Atlanta Braves 2015 Making the Team Meter: Week 6

This past weekend brought a slew of changes to the Atlanta Braves Making the Team Meter. Several players who were thought to have spots may not, and some lesser known competitors have entered mix. Last week’s pitchers MTM can be found here, and the hitters MTM here.

This week I’ll take a look at each area of the team in one post. I will list the locks, then discuss which spots are still up in the air. The players listed in red are the ones who have not yet made the roster.

asimmons2Lineup (8 of 8 spots are locks): This may be the only area of the team that seems set, and has been that way for about a week. We don’t know the exact lineup that will be used, but it will likely go something like this:

1. Eric Young, Jr., CF (S)
2. Jace Peterson, 2B (L)
3. Nick Markakis, RF (L)
4. Freddie Freeman, 1B (L)
5. Jonny Gomes, LF (R)
6. Chris Johnson, 3B (R)
7. Christian Bethancourt, C (R)
8. Andrelton Simmons, SS (R)

Bench (3 of 5 spots are locks): Backup catcher A.J. Pierzynski and infielder Alberto Callaspo are in, and infielder/outfielder Kelly Johnson joins the locks this week. Callaspo and Johnson’s spots looked in jeopardy early this spring, but both have been surging the past couple of weeks.

Zoilo Almonte seems to have a spot on the bench, as he’s been hitting better in recent weeks, but his spot is not assured by any means. Even though he’s out of options, and has hit better lately, the Braves may not believe his limited skill set fits the roster.

With Eury Perez getting sent to minor league camp it was thought that Todd Cunningham‘s chances of a roster spot were greatly improved, but he hasn’t played in a spring game in almost a week and doesn’t seem to be favored by the team. Phil Gosselin, on the other hand, has not just been playing in a lot of games, he’s been playing all over the field in an effort to boost his super-utility-man bona fides. He’s also been hitting much better, and appears to be on a trajectory to secure a bench spot.

jbensonA surprise entry into roster consideration is outfielder Joe Benson, was was signed as a minor league free agent this offseason. Benson was a high draft pick for the Twins in 2006, and spent time at the back end of some top-100 prospect lists in 2011-12, but was never able to hit much above double-A. He’s said to have 5-tool potential, but that has only ever been potential, and not product on the field. His supposed entry into the roster competition could push Almonte and/or Cunningham from a spot, as the Braves seek more “energy and passion” to fill out the roster.

Another strong competitor for a spot is Pedro Ciriaco, who has also been playing all over the infield and outfield as the Braves evaluate his versatility. Ciriaco has the benefit of a decent amount of major league experience, and this spring he has been the most consistent hitter throughout camp.

It would be interesting to see both Ciriaco and Gosselin make the roster, giving Fredi Gonzalez a lot of versatility off the bench, though without a true center fielder, which seems to be a major concern (hence why Benson has entered the fray).

Joey Terdoslavich appears out of the competition with a nagging wrist injury that has kept him out of games for a week and a half.

Rotation (3 of 5 spots are locks): Opening day starter Julio Teheran will be followed by Shelby Miller and Alex Wood. The surprise this week was the release of James Russell. I had figured him to factor into a possible rotation spot, as had been stated since the end of last season. With his velocity down, and already less-than-effective against left-handers, the Braves cut him before they had to pay his full salary.

That opens the door for both of the veterans, Eric Stults and Wandy Rodriguez. While there may still be some competition from Mike Foltynewicz, it feels like he’ll begin the year at Gwinnett. If the Braves are worried about their budget, then the money saved by cutting Russell can now be used for Rodriguez.

Chien-Ming Wang still looms as an option, but not one who has been talked about seriously this spring. As expected, Manny Banuelos was removed to minor league camp.

The best guess right now is that both Stults and Wandy fill out the rotation.

Bullpen (3 of 7 spots are locks): The biggest area of flux right now is in the bullpen. The only three who are locks are Craig Kimbrel, Jim Johnson and Jason Grilli.

lavilanJosh Outman seemed like a lock early in spring, but he’s struggled the second half of April, and could follow Russell out the door. Luis Avilan has helped his case with a strong spring, but a strong camp from non-roster lefty Brady Feigl may put him in the LOOGY lead.

