Our beloved Braves roster is about to get to the point that most wanted out the gate and that is a solid 25-man, 1-25. If you looked at the first 20 games of this season and had positive thoughts on how those 20 could go, I truly admire you. Many stated prior to the season that this first month of baseball would make or break the Braves and at 12 wins 8 losses, this team is far from broken. From a statistical perspective, it’s going to be really hard to top the offensive output from many of the starting 8. However, from a personnel perspective, this Braves team is about to get a serious makeover and one that could catapult them into unexpected contention this year.
Braves Roster Quibbles
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that one of my pet peeves in regards to the 25-man roster is that the Braves have essentially punted on the last 2-3 spots over the last 4 years and have been prone to carry some awful bench players and relievers. It was no different this year as the Opening Day bench consisted of 1 guy on the bench that anyone following baseball would’ve trusted in a pinch-hitting role. And while there were less question marks out of the bullpen this year, there were many fans perplexed by Anthopoulos’s choice of carrying Rex Brothers after having an awful 2017 and an even worse 2018 spring. However, the malfeasance that was bestowed upon us as Braves fans has been washed away and there’s joy in the air. And while things have been great from a statistical and win/loss perspective, the 25 players donning the Braves uniform nightly is about to get even better. Wanna see? Let’s do it!
- Tyler Flowers for Carlos Perez– Yes, in what will likely be about 10 days, the Braves are going to get back the Flow to the Zuki and one of the best catching tandems in the entire MLB. Yes, I want to keep them around and even suggested 2 year/12 million dollar extensions for both of them.
- Jose Bautista for Charlie Culberson– With Camargo now on the MLB roster, Culberson is hardly ever going to see the field and his bat is one of the absolute worst in the game. There’s no need for him even now, but there will most definitely be no need for him when Bautista is ready.
- Luiz Gohara for Anibal Sanchez– If he can stay healthy, Gohara has one of, if not the highest ceiling of any of the Braves starting pitchers. And while Anibal has done the Braves right in his stint, he’s not going to block Gohara when Gohara’s ready.
- Ronald Acuna for Peter Bourjos– It’s a shame Anthopoulos saw more value out of Peter Bourjos than he did Lane Adams (alternative argument is that Lane would likely pass through waivers, creating instant depth) but here we sit. When the Acuna promotion happens, the entire team gets an upgrade as that likely puts Preston Tucker on the bench and he can flat out rake against right-handed pitching.
- Mike Soroka for Brandon McCarthy– I don’t think this happens until August and might not happen at all should Braves not be contending by then, but Soroka (and Austin Riley) are the talks of Gwinnett and Pearl and rightfully so. Soroka’s stock continues to soar as his new offseason workout added a few MPHs to his already above average fastball.
The Good Problems
1. Bautista, Flaherty, Camargo, oh my!
It’s early in this Bautista talk, but it sounds like the Braves have all intentions of playing him…a lot…and at 3rd base. Not only has Ryan Flaherty been a top-5 3rd baseman in the game, he’s now having to split time with Johan Camargo, who was penciled in as the starting 3rd baseman before an injured oblique cut is spring training short. Now add Bautista and there’s a delicious problem on the Braves hands. How will it be possible to get playing time for these guys? My opinion:
2. Ride Flaherty for now
He’s still hitting and playing good defense. He’ll likely slow down, but let it happen naturally.
3. Let Camargo roam
He’s a gifted athlete that should be used as such. One of Snitker’s biggest strengths is also one of his biggest weaknesses and that is his loyalty to players. Snit needs to take a page out of Bobby’s book and realize that he’s going to get the most out of his players when they get a little rest. A start at 2nd, SS, 3rd, heck even the outfield would be good for Camargo and the Braves.
4. A bat flippin’ good time
When Flaherty’s done ridin’ high, hopefully Joey Bats is ready to come in and hit some dingers. I’d also like to see Bautista in a bit of a platoon with Markakis and get a few starts a week in the outfield.
5. All Tuckered out
Preston Tucker has been one of the best surprises of the 2018 season as he’s come up clutch in about every big RBI situation he’s been in this year. And while his defense isn’t great, it’s better than expected and it seems rather silly for him to be removed nearly every game for Peter Bourjos. If he continues to produce, I see Tucker still working his way into the lineup once or twice a week, but what a great weapon to have on the bench.
6. 6 for 5
Whether it be Wisler or Anibal Sanchez, when Gohara is ready, one or both will have to go. If Anibal has continued his successful run, the Braves could take a flier on him in the bullpen as the long reliever or sell him off for a middling prospect, or acquire a reliever in return. If Wisler’s still throwing well, the Braves might re-evaluate his or Gohara’s role.
Bullpen Reinforcements, Where y’at?
While the Braves bullpen has been the blemish in the otherwise diamond in the rough season thus far, I don’t expect for the walks to continue in mass quantities.
In fact, I look at the bullpen and see 3 good relievers in Shane Carle, Sam Freeman, and Dan Winkler, and 2 great relievers in Arodys Vizcaino and A.J. Minter. Both Jesse Biddle and Peter Moylan have potential to be grouped into the “good group”, but I don’t see much else outside of that, minors or majors. While Matt Wisler looked rejuvenated the other night and could be a dynamite reliever with that slider, I’m not willing to let 1 game override 3 years of poor overall pitching. I think it’s more likely the Braves carry the above 7 guys on their roster for a while (unless injured) and continue rotating the 8th man until they find something that sticks. Chase Whitley could be the next guy in line for the trial (and error). But for now, there are only problems, not good problems for the bullpen. It goes without saying that it’d be a good use of resources to trade Anibal or McCarthy for a good bullpen piece, although I wouldn’t expect it.
Better Record Prediction?
I’d be a blind fool to bet that the Braves will have a better record after these reinforcements are called compared to today’s record. Ryan Flaherty is playing the best baseball of his life. So is Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, Kurt Suzuki, and the entire starting pitching staff has been remarkable with a 3.04 ERA. And yes, for the most part, the bullpen has dodged walk after walk to secure wins. In short, while the players might get better, the production we’ve seen from nearly 1/2 of the roster that’s carried the team to 12 victories isn’t likely sustainable. But I’ll say this…I’ve been optimistic about this team from start and threw predictions out the door with so many unknown variables and I do think it’s possible for this team to push for 85-90 wins.