Braves 40-Man Roster Faces Difficult Decision

Will Chad Sobotka be a roster casualty?

“The Braves 40-man roster was full as a tick, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of this bulging was signed by the clergyman Cole Hamels , the clerk Terry McGuirk, the undertaker Nick Markakis, and the chief mourner Ender Inciarte. Anthopoulos signed it. And Anthopoulos’s name was good upon ‘Change for anything he chose to put his hand to. The 40-man roster was full as a tick.”

Braves 40-Man Roster: Who Goes?

We’ve seen full Braves 40-man rosters of the past. But we’ve also seen scrap-heap players sitting in 2-3 of those spots; guys like Rafael Ortega, “Generic 3rd Catcher”, “Throwaway Reliever”, or even the classic “Fill-in Veteran SP that will immediately be DFA’d when good SP is healthy”. But this is not that 40-man roster.

If I had to put a guess on it, here is the pecking order of players on the 40-man roster that could be first to go should Braves need a spot:

Both of these guys have value. Both have MLB ceilings and while Sobotka is more of a wild card, he’s also an arm that’s hard to give up on. Losing anyone on this 40-man without getting some form of compensation will hurt.

Braves 40-Man Roster: Others of Note

There’s been discussion on the blog about players like Huascar Ynoa and Alex Jackson being disposable. Sure, the Braves will likely be fine without either one of these players, but that does not mean they’re disposable. They have value in a trade. Alex Jackson projects as an above average backup catcher with pop, good receiving skills, and a great arm, and Huascar Ynoa is a SP turned RP, due to necessity, that was rushed through the system from High-A all the way to the MLB because of a fastball that reaches triple digits. Don’t discount his ceiling merely because the Braves were the goofball that pushed him through 4 levels in 1 year as a 21 year old. He’s got back-end relief potential with 2 seriously plus pitches.

The Hamels Injury Creates Conundrum

The Starting Pitching

There’s a trickle down effect that comes with a Cole Hamels injury. If everything goes peachy for Hamels in his recovery, he could be pitching at the end of April, but who fills his spot AND the vacant 5th starter position. If I had to put money on it today, those 2 would be Sean Newcomb and Felix Hernandez. Guess what?

Felix needs a roster spot.

The Relief

Then we get to the relief. Taking the info above, there are 6 spots occupied by Will Smith, Mark Melancon, Darren O’Day, Chris Martin, Luke Jackson, and Shane Greene which leaves 2 spots available. Looking at the above 6 and knowing Snitker’s mindset when it comes to mop-up duty, there’s only 1 person in camp that fits the mold: Josh Tomlin. Sure, Snitker could choose to use a young pitcher in this role, but that would go against everything we’ve seen in his tenure as manager. Guess what?

Tomlin needs a roster spot.

The Bench

Now we get to the bench. All eyes are going to be on Austin Riley and Johan Camargo‘s batter for the 3B spot. It’s going to be fun to watch. And while I’m holding out hope that Riley will land the spot and prove that he’s capable of holding down the position for the next 1/2 decade, I think it’s Camargo’s to lose. If Camargo wins the position, my crystal ball tells me that Riley will go get regular AB’s at AAA, creating a need for a backup infielder. This leads me back to a player that was removed from the 40-man roster and signed an MiLB contract with a ST invite. Yes, I’m talking about Charlie Culberson. Guess what?

Culberson needs a roster spot.


While all 3 of these could happen, it’s more plausible to think that 2 of them happen. And with injuries popping up all of the time, this situation could get resolved by way of a 60-day IL stint. Or, there’s another scenario that could happen and that is that the Braves package a few of these guys in a trade to free up some space. But what would be unacceptable to me, as a fan of everyone on this 40-man, would be to lose them for nothing.

Thanks for reading on the Braves 40-Man Roster Conundrum. If you enjoyed this piece, check out this piece on the Bottlenecking of Braves Starting Pitchers.

Long Live Braves Journal!

Author: Ryan Cothran

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

25 thoughts on “Braves 40-Man Roster Faces Difficult Decision”

  1. Man, I get that the Hamels injury means there is a rotation spot, but I’m not sure we should be so on board with giving it to Felix. Am I missing something or has he not been pretty darn bad, especially last year. I mean he was reeeally bad in 2019. Even if he only has to start 3-4 games, that could be the difference in the division. Remember the Shane Reynolds experiment a while back? Dude had no business being on a major league mound and put the Braves in a 0-4 hole by May.

  2. @1 @2 It does appear he is waaaaaay more stubborn (or arrogant) than our good friend Anibal, and that doesn’t seem like it will translate well

  3. I truly cannot for the life of me understand why anyone has confidence in Felix Hernandez. In one of the most extreme pitcher’s parks in MLB, here is how Felix has performed over the last 24 months:

    43 starts, 227 1/3 innings (5.1 innings per start), 5.82 ERA, 71 ERA+, 1.44 WHIP, -1.8 rWAR (0.1 fWAR).

    He has literally been two wins worse than replacement level. (Or, if you prefer fWAR, he’s been exactly replacement level and he’s just been unlucky, so he’s given up enough runs for B-ref to THINK he’s 2 wins worse than replacement.) Giving him a major league roster spot at this juncture is impossible to justify.

  4. I definitely don’t think Jackson or Ynoa are disposable, but I do agree Sobotka and Dayton are. The 40-man equation just has a lot of “if, then” scenarios. A big part of this are the lefty relievers. If Minter doesn’t make the roster out of Spring Training, then he’s a DFA candidate. The guy’s 26, and as much as I was in on the Minter hype a few years ago, a lot has changed. But if he does make the roster, then that probably renders Pfeifer useless, so that a 27-year old with no major league success is an easy DFA candidate.