It was thought that Michael Kohn and Arodys Vizcaino still had a shot, despite their struggles with control this spring, but early this morning both pitchers were reassigned to minor league camp. Juan Jaime, though he is out of options, could also be out of favor due to his control problems.

Cody Martin has gotten some press this spring, and could be in line to be the long reliever candidate now that Russell is gone. Brandon Cunniff could also be in the mix.

Atlanta could also move Foltynewicz to the bullpen to begin the year, instead of in the rotation.

Which four relievers will ultimately fill out the bullpen seem to be a complete toss-up right now. None of those in red listed above have a secure spot. At this point, any of them have as good a chance as the rest, regardless of their 40-man roster status or lack of options.

For a relief corps that started the spring with too many qualified relievers for a limited number of spots, now there doesn’t seem to be enough guys pitching well enough to fill the available spots. If they take the four guys who appear to be pitching the best, then Feigl, Cunniff, Martin and Avilan would seemingly be those four, but with three rookies that’s a boat load of inexperience to carry all at once.

Jaime and Outman are out of options, and must be added to the 25-man roster or possibly lost on waivers. I can see the Braves making a spot for Jaime, but not Outman with the way he has pitched. For all of these guys the final week will go a long way towards helping or hurting their case.

For some of these vacancies, expect the Braves to start looking outside the organization, as alluded to by Braves beat writer Mark Bowman:

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Atlanta Braves 2015 Making the Team Meter: Hitters, Week 5

Here is the hitters’ edition of the Atlanta Braves Making the Team Meter. The pitchers were covered yesterday, and can be found here. Last week’s hitters MTM can be found here.

The position player battles are becoming clearer as we enter the final week of spring training, and the opening day lineup seems to be set.

First up, the locks for roster spots (barring injury, of course):

icon-lockLineup locks (8 of 8): Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Chris Johnson, Jonny Gomes, Christian Bethancourt and Nick Markakis are all lineup locks, or locks for regular playing time in a platoon.

Entering the locked position this week, and winning the second base job, is Jace Peterson. He’s been impressive this spring, and fun to watch. Let’s hope that continues into the season. (It would also be nice/neat to already have a major league product to show for the JUpton trade.) Also entering the locked position this week, and winning the center field job, is Eric Young, Jr. He’s been a productive player in the past, even leading the league in stolen bases in 2013. In recent years he hasn’t gotten on base at a good enough rate for a leadoff hitter, but he’s shown that he can do that in the past.

eyoung3Here is my projection for the opening day lineup, even though all the lefties are stacked in the middle:

1. Eric Young, Jr., CF (S)
2. Jace Peterson, 2B (L)
3. Nick Markakis, RF (L)
4. Freddie Freeman, 1B (L)
5. Jonny Gomes, LF (R)
6. Chris Johnson, 3B (R)
7. Christian Bethancourt, C (R)
8. Andrelton Simmons, SS (R)

Bench locks (2 of 5): A.J. Pierzynski is a lock for the backup catcher job. Alberto Callaspo is probably a lock even though he’s hit terribly this spring. Remember that he’s got that guaranteed $3 million contract.

Next up are the players trending up to make the team. There may be more players listed than spots available, but as spring training goes on I’ll whittle these players down.

icon-thumbs-up

Trending up for the bench (3 spots): The last three spots on the bench are starting to come into focus. Kelly Johnson found his hitting shoes, and just like a wise veteran he’s putting it all together in the final weeks of spring training. He’s hit safely in his last seven games. He’ll be used off the bench, but will also start some games in left field and third base.

Zoilo Almonte has also hit better recently. He is out of options, so the odds were already in his favor, but the improved performance at the plate helps.

The last spot will hinge on whether the Braves want to carry an extra infielder or an extra outfielder. Keep in mind that the team is covered at backup shortstop with Peterson, and covered at second, third and first with Callaspo and Kelly Johnson. Eric Young can also play second. The infield appears to be covered from a backup perspective.

tcunninghamThe outfield also appears to be covered with KJ and Almonte backing up or platooning. The only exception to this may be center field, where Almonte could play if pressed, but not for any length of time.

