Atlanta Braves Roster Talk: The Locks and the Battles

Image result for sean newcomb

As Spring Training gets ready to kick off next week with pitchers and catchers reporting, eternal optimism for 30 teams will fill the air and our Atlanta Braves will look to repeat winning the division for the 3rd straight year with dreams of grabbing their first ring in 25 years (reality check: 30% of the 40-man wasn’t even born yet).

Excluding injuries or unforeseen trades that could alter the 26-man roster, the Braves have a large chunk of their team that will no doubt break camp on the big league team due to lack of options, or the fact that they’re really good at baseball. That’s where we’ll begin our Atlanta Braves Roster Talk.

Atlanta Braves Roster Talk: The Locks

Position players

Catcher: Travis d’Arnaud

1st Baseman: Freddie Freeman

2nd Baseman: Ozzie Albies

Shortstop: Dansby Swanson

Left Field: Marcell Ozuna

Center Field: Ender Inciarte

Right Field: Ronald Acuña Jr.

Bench: Nick Markakis, Adam Duvall, Adeiny Hechavarria, Tyler Flowers


Starting Pitchers: Mike Soroka, Cole Hamels, Mike Foltynewicz, Max Fried

Relief Pitchers: Mark Melancon, Will Smith, Shane Greene, Chris Martin, Luke Jackson, Darren O’Day

Lock, but role undetermined: Sean Newcomb

Total Locks: 22

Atlanta Braves Roster Talks: The Battles

With 22 of the 26 roster spots locked up, the Braves will have an all-out battle to grab the last 4 roster spots. Here are the spots available:

  • 5th Starting Pitcher
  • Relief Pitcher
  • Starting 3rd Baseman
  • Bench Bat

Atlanta Braves Roster Talks: The Battles, 5th Starting Pitcher

With the Braves being a team that rebuilt the farm system trading for and drafting starting pitcher after starting pitcher, there are so many options that the Braves could utilize. In this exercise, I’ll try my best to provide % points to each SP candidate to determine their chance of being named the 5th starting pitcher. When spring ramps up, I’ll take the news in and provide a Monday update each week. There will be 2 non-roster invitees that will make this list, but otherwise, I’ll keep it to the 40-man.

Breakdown: I truly think it’s a 4-man battle for the last spot in the rotation. I don’t think Alex Anthopoulos is a GM that’s guilty of false-speech and I believe whole-heartedly that he intends to let Sean Newcomb re-test the starting pitcher waters. Both Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson showed really good signs of their pitching repertoire coming ’round at Gwinnett (Bryse’s changeup, Wright’s everything). Some might be hesitant to put Felix at 35%, but not me. In this piece that I wrote a few weeks back, I feel whole-heartedly at ease putting 35% beside his name knowing full well that it’s time for Felix to adapt or die, and I got a feeling he wants to adapt. Pfeifer and Davidson are on the outside looking in, and Touki is out of luck until he can show he’s past his control and contact issues.

Atlanta Braves Roster Talks: The Battles, Reliever

This is where the list gets a bit lengthy due, in large part, to the lack of a veteran mop-up presence on the roster. While that’s not a good place for a rookie to be, as of now we can only assume that one of the guys on the 40-man or NRI list will be the mop-up man. The only 2 I’ll exclude from the above list are Tucker Davidson and Ian Anderson, as they won’t be mop-up pitchers should they get the call-up.

Breakdown: If Newcomb becomes the 5th starting pitcher, that will lead to the need for 2 relievers and these percentages will change greatly. I think the trickle down effect would be that the Braves would want another LHP in the bullpen and a long-relief option. Wilson and Pfeifer fit the first description while Dayton and Pfeifer fit the 2nd. Jacob Webb was great when healthy and if he’s healthy, he might have the inside track to the last bullpen spot. Still, I feel like we’re going to see a trade at some point before spring training ends to clear out this list.

Atlanta Braves Roster Talks: The Battles, Starting 3rd Baseman

This one is fairly straight-forward. One of Austin Riley or Johan Camargo will be the starting 3rd baseman for the Atlanta Braves should no other moves be made. And while the mass media is pumping up Johan Camargo and pumping the brakes on Austin Riley, I’m not convinced that’s accurate:

  • Johan Camargo: 50%
  • Austin Riley: 50%

Breakdown: While I think Johan Camargo is a good ballplayer, the fact remains that he’s essentially had one year in his entire professional career of which he was an above average hitter. To be contrarian, he’s grown a lot physically and is apparently in the BSOHL. But Austin Riley is a good ballplayer with one serious mechanical flaw that he’s worked on all offseason, and I’m not going to overlook that no matter what the media is telling me.

