Sunday, March 27, 2022
The wait is nearly over as MLB’s Opening Day is less than two weeks away. The Braves will open it’s regular season with a six-game homestand versus both the Reds and Nationals at Truist Park from April 7-13. And with the club trimming its roster essentially every day, it’s time to start predicting what the final group will look like.
Due to the lockout and partially delayed Spring Training, this year rosters will expand from 26 players to 28 for the month of April. So let’s look at which 28 should be included on the Braves active roster…
Recently it was reported that the Braves will likely open the season with a six-man rotation, which makes sense given the team will start off the year with 14-straight games before a day off. Here’s my picks to fill those six spots…
- Max Fried (LHP)
- Charlie Morton (RHP)
- Ian Anderson (RHP)
- Huascar Ynoa (RHP)
- Kyle Wright (RHP)
- Tucker Davidson (LHP)
Other options: Kyle Muller (LHP) / Collin McHugh (RHP) / Touki Toussaint (RHP)
Heading into spring camp, I thought Muller had a shot to potentially crack the opening day five-man rotation, and then when I started hearing rumors about a six-man staff, I thought for sure he’d be in there. However, despite Muller looking fine in his one outing so far this spring, it’s beginning to look like Davidson is set to take that left-handed role in the rotation, rounding out Atlanta’s group of six. I don’t think it’s necessarily performance-based. I guess the Braves just want to give Davidson a look right now.
McHugh and Touki are technically who the Braves would call on if there was an injury or two, but I don’t see either doing much work this season in a starting role. The former is guaranteed to start the year in the Braves bullpen, but he’s a viable option for a spot start here and there if needed.
I’m going to go with nine arms in the Braves bullpen to open the season, giving the team 15 pitchers altogether. However, beginning in May, teams must reduce that number to 13, so a few of these guys could be back down in the minors in a month or so…
CL – Kenley Jansen (RHP)
SU – Will Smith (LHP)
SU – Collin McHugh (RHP)
MR – Tyler Matzek (LHP)
MR – A.J. Minter (LHP)
MR – Luke Jackson (RHP)
MR – Jacob Webb (RHP)
MR – Darren O’Day (LHP)
LR – Sean Newcomb (LHP)
Other options: Spencer Strider (RHP) / Kyle Muller (LHP) / Tyler Thornburg (RHP) / Dylan Lee (RHP)
This is a loaded bullpen for sure, and it’s also pretty deep once you start looking at the names that’ll most likely start out in Triple-A Gwinnett. Many are calling for Strider to make the big league roster, and in terms of performance I think he probably should. However, he would need to replace Newcomb, and as MLB.com‘s Mark Bowman points out, Newk is out of minor league options. Plus, the Braves really need to keep one of its few lefties in the ‘pen, so I’m at least willing to give this layout a try. Strider will be in Atlanta at some point in 2022, though.
Muller is an option if the team simply needs his help, though it’s probably doubtful. He needs innings, so Gwinnett is the best place for that if the team isn’t going to use him as a big league starter. Thornburg and Lee are simply depth pieces. Both should be high-leverage arms in the Stripers bullpen in 2022, with the potential to pitch in Atlanta in the event there are injuries.
For the infield, I have four regulars and two bench guys. The Braves may only carry five infielders, but since we have 28 players to work with, I’ll go with six here…
1B – Matt Olson (LHB)
2B – Ozzie Albies (S)
SS – Dansby Swanson (RHB)
3B – Austin Riley (RHB)
BENCH – Brock Holt (LHB)
BENCH – Phil Gosselin (RHB)
Other options: Orlando Arcia (RHB) / Pat Valaika (RHB) / Ryan Goins (LHB)
The four starters are a given, so no need to waste words on them. And honestly, I think the two bench guys should be easy too. Holt and Gosselin are both solid hitters, plus each are different handiness at the plate. AND the latter can play the outfield in a pinch.
Arcia is the one that I think still has a shot at making the Opening Day roster. His defense is a huge plus, but I just don’t think he can hit major league pitching well enough to hold down a bench spot. Same goes for Valaika and Goins.
For the outfield I have three starters and one back-up, though once Ronald Acuna Jr. returns things will get shaken up a bit. Plus, each outfielder can probably cycle through the DH spot, so the actual position on Opening Day shouldn’t matter too much…
LF – Adam Duvall (RHB)
CF – Guillermo Heredia (RHB)
RF – Eddie Rosario (LHB)
BENCH – Alex Dickerson (LHB)
Other options: Travis Demeritte (RHB) / Justin Dean (RHB)
I’m going with an outfield arrangement that allows for better defense since the DH is in play. You could set this up in a few different ways, but I think putting Heredia in center gives the Braves a better glove at that position. I think Dickerson is a lock to open the season on the roster. As a lefty-hitter, he can spell Heredia and face the tough righty, which only requires moving Duvall over to center. For his career, Dickerson owns an .810 OPS against RHP.
After Dickerson, there aren’t many options for the Braves in the outfield. Demeritte historically has crushed Triple-A pitching, but for some reason he has never been able to consistently hit in the majors. He’s just 2 for 9 (.222 AVG) so far this spring, so I don’t think he’s hit his way onto the roster this year. The speedy Dean has been an exciting player in the Braves farm system for quite some time now, but he just made it up to Double-A last season. He’ll likely be an emergency option in Gwinnett this year.
Like I said above, the DH spot can be a rotating position for the Braves this year, and it’s already been reported that it’s where Acuna will ease himself back into game action once he returns from the IL…
DH – Marcell Ozuna (RHB)
Other options: Ronald Acuna Jr. (once healthy) / Manny Pina (RHB) / any regular needing some rest
Ozuna’s glove makes it tough to see the Braves running him out to left all season long, which is why the team retained Heredia, Duvall and picked up Dickerson. Especially once Acuna returns, I expect the designated-hitter spot to be all Ozuna’s, where he can just focus on mashing.
Pina will already be on the roster as the back-up catcher, so there is a scenario in which the Braves could insert him into the DH slot. Pina only hit .189 last season, but he owns a 99 wRC+ versus left-handed pitching for his career.
Two catchers is standard across the majors, so the two backstops will round out the 28-man roster for the Braves. Not much of a surprise here…
C – Travis d’Arnaud (RHB)
BENCH – Manny Pina (RHB)
Other options: William Contreras (RHB) / Chadwick Tromp (RHB) / Arden Pabst (RHB)
Hopefully d’Arnaud can have a healthy 2022 season, but I do feel better knowing that Pina is there to help out. Both of these guys are solid behind the plate and each possess some sneaky power with the bat. Adding Pina this winter really solidifies the catcher position for Atlanta.
There were some rumors that the Braves are going to give Contreras some reps in the outfield. Matter of fact, he’s starting in right field in today’s spring game versus the Rays. I don’t know what that’s all about, but I suppose it’s to give him more versatility to give him a better shot at getting in the big leagues again. At times in 2021, his bat was fun to watch. Contreras will likely be Gwinnett’s starting catcher this season (I think?). Tromp and Pabst are depth pieces that should be in the minors this season, though I don’t know how the Braves are going to swing having three catchers in Triple-A. Some changes could be made soon to work that out.