This leads me to believe that the final spot will come down to a competition between Eury Perez and Todd Cunningham, who can both play center field. Both are on the 40-man roster, so neither has an edge there. Neither player has much major league playing time, and they are putting up almost identical numbers at the plate this spring. Both guys can also play all three outfield positions with good defense. Perez offers more stolen base speed, while Cunningham offers more power, though neither tool is enough to give either player a definitive edge. This competition will come down to who is playing better in the final week. Or maybe Fredi will just flip a coin.

The next group of players are trending down. These players are less likely to make the team for a variety of reasons.

icon-thumbs-downTrending down for the bench: This section gets a bit more crowded this week, as some players’ performances start to slip in the final days of spring. Phil Gosselin looked like a good pre-spring bet to be the super-utility man, but he hasn’t hit much this month. The positions he plays are also backed up by the guys who have already made the team, as mentioned above. Without the need to have a guy like Gosselin who can play everywhere, the final spot or spots will come down to guys who are hitting well, and he’s not one of them.

Joey Terdoslavich was on fire at the plate for a minute, but has cooled in recent weeks, and is now battling an injured wrist. Terdo’s main competition for a roster spot was Kelly Johnson, and with KJ getting hot at the plate he pushes Terdo from a spot.

Pedro Ciriaco has been consistently good at the plate this spring. He’s a utility infielder who can play everywhere, and has historically been a light hitter with a little bit of speed. His case for a roster spot is hurt because he’s not on the 40-man roster. With the Braves needing to create space on the 40-man for four or five other players, there probably isn’t enough wiggle room to add the fifth guy off the bench.

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Atlanta Braves 2015 Making the Team Meter: Pitchers, Week 5

Week 5 of the Atlanta Braves Making the Team Meter, and the battles in the rotation and bullpen are getting complicated. This edition will cover the pitchers, with the hitters being covered tomorrow. To view last week’s pitchers edition, click here.

My reasoning below is just that, my own reasoning. It’s based on articles and tweets I’ve read throughout spring training, as well as my experience covering these roster battles for a decade. These are all best guesses of how I think the roster will shake out, and right now so much is still up in the air.

First up, the locks for roster spots (barring injury, of course):

icon-lockRotation locks (3 of 5): Julio Teheran, Shelby Miller and Alex Wood are all still locks for the opening day rotation.

Bullpen locks (4 or 5 of 7): Craig Kimbrel, Jim Johnson, Jason Grilli and Josh Outman are bullpen locks. Outman moves up to the locked position this week, assuming the LOOGY role out of the pen (even though he hasn’t been sharp lately). James Russell is also a lock to make the team, though his spot in the rotation or bullpen is still unknown–see below.

Next up are the players trending up to make the team. There may be more players listed than spots available, but as spring training goes on I’ll whittle these players down.

icon-thumbs-upTrending up for the rotation (2 spots): Veteran Eric Stults seems to have the fourth spot locked down, though it’s not a sure thing. His last outing was a good one, and it was against the Nationals, which counts extra. That leaves three competitors for the fifth and final spot.

The five-inning no-hitter that Wandy Rodriguez tossed over the weekend certainly helps his cause for a rotation spot, especially since it came against the Marlins. Of course, that also helps his trade value as other teams search for one more pitcher.

James Russell is the other competitor for the rotation, and his presence is clouding the battles for the rotation and bullpen. He went four innings in his last start, and will be stretched out enough to be used in the rotation by the time the season starts. He has taken some licks this spring, with damage coming in clumps, but overall he’s pitched pretty well. His next start should be watched closely.

mfoltynewicz2If Russell can enter the rotation to start the season, that allows the Braves to trade Wandy, start Folty in the minors, and add a reliever like Juan Jaime to the bullpen who is out of options. Should Russell struggle in the rotation, the team could then call-up Folty and push Russell to the pen. Russell moving to the pen will happen anyway when Mike Minor (hopefully) returns some time in May, and recent reports on Minor’s health seem to indicate that he’s about five or six weeks away from returning.