Atlanta Braves Roster Talks: The Battles, Bench Bat

This category might be the place where the Braves aren’t done as the options are fine, but the team might look to add a veteran presence.

Breakdown: I think it’d be quite possible that if Austin Riley breaks camp as the starting 3rd baseman that Johan Camargo would grab the last bench spot. However, if it were vice-versa, I’d expect Riley to go to AAA to grab everyday at-bats, which would then lead back to Culberson grabbing the last bench spot. The only way I see Alex Jackson breaking camp with the Braves would be that if Anthopoulos preferred a 3rd catcher, freeing up Flowers or d’Arnaud as a bench bat, but I think that scenario is quite low…hence the 5%.

Thanks for reading about on our Atlanta Braves Roster Talk. If you enjoyed this piece, check out our Atlanta Braves Updated Payroll piece here.

Author: Ryan Cothran

Ryan is the site editor and manager of Braves Journal. Follow him on Twitter.

38 thoughts on “Atlanta Braves Roster Talk: The Locks and the Battles”

  1. BSOHL: ain’t they all?

    I prefer my locks to prove they can handle the job rather than demonstrate they cannot. I mention no names, but entitlement offends my blue collar work ethic.

  2. Don’t forget, If newcomb gets the 5th started that means you need 2 more bullpen guys. or if he stays in the pen one more starter and one reliever. I’d be fine seeing him in the pen with wilson or wright if felix wins the starting role. Or even Webb or Walker. Lots of decent options for those last couple spots.

  3. So who in the bullpen is more likely to be traded ?
    I am assuming the 0% pitchers will be sent to AAA or moved in Trades

  4. @Matt P
    There are already 6 locks (assuming health) in the bullpen (MM, Greene, Smith, O’Day, Martin, Jackson) and 4 locks in SP (Soroka, Fried, Hamels, Folty). Add Newk to one of those spots, and that’s 11 of 12 locks. In short, there’s only 1 pitching position available and the power is in Newk whether that will be reliever or starter.

  5. @Frank

    I think there has to be trades, unless the Braves can send 2 guys to the 60-day IL to start the season.

  6. I’ve been burned so many times in the last few years with thinking we’re going to have 2-3 guys come out and earn the job in the Spring. Just last year, I was so excited about Kyle Wright. And then the season started.

    With that said, I think Minter should be a higher percentage to find a spot in the pen. You heard it here first months ago that Newk is going to get the 5th spot, and I’m not wavering on that now.

  7. @4, 8 man bullpen and 5 man rotation. 6 locks in bullpen, 4 locks in rotation. 3 open spots and newk will fill one of the 3. 2 open spots.

    unless they go with a 7 man pen and 6 man bench which I see as highly unlikely

  8. @Ryan re: locks between the pen and the rotation. With a 26 man roster, you really think the Braves are only going to carry 12 pitchers? That would give us a 6 man bench, and since we went most of the season with a 4 man bench, it’s hard to imagine they wouldn’t take advantage of the 26 man roster to increase the bench by one and still keep 8 relievers.

    I agree with your locks, but if Newk gets the 5th starter there will be 2 open spots in the rotation, and if Hernandez locks down the 5th spot then Newk is your long relief, extra LH out of the pen and we still have room for one more pitcher.

    Personally, I tend to agree with your take on Hernandez, and if he shows anything in ST he probably gets the 5th spot and Newk heads back to the pen with a rotating 8th spot in the pen going to your 5% players above.

  9. @everyone

    Yup. I screwed up. Don’t try to write late at night. Not sure where my numbers were. I’ll adjust % soon.

  10. I just noticed the usual early season strange and slow schedule isn’t applicable. Apparently with the dome in Phoenix, there is no reason to schedule an off day for day 2 in case of rain. Then, after 4 straight days, to San Diego for 3. Then an off day to travel for home opener on Friday. And that is the first of 17 (I counted it 3 times and made sure I was looking carefully) straight days with games.
    All of this is to say that the usual, “run a pitcher short for 10 days or so because you have 3 off days” has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with this schedule.

    I think with the 26 is a rule of a max of 13 pitchers. I expect the Braves to carry 13.

  11. Would we really go with three lefties in the rotation?

    My gut tells me King Felix = Bartolo 2.0. If he does end up pitching well, it won’t be with us.

    I want to see more of Bryse and Tucker. I think one or both of those guys is eventually gonna find a groove and be great.

