Optimism always reigns supreme in Spring Training and this year more so than in the past 3 years. Our beloved Braves’ farm system is set to ripen and 2018 will be a big year in transition as those prospects fill out the Atlanta Braves roster. As new GM Alex Anthopoulos addressed with the media earlier, this year it’s about the product at Suntrust, not at Gwinnett, Pearl, and so forth. This is encouraging news for the dedicated fans that have had to sit through countless promises gone awry. Yes…this is the year where the Braves turn its head to the 25 men on the field, in the dugout, or in the pen and take pride in the product, not the prospect lists that have been held so dear in the recent past.
But there’s a bit of a problem that this team will come in contact with very soon that’s likely not to go away in the next 3-4 years especially with a team that relies on building its team internally and that is:
Who’s deserving of the roster spot?
Here’s how the current 40-man roster shakes out. The number in parenthesis is the number of options each player has left (shoutout to Braves Options for the info, or provides further details needed for each player). Players on free agent deals will not have additional information.
Atlanta Braves 40-man Roster
Jesse Biddle (1)
Aaron Blair (1)
Rex Brothers (signed MLB/MiLB deal so he can go back and forth from MLB to MiLB but is needed to be on 40-man)
Mauricio Cabrera (0)
Shane Carle (2)
Mike Foltynewicz (1)
Sam Freeman (0)
Max Fried (2)
Luiz Gohara (3)
Anyelo Gomez (Rule 5 pick & has to be on 25-man roster entire 2018 season)
Jason Hursh (1)
Jacob Lindgren (2)
Adam McCreery (3)
A.J. Minter (3)
Akeel Morris (1)
Sean Newcomb (3)
Jose Ramirez (0)
Josh Ravin (0)
Ricardo Sanchez (3)
Lucas Sims (2)
Arodys Vizcaino (1)
Chase Whitley (0)
Dan Winkler (Rule 5 pick, can be optioned after 4/13)
Matt Wisler (1)
Chris Stewart (signed MLB/MiLB deal so he can go back and forth from MLB to MiLB but is needed to be on 40-man)
Ozzie Albies (3)
Johan Camargo (2)
Rio Ruiz (2)
Dansby Swanson (3)
Lane Adams (0)
Ender Inciarte (2)
Preston Tucker (1)
The Nitty Gritty 25-Man
It’s my opinion that unless a trade, injury, or free agent signing occurs before the season begins, the following players are locks for the 25-man roster:
Starting Pitchers (4): Teheran, Folty, McCarthy, Gohara
Catchers (2): Flowers, Suzuki
Infielders (4): Freddie, Albies, Swanson, Camargo
Outfielders (2): Markakis, Ender
Relief Pitchers (5): Vizcaino, Ramirez, Freeman, Winkler, Minter
That’s 17 spots likely secured for Opening Day with battles going on for 1 starting pitcher, 2-3 infielders, 2-3 outfielders, and 2-3 relief pitchers. Sounds like an open road to freedom to pursue a flexible roster, right? Not so fast. Here’s a list of problems the Braves have to navigate:
- Anyelo Gomez- As this year’s Rule-5 pick, Gomez has to make the 25-man or be offered back to the Yankees.
- Unless injured, Lane Adams, Charlie Culberson, Chase Whitley, Josh Ravin, Mauricio Cabrera, Jose Ramirez, Dan Winkler, and Sam Freeman have to make the team out of Spring Training or be designated for Assignment.
- Room for 2? Neither Ronald Acuna or Peter Moylan are on the 25-man roster and will have to be added when (or if in Moylan’s case) deemed ready.
- Kazhmere? or Kazh-no-more? The ultimate wild card in the rotation is being held by Scott Kazmir who hasn’t been healthy enough to play very much lately. If he shows he’s ready to compete for a rotation spot, that puts a finishing touch on the rotation and places many young guns that need MLB innings back at AAA.
Predicting 40-Man Roster Casualties
With the next wave of real prospects right around the corner, the real roster crunch will come in 2019 when the likes of Mike Soroka, Kyle Wright, Kolby Allard, and maybe even Austin Riley show they’re ready to blossom in the bigs. Still, there are going to be moves that need to be made as there’s simply no way that the 8 listed about (see 2) are going to fill out the rest of the 25-man roster. Let’s get to cutting, shall we:
- Mauricio Cabrera- Injured, lost velo, and had a horrendous 2017 which showed all of his weaknesses and none of his strengths, I think it’s likely safe to say we’ve seen the last of Mo-Cab in a Braves uniform.
- Jason Hursh- Former 1st round pick was the definition of AAA mediocrity last year and there’s too much talent in this system to keep him on the 40-man.
- Chris Stewart- I think he’ll be removed from the 40-man and either get claimed or go to the minors and frame some pitches for the studs. Either way, he’ll get paid.
The current 40-man is full. To add Peter Moylan or Ronald Acuna, 2 players will have to be removed. While there are 3 candidates that seem easy to part with, it doesn’t make the decision any less easy. Options will have to be looked at and will likely play into roster decisions and players with options, especially relievers, will be burning up the road from Gwinnett to Atlanta. There are reasons that the Braves have held off making any big moves this season, but make no mistake, the current and future roster crunch has a lot to do with it.