My inclination is that Atlanta will try and trade Wandy, both in order to continue to add prospects, but to also save the payroll from his $2 million salary. Russell would then start the season in the fifth starter role. The Braves would still be protected in the rotation by stashing Wang and Folty (and possibly Martin) in the minors (hence why they are in the trending down section).

Trending up for the bullpen (2 or 3 spots): Juan Jaime has had three scoreless appearances, though he has still been sporadically wild. Perhaps walks will always be a part of Jaime’s game. In watching his appearance from Monday, he’s inconsistent from batter to batter, but still has that fastball that can strike any batter out. He also mixed in his slurve effectively. That recent good work and the fact that he is out of options means he’s close to a lock to make the pen.

Luis Avilan seems to have pitched good enough to make the team, though he hasn’t appeared in a major league spring game in five days. It’s hard to tell whether or not the team thinks he fits into the bullpen picture. Based on spring performance he’s got a better chance than some of these other guys right now.

I’m also going to add Cody Martin into the bullpen trending up section. His candidacy is bolstered by the wildness of Kohn and Vizcaino. If Russell is a part of the rotation to start the season, I believe that increases the chances that Martin will be in the bullpen as the long reliever. He threw just one inning in Tuesday’s game, which may be another indication that the Braves are setting him up to be a reliever. Keep in mind that he was a closer in college, so he’s no stranger to a high-pressure relief role.

The next group of players are trending down. These players are less likely to make the team for a variety of reasons.

icon-thumbs-downTrending down for the rotation: The control problems Mike Foltynewicz faced on Tuesday likely sealed his fate. The fact that Fredi pulled him in the third inning is an indication that they’re watching his pitch count closely, while punching his ticket to Gwinnett.

Manny Banuelos is in the same boat as Folty, with the team watching his pitch count even closer. I could see those two in a piggyback rotation slot at triple-A.  In the minors, piggybacking is where one starts the game, throws to his prearranged pitch count, then the other pitcher enters the game in relief for the duration of his pitch count.

Chien-Ming Wang continues to be an option, though we don’t hear much about him.

Trending down for the bullpen: I’ve been thinking that Michael Kohn and Arodys Vizcaino were good bets to make the roster all spring, but I’m starting to waiver on that. They have both been issuing a walk per inning, and haven’t looked sharp in recent outings. If Russell doesn’t make the rotation, then there’s only room for one of these guys. Though the team may now prefer Cody Martin for that final bullpen spot.

Because of the wildness and walkability of some of the other bullpen candidates, I wonder if Brandon Cunniff and/or Brady Feigl have a chance at a spot. Cunniff especially has been sharp this spring, keep an eye on him.

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Atlanta Braves 2015 Making the Team Meter: Hitters, Week 4

It’s the hitters’ turn for the Atlanta Braves Making the Team Meter (MTM), your source for all the spring training (position player) roster battles. The pitchers were covered earlier in the week and can be found here. Last week’s hitters MTM can be found here.

We got a good idea of how Fredi Gonzalez is thinking about roster construction through comments he made to the media yesterday:

Continue below to see the details of the competition.

First up, the locks for roster spots (barring injury, of course):

icon-lockLineup locks (6 of 8): Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Chris Johnson, Jonny Gomes, Christian Bethancourt and Nick Markakis are all lineup locks, or locks for regular playing time in a platoon. It is a bit concerning that Markakis hasn’t played in a game yet, but with two weeks of spring games left there should be time for him to make it back and get into the swing of things. Johnson’s .120 batting average this spring is concerning. Bethancourt joins the locks this week thanks to his solid hitting, especially in the extra base department; still no walks though.

Bench locks (2 of 5): Catcher A.J. Pierzynski will be on the team as the backup, and Alberto Callaspo is still a lock to make the team. Yes, Collaspo has been very disappointing this spring–first arriving overweight, then hitting poorly–but he has a guaranteed $3 million contract, so he’ll at least begin the year with Atlanta.

Next up are the players trending up to make the team. There may be more players listed than spots available, but as spring training goes on I’ll whittle these players down.

icon-thumbs-up

Trending up for the lineup/bench (5 spots): For the everyday lineup the Braves still need to find a second baseman and a center fielder. The second base job has been a good competition to watch this spring, but rookie Jace Peterson has run away with it. There’s a chance he may also get some time at third base, but second is where the more immediate need is. Another week of good returns and he’s a lock.