    The amount of locks for the pen is pretty substantial: Melancon, Smith, Greene, Martin, and Newcomb if he’s not a starter (he probably will, though). And everybody else is just fairly generic: Dayton, Jackson, O’Day, Minter, Pfeifer, Webb, Walker, and Weigel. That’s 8 guys for 3 spots, 4 if Newcomb is a starter. And if a guy from that list can’t beat out 3 of those other guys for a spot in the pen, then I’m kinda just done with him. These aren’t young prospects. Weigel will be 26 this year. Webb will be 27. Walker will be 25. As mentioned, Dayton’s 32, Minter’s 26, Pfeifer’s 27. If they can’t crack a big league club, I just don’t care about losing them to DFA, especially with Hamel’s injury opening a spot for an additional pitcher who otherwise shouldn’t be here.

    Long story short, if they can’t make the club in this situation, at their age, when will they?

  5. I think Felix will have to pitch very well in ST to get a spot. The knock on him with the Mariners was that he was stubborn and wouldn’t adapt. I like giving him a shot, but he needs to definitely prove otherwise or they should dump him.

  6. Cannot look at age, rather options and/or lack thereof (think I found my next piece). As long as these guys are flexible enough to be brought back and forth from AAA, they’re valuable.

    Next year, Melancon and Greene will be free agents, and the thing about a bullpen is that there should be 2-3 guys you’re willing to spend on, then the rest need to be cheap. IMO, the Braves cannot afford to spend as much on the bullpen in the future that they did this year and that means that internal candidates need to step up. Especially in the bullpen, a good flexible bullpen for this reason alone.

  7. I believe Luke has a spot in the bullpen locked up. Of the others, Webb, Walker, and Weigel all have multiple options left and that has a great deal of value in these days of using 15+ relievers during a season. Pfeiffer, unless we see him as an AAA starter/break glass in case of emergency guy, is way more valuable to virtually any non-contending team than he is to us and one would think a trade will happen with KC or the Pirates or even the Angels. I think Minter still has some trade value but I don’t know who would want him if he walks 10 guys in 13 spring innings.

  8. O’Day as well assuming health. They didn’t sign him to a deal with a cheap team option to cut him.

  9. Options only go so far. If they can’t pitch, they can’t pitch, and it doesn’t matter how many options they have. Are you going to keep Weigel on the 40-man when he’s throwing 92 MPH simply because he has options? Are you going to keep 27-year old Pfeifer on the roster if he doesn’t get hitters out in Spring Training (and hasn’t for his entire major league career) because he has options? I think we’re past the point in the rebuild where we’re stashing lottery tickets on the 40-man, and these aren’t even the lottery tickets of yesteryear.

    I do agree Jackson has a spot locked up, which further illustrates how few spots remain for so many journeymen.

    O’Day is 37 years old, has pitched 25 innings the last 2 years, and he was signed to a fairly pedestrian contract. It’s unlikely, but I could see him getting a quicker boot than some people realize.

    There’s no one on the 40-man currently who can be a 5th bench member. On the position player side, you have the starters, legitimate prospects, four bench members, and your third catcher. That’s it. They’re not going to keep Charlie Culberson off the 26-man roster because they want to stash Phil Pfeifer or Patrick Weigel or Jeremy Webb on the 40-man, especially if they just had a poor Spring Training. If Luiz Gohara got himself cut to create room for players who can contribute immediately, there are at least 3-4 guys that have no shot at sticking.

  10. Let’s actually go back and add O’Day and Jackson to the locks. Smith, Melancon, Greene, Martin, Jackson, and O’Day are 6 members of a 8-man pen. Which means that Newcomb, Dayton, Minter, Pfeifer, Webb, Walker, and Weigel (plus Touki, Wright, and Wilson, in theory) are fighting for 3 spots: 2 bullpen spots and a rotation spot. One of them will go to Newcomb. So you have two spots left, and that will undoubtedly be grabbed by those 9 other names (or Tomlin or Felix). I just don’t see AA stashing a significant amount of these journeymen on the 40-man when so many guys have spots firmly locked up, and were there to be an injury, there are legitimate prospects like Touki, Wilson, and Wright out there. And if Felix is remotely decent in Spring Training, they’re going to be really, really tempted to give him a shot too considering he has more upside than almost all of those pitchers.

  11. One has to think there will be a couple of minor deals at the end of Spring Training where the Braves flip a guy or 2 for someone who won’t be on the 40 man roster.

  12. Hey Bethany! Been meaning to find you to see if you’ve got any T-shirts left. (Agreed about Kelsey, she was great.)

  13. A lot of Braves Journal questions made the mailbag on our podcast the other night! Did y’all listen?

  14. Given his limited but very effective MLB credentials when healthy, I think Dayton should be given a long look if healthy.

  15. It’s a shame that William Contreras has to take a 40 man roster spot this year. I know he’s got way too much upside as a catcher to drop him, but his minor league career went in the wrong direction last year and I don’t see him bringing a lot of value to the major league team this year.

  16. I never understood why Hart escaped Coppygate relatively unscathed. Can we at least give him a lifetime ban from Atlanta?

  17. I know this comment is getting JC’ed, but am pretty sure that Josh Donaldson was the scamp (“JD you lovable mulleted scamp” or something to that effect)

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