  12. New percent reflects the opportunity for 2 pitchers outside of Newcomb. Sorry for the mishap.

  13. 14 – I have mentioned several times on this blog that Waters reminds me of Schafer more than anyone. He has had more of a hit tool in the minors, but that comp is my fear with him and why I’m not afraid to trade him in the right deal.

  14. I don’t think those comments sound like someone who’s only a Spring Training invite away from saying that he feels like effing success. I could be wrong, though, and I would otherwise agree that if you can package Waters up for something a little more than 1 year of Betts, I would do it.

    One minor squabble: I wouldn’t minimize Waters’ advantage over Schafer at the plate. Schafer was a year older than Waters at AA essentially putting up the same numbers. Schafer then struggled mightily at AAA at age 22. Waters was already better at AAA last year when he was 2 years younger. If Waters hits well at AAA to start the year, the differences in their work at the plate will be so different that you really can’t compare them as prospects anymore. I get that they’re both cocky white kids that play a good centerfield, but I feel like Waters is much farther along.

  15. The biggest difference for me is that unless I’m completely misremembering, Jordan Schafer was never, ever a top-25 prospect — more of a top-100 prospect. Waters has a much higher profile, and I think it’s fair to say he has a much higher floor.

    (All that being said, I think that if Schafer hadn’t hidden his broken wrist for a month because he was afraid of getting sent back to the minors, his career might have had a different trajectory, too.)

    Update: Whoops! Never mind. Schafer WAS a top-25 prospect.

    Don’t listen to me.

  16. Something we need to remember about Schafer is that he got busted for PEDs in the minors when it wasn’t too common of a practice for minor leaguers to get tested regularly (according to him 20 times no less) and his numbers were never the same. Dude was shady but let us not forget that Drew’s Braves career started with shady accusations that turned into reality.

  17. I think you don’t trot three lefties out there. I think best case is Newk is good in the spring and we trade him.

  18. 16 – I would absolutely package Waters for one year of Betts without hesitation. I’ve heard some say they should try for Arenado with Waters instead but to me Betts is the more attractive contract. Arenado is being paid extremely well for 2 years, then can opt out. If his numbers don’t translate well outside of Coors, he gets hurt, etc, you are in the worst case scenario and have an albatross contract for 7 years. And you gave up a good prospect to get him…with Betts, you can feel relatively certain you will get near MVP level production for the 1 year you have him.

  19. @20 Not unlike JD with perhaps better production (albeit at a higher cost with Waters involved)

  20. Coppy offerred Waters extra inducements outside the terms of his contract to sign (a car if I remember correctly). I believe Coppy tried to claim it was all a joke.

  21. If Betts were to sign a one year contract for just this season, how much would he get on the open market?

  22. Do you guys believe this?

  23. No kidding, last night I dreamed I was the Braves GM, and I got offered Justin Verlander for Drew Waters.

  24. @26, it’s not completely crazy — he’ll be 30 next time and clearly he’s figuring that he’ll make more without the QO. So if he excels on a one-year deal then next time he’s going to be hoping for some Donaldson money. Whereas if he took the 3-year deal this time and came out at age 32, he probably wouldn’t get nearly as much.

    Ballsy, but I think confidence is a critical part of makeup.

  25. $18M is well beyond financial escape-velocity and he’s already made about $25M in his career. Even if his bet fails, he should never have to work again if he’s smart.

  26. BSOHL should be a new acronym in baseball reference. A player should be allowed to declare BSOHL one time in his career and there should be an asterisk by his stats for that year for tracking purposes.

  27. Yeah, the Dodgers are looking pretty tough.

    Sadly, I think Alonso’s chance at playing meaningful innings isn’t much different than King Felix’s. I have a lot less faith in his ability to pitch without a fastball than some of you guys.

  28. I don’t think the Dodgers improved themselves much at all. They added Betts and Price but subtracted Pederson, Verdugo, and Maeda. Price may be pretty much done. Maeda was likely better. And they only get one year of Betts. Changing leagues is not always that easy. Betts may have some adjustments to make. Boston’s the big winner here. They save a bunch of money to get under the luxury tax and pick up some future potential building blocks in Verdugo and Graterol.

    So the Dodgers got marginally better in the OF and worse in pitching. The Red Sox may not win much this year but will be coming back in future years. And the Twinkies win, too, by improving their rotation with Maeda. I think the Dodgers were too desperate to get Betts and ended up treading water.

  29. @rog
    From the perspective as far as adding wins, on paper, you are likely correct, but the thing with the Dodgers is they have players that can replace Verdugo, Joc, and Maeda’s production, and literally just consolidated all those wins into one guy. Price is just the bonus fry in the bag.

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