Eric Young, Jr. has been good this spring, and his style of play meshes well with the small ball Atlanta wants to adopt this season. He has been a good bet to make the team since the first spring game, and that continues to be the case.

I continue to believe that Eury Perez has the best shot at a backup outfield spot, and some platoon starts in center. Todd Cunningham is not mentioned by DOB in the tweets above, but he is still a strong competitor with Perez for a backup outfielder spot. While Cunningham’s defense may be better across all three outfield spots, Perez has hit better this spring and brings more speed to the team. The first backup outfield spot will likely be one of these two guys, but not both.

With Peterson, EY, and either Perez or Cunningham securing three of the five remaining spots, that leaves the team needing another infielder and another outfielder.

Zoilo Almonte hasn’t done much this spring, but neither has Phil Gosselin. Though when considering versatility, Almonte may be limited to a corner outfield spot, whereas Gosselin can play all over the infield and outfield.

kjohnsonAlmonte’s main competition comes from Joey Terdoslavich and Kelly Johnson. Terdo has had a hot bat this spring, hitting doubles at a prolific rate. His ability to switch-hit could be useful off the bench, and means he could platoon with just about anyone in left field. Johnson has started to get hot at the plate during the past few games. If that trend continues, he could play himself onto the team in the final weeks. He has played a lot of third base this spring, which makes me think the Braves want him on the team to platoon with Chris Johnson more than they want him in the outfield. The third base platoon of Johnson & Johnson.

The last two or three position player spots on the roster are in a constant state of flux, and will be influenced by several factors. How these guys hit in the final weeks of spring training could go a long way towards determining who makes the team. Inclusion on the 40-man roster is working in favor of some of these guys who are struggling, and possibly working against Kelly Johnson, who is a non-roster invitee. Remember that the team may need to add as many as two starting pitchers to the 40-man, and possibly a reliever and Eric Young. The Braves should be able to find four spots on the 40-man, but finding a fifth for Johnson might be difficult.

The next group of players are trending down. These players are less likely to make the team for a variety of reasons.

icon-thumbs-downTrending down for the lineup/bench: With both Terdo and KJ moving to the trending-up section this week, and Jose Peraza being sent to minor league camp, that doesn’t really leave anyone to put in the trending down section.

That said, I’ll go ahead and move Pedro Ciriaco up here. He’s certainly a good defender, and he’s hit surprisingly well this spring. If Gosselin’s spring takes a turn for the worse, there’s a chance Ciriaco could sneak into a bench spot.

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Atlanta Braves 2015 Making the Team Meter: Pitchers, Week 4

wrodriguezWelcome to week 4 of the Atlanta Braves Making the Team Meter (MTM), your source for all the spring training roster battles. This edition will cover the pitching battles in camp, with the hitters’ edition getting posted in the next day or so.

Last week’s pitchers MTM can be found here. The competition for the last spots in the rotation and bullpen are still up in the air. While some competitors are faltering, there are other scenarios which make predicting the opening day roster a complicated process.

First up, the locks for roster spots (barring injury, of course):

icon-lockRotation locks (3 of 5): Julio Teheran, Shelby Miller and Alex Wood are all still locks for the opening day rotation.

Bullpen locks (4 of 7): Craig Kimbrel, Jim Johnson, Jason Grilli and James Russell are still in the bullpen locked position. Russell got into his first game this past week, and is still going to try and stretch out to compete for the rotation. This is just one of the factors which could complicate opening day roster prognostication–more on this below.

Next up are the players trending up to make the team. There may be more players listed than spots available, but as spring training goes on I’ll whittle these players down.

icon-thumbs-upTrending up for the rotation (2 spots): Veterans Eric Stults and Wandy Rodriguez have done better than the kids so far. Neither pitcher is dazzling on the mound, but that’s not their game. They are no-frills inning-eaters.

It will be interesting to see which direction the Braves end up going, but right now I have to believe that Wandy and Stults will round out the rotation, and the rest of the rookie contenders will keep working on their game in the minors.

However, there is an interesting scenario at work with Wandy. With a big payday of $2 million, plus incentives, due him if he makes the team, there could be a hesitancy on the part of Atlanta to give him that roster spot due to his injury history. This was explained by Mark Bowman earlier in the week, and it mostly hinges on whether Mike Minor can return to the rotation a few weeks into the season.

If it looks like Minor can return some time in April or early May, then the Braves may not want to pay Rodriguez $2 million for a half-dozen starts. They may instead prefer to hand a temporary rotation assignment to someone like Cody Martin, who moves up to the trending-up section this week. Martin has allowed just one hit in five innings this spring.

jrussellThough keep in mind that the Braves balked at an idea like this–using an untested rookie–last year, when they went out and signed Aaron Harang instead of giving a temporary rotation spot to Gus Schlosser.

James Russell could also get himself stretched out in time to make a handful of spot starts, then move to the bullpen once Minor returns. Russell’s ability to start the season in the rotation may be more of a factor in determining Wandy’s opening day roster fate than anything else.

Trending up for the bullpen (3 spots): Still looking good for a bullpen spot is lefty Josh Outman, especially if Russell shifts to the rotation to start the season. Luis Avilan hit his first rough patch of the spring, but seems like a strong contender for a spot. Keep in mind that the Braves may also try to trade Avilan before the season starts.

Michael Kohn still seems like the strongest contender for a bullpen spot among the non-roster invitees.

I still tend to think that Arodys Vizcaino will get a spot, though I wonder if he may be a victim of having minor league options available to use.

I just listed four strong candidates for three spots, so even among these four something has got to give. With plenty of spring left to win or lose a job, the guys in the trending-down section could also be serious roster contenders by the time April nears. The last couple of spots in the bullpen are going to be hard to predict… and again, it could also come down to whether Russell joins the rotation or not.

The next group of players are trending down. These players are less likely to make the team for a variety of reasons.

icon-thumbs-downTrending down for the rotation: Dropping down here this week is youngster Mike Foltynewicz. He’s had flashes of brilliance this spring, but overall he hasn’t consistently controlled his pitches. The Braves want to keep him in the rotation, so a spot in the Atlanta pen is not likely at this point. He looks destined for Gwinnett’s rotation.

Like Folty, Manny Banuelos has had a rough spring, and with the Braves wanting to be cautious nursing him back to full strength after surgery in 2012, he is almost certainly ticketed for Gwinnett.

Chien-Ming Wang continues to be an option, though he doesn’t seem like an option the Braves really want to use.

Trending down for the bullpen: The 11.57 spring ERA may look ugly for Jose Veras, but most of that damage came in his first appearance of the spring. Since then he’s been mostly okay, though he’s not showing much dominance and is still walking people. There’s plenty of time for him to turn it around and earn a spot, but right now he’s probably without a spot.

Juan Jaime hasn’t been too impressive this spring. Perhaps he just needs more time than most to get his pitches under control, but he’ll need to string together several good outings to make the team, even though he’s out of options. The immediate hope with him is that the rest of his spring is either really great or really terrible. If it’s great, then the decision is an easy one and he makes the team. If it’s terrible, then he can likely pass through waivers unclaimed. But if the rest of his spring is so-so, then Atlanta may be forced to put him on the opening day roster, or lose him on waivers. It’s hard to lose a guy who throws 100 mph.

Below are the rest of the guys in camp, and while there is some talent in this group, they are not likely to be around the Major League camp in the final weeks of spring. That being said, I may move one or two of these guys up if they have a great spring or there is some buzz about them in the press.

icon-axAxed for rotation consideration: Tyrell Jenkins moves down here after impressing the coaches throughout camp. Mike Minor also drops down here, as it now seems certain that he will not make the opening day roster.

Axed for bullpen consideration: Moving down here this week are Todd Coffey and Donnie Veal. Neither seem like they’re favored by the organization to make the team.

Brandon Cunniff, Brady Feigl and Sugar Ray Marimon have gotten a lot of looks this spring, and have all performed well. While they are extreme long-shots for the opening day roster, their good work bodes well for an opportunity down the road.

