I’m working on the assumption that the Braves plan to have only one reserve outfielder on the roster to start the season. Mark DeRosa and Matt Franco can play the outfield corners, as can Robert Fick (or Chipper Jones, if he’s at first), so the Braves probably feel they need only one reserve, but that reserve has to be able to play center.
Anyone who wants to make the roster has to play lights out, then, or hope someone gets hurt. There are two outfielders with minimal major league experience on the 40-man roster, Cory Aldridge and Ryan Langerhans.
Aldridge had a big spring training in 2001, I recall, and was considered a possibility to make the team. Wiser heads prevailed, and he was sent to AA. He didn’t really play well there, but did get an end-of-season callup to Atlanta, where he was hitless in five at-bats. Last year he was injured and played only briefly, that in rookie ball.
Langerhans hit only .251 in Greenville last year, but had a little power and a good number of walks, so it wasn’t a complete loss. He’s probably the closest thing to an outfield prospect the Braves have in the upper levels. He had a single at-bat in a late-season callup to Atlanta. Comparisons to Paul O’Neill are far overblown.
There’s some major league outfield experience on the Richmond roster, but nobody with nearly as much as Bragg… Bo Porter played for three major league teams in 1999-2001, but spent last year in Richmond, where he was solid, hitting .296/.374/.434; he was probably the team’s best player, him or Mike Hessman, and really deserved a callup. With his speed and on-base ability, he’d be a good fit for the Braves’ roster. (Honestly, the Braves would be better off with him in left field, Chipper at third, and Vinny on a slow boat to China, but that’s not going to happen.)
I should probably take my obligatory slam at Travis Wilson, who has found his way onto the Richmond roster as an outfielder even though he’s still no more a professional baseball player than he is King of Norway. He swings at everything — balls, strikes, peanuts thrown by vendors, beach balls that fall onto the field, the moon, everything. He struck out 105 times last year in 494 at bats and posted a robust .287 on-base percentage. He’s a good athlete, but that and $2.95 will get him a small cup of coffee. Merv Rettenmund thought he was the best hitter in the organization other than Wilson Betemit, one of many reasons that Merv should have been fired with extreme prejudice.
Damon Hollins, a long-ago Braves prospect, has mostly bounced around AAA the last few years; his entire major league experience is 15 ABs for the Braves and Dodgers in 1998, but I’m not convinced that he’s any worse of a ballplayer than Darren Bragg. Still, when you’ve played for the R-Braves in five different seasons, you don’t expect many breaks.