he returns to action. Flowers, Markakis, Duvall and Hechavarria look like locks at this point and the third base competition will likely determine the outcome of the final bench spot.
Competition - Riley/Camargo, Charlie Culberson, Yonder Alonso
I added Yonder Alonso to this competition essentially for two reasons. He has seen a lot of action early on in the spring and currently, Markakis is the only projected left-handed bat amongst the bench players. Charlie Culberson has also seen a good bit of action but is off to a slow start at the plate going 0-for-10.
I still feel that if Riley wins the third base job outright then Camargo gets the final bench slot and everything will be set. If Camargo is the Opening Day third baseman and Riley is Gwinnett, then that would open the door for someone like Culberson, Alonso or perhaps someone else that is not currently on the spring roster
- Mike Soroka
- Max Fried
- Mike Foltynewicz
- Felix Hernandez
Changes - Added Felix Hernandez
4th/5th starter competition - Sean Newcomb, Felix Hernandez, Bryse Wilson, Kyle Wright
The battle for the rotation is still on going but Felix Hernandez has gotten off to a good start and I am penciling him into the fourth spot at the moment. Hernandez has made two starts this spring allowing three hits and one run over 4 2/3 innings to go along with six strikeouts and one walk. Things could still go sideways in a hurry but it feels like the Braves are giving Hernandez every opportunity to open the season in the rotation.
Sean Newcomb struggled early in his first outing but finished it strong. He is slated to make his second spring start on Monday against the Phillies. Kyle Wright made a strong impression Sunday afternoon striking out five over three shutout innings against the Red Sox. Should Wright capture a rotation spot, it would allow the Braves to shift Newcomb back to a bullpen role.
- Will Smith (L)
- Mark Melancon (R)
- Shane Greene (R)
- Luke Jackson (R)
- Chris Martin (R)
- Darren O’Day (R)
- Philip Pfeifer (L)
- Josh Tomlin (R)
Changes - Added Philip Pfeifer, Josh Tomlin
Competition - Jacob Webb, Josh Tomlin, Grant Dayton, A.J. Minter, Chad Sobotka, Patrick Weigel, Huascar Ynoa, Touki Toussaint, Philip Pfeifer, Jeremy Walker
Projecting the final spots in the bullpen will largely be a crapshoot from here on out. This week I awarded the final two spots to Philip Pfeifer and Josh Tomlin. Pfeifer has allowed just one hit and struck out four over three scoreless innings. He has looked impressive so far this spring and one reason I gave him the nod was that he would add a second left-handed option to the bullpen.
Tomlin has appeared in two games allowing two hits and one run over five innings striking out four while walking one. Tomlin pitched well in long relief / mop up duty last season and Snitker seemed to be comfortable with him filling that role.
The Braves are easing Jacob Webb, A.J. Minter and Chris Martin into action. Webb retired the only batter he has faced this spring while neither Minter or Martin have gotten into a game yet. One player that has struggled in the early going is lefty reliever Grant Dayton who has allowed seven hits and four runs in just three innings.
In closing I filled one of the rotation spots and rounded out the bullpen with a pair of relievers. It is worth mentioning that two of the players I projected for roster spots, Hernandez and Tomlin, would require 40-man roster moves. We will see how things progress over the next week. I didn’t hand Newcomb the final rotation spot but he would seem to have the inside track at this moment.