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Atlanta Braves 2015 Making the Team Meter: Hitters, Week 3

It’s the hitters’ turn for the Atlanta Braves Making the Team Meter (MTM), your source for all the spring training (position player) roster battles. The pitchers were covered on Monday and can be found here. Last week’s hitters MTM can be found here.

eyoung2The competition for the final five or six position player spots on the roster is turning into a great one. A lot of those players having hot starts are the speedsters in camp. It would be pretty neat (and different) to see a Braves team that was constantly mixing it up on the base paths. It would be fun to see a speedy lineup for some games that looks something like this:

1. Perez, CF (R)
2. Young, LF (S)
3. Peterson, 3B (R)
4. Freeman, 1B (L)
5. Markakis, RF (L)
6. Bethancourt, C (R)
7. Gosselin, 2B (R)
8. Simmons, SS (R)

First up, the locks for roster spots (barring injury, of course):

icon-lockLineup locks (5 of 8): Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons and Nick Markakis are still locks, with Simmons getting closer to making his spring debut later this week. Chris Johnson is also getting closer to returning to the lineup, and both he and Jonny Gomes are locks for semi-regular playing time.

Bench locks (2 of 5): Catcher A.J. Pierzynski will be on the team as the backup, or should Bethancourt falter, the starter. Alberto Callaspo is at least a bench lock, though I haven’t been terribly impressed by him so far.

Next up are the players trending up to make the team. There may be more players listed than spots available, but as spring training goes on I’ll whittle these players down.

icon-thumbs-up

Trending up for the lineup/bench (6 spots): One of my favorite players so far in Braves camp has been infielder Jace Peterson. He co-leads the team in both walks and hits, showing his ability to be a productive top-of-the-order hitter. He certainly seems like an early favorite for regular playing time.

In the outfield, Eury Perez and Eric Young, Jr. have looked good–both showing excellent on-base ability and speed, as well as good defense. Even EY Jr. seems to have demonstrated the kind of defense required to play center field. Both players look like good early bets to make the roster as part-time starters in center field and/or important reserves.

jpeterson2Before he was slowed with an injury, Todd Cunningham was making a strong case for consistent playing time. He certainly seems like a better option to complete the outfield than the out-of-options Zoilo Almonte. The ex-Yankee looked like a guy with a hole or two in his swing during the early televised spring games. His body type certainly doesn’t seem suited in any way to playing center, limiting him to the corners. I’ll keep him in the trending-up section for now, both because it’s early and because he’s out of options.

Phil Gosselin still seems like a good bet to be a challenger for regular time at second, or at least a utility spot.

Catcher Christian Bethancourt has hit well so far. Another week or so of good play and he should be a lock for the starting catcher spot.

The next group of players are trending down. These players are less likely to make the team for a variety of reasons.

icon-thumbs-downTrending down for the lineup/bench: I’m dropping Kelly Johnson to the trending-down section this week. He has not looked good at the plate so far this spring, and looks like a veteran slowed by the march of time. He is certainly being out-played by many of the other guys in camp.

One of those guys is Joey Terdoslavich. I’ve always liked the profile that comes with Terdo–a switch-hitter with power. If he can hit with consistency, then he could be a very valuable pinch-hitter and occasional left fielder. He needs to keep it up, but so far he’s raised his stock considerably from the start of spring camp.

Jose Peraza has yet to reach base, and seems like a good candidate to be among the next round of cuts. His good work early in camp gained him the notice of the major league coaches, but with ample competition for the second base job, it’s likely best if he is removed to minor league camp. Reports have him getting some work in center field, likely in an effort to add more flexibility down the road, and not as an imminent change of position.

Backup catcher candidates John Buck and Jesus Flores are still hanging out.

Below are the rest of the guys in camp, and while there is some talent in this group, they are not likely to be around the Major League camp in the final weeks of spring. That being said, I may move one or two of these guys up if they have a great spring or there is some buzz about them in the press.

icon-axAxed from bench consideration for now: Despite some early success, Pedro Ciriaco is still listed down here, as he’s behind several players for a roster spot. Cedric Hunter has gotten a surprising amount of playing time, including several starts. I’m not sure whether that’s an indictment of Almonte, with Fredi wanting to see someone else enter the competition, or just a warm body that’s needed to fill in for Markakis.

Dian Toscano moves down here, and has not yet arrived in camp. No other position player who has been previously mentioned in the axed section is worth noting this time around.

And finally, B.J. Upton is down here, as he’s due to miss the first part of the season.

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Atlanta Braves 2015 Making the Team Meter: Pitchers, Week 3

estultsWelcome to week 3 of the Atlanta Braves Making the Team Meter (MTM), your source for all the spring training roster battles. This edition will cover the pitching battles in camp, with the hitters’ edition getting posted in the next day or so.

Last week’s pitchers MTM can be found here. There are quite a few changes from last week to this week, as the potential makeup of the 25-man roster to start the season is in constant flux. This year, more than any Braves’ spring camp in recent memory, there are more spots available and more of an uncertainty of who will occupy those spots. Buckle up for a a lot of movement from week to week, as a player’s performance may matter this year more than most. That’s true because many of the veterans in camp, who are generally assured spots despite spring performance, are non-roster players who are not assured of a spot to start the season.

First up, the locks for roster spots (barring injury, of course):

icon-lockRotation locks (3 of 5): Julio Teheran, Shelby Miller and Alex Wood are all still locks for the opening day rotation. Unfortunately the rotation locks got trimmed by one this week with Mike Minor experiencing shoulder discomfort, and currently scheduled to visit Dr. James Andrews. Nothing good usually comes from that.

Bullpen locks (4 of 7): Craig Kimbrel, Jim Johnson, Jason Grilli and James Russell are still be in the bullpen locked position.

Next up are the players trending up to make the team. There may be more players listed than spots available, but as spring training goes on I’ll whittle these players down.

icon-thumbs-upTrending up for the rotation (2 spots): The rotation competition changed radically this week with Minor likely missing the start of the season (again). With that new spot opening up I’ll move veteran starter Eric Stults up here from the trending down section. Stults is a no-frills starter along the lines of Aaron Harang, and that worked out pretty well for Atlanta last year. Stults can also opt-out of his deal with the Braves if he doesn’t make the opening day roster. When Atlanta signed him he was likely insurance, though he came here in part to be reunited with pitching coach Roger McDowell, who worked with him when they were both in the Dodgers organization. Those two things are working greatly in his favor to make the team.

Though it has not been reported, Wandy Rodriguez can also likely opt-out of his deal with the Braves if he doesn’t make the team (a common clause built into the contracts of veterans who sign minor league deals in the offseason). Largely for that reason I’m leaning towards the two veterans being the leading candidates for the final two rotation spots.

That being said, I’m leaving Mike Foltynewicz up here for now. In watching his start on Saturday, he needs to get his fastball under control, as it seemed to waffle between a straight dart and a frisbee with some arm-side run. Those two fastballs can be successful, coupled with what looked like a great slurve, but only if he can spot them with more consistency. He’s right there on the cusp of figuring it all out.

Trending up for the bullpen (3 spots): Leading the pack, and likely heading towards a lock position, is lefty Josh Outman. He is out of minor league options, he’s already on the 40-man roster, and he’s looked good so far this spring.

Michael Kohn has also looked good, and still sounds like he has a good shot at a middle relief role. Arodys Vizcaino got banged around some, but he still seems to be a good bet to make the team.

Two other veteran relievers who were among this group last week got moved down.

However, moving up this week is lefty Luis Avilan. He seemed to fall out of favor late last year, but he’s had a good spring so far and he’s on a mission to make it back to Atlanta (and he’s got enough left in his arm to do it).

The next group of players are trending down. These players are less likely to make the team for a variety of reasons.

icon-thumbs-downTrending down for the rotation: While Stults and Wandy can opt-out of their contracts if they don’t make the team to start the season, Chien-Ming Wang cannot opt-out of any minor league assignment until July 1. That works against Wang, even if he has a good spring, as Atlanta will probably want to keep some veteran rotation insurance stashed in the minors.

I’ll keep Manny Banuelos here for now, though wherever he starts the season it will likely be in a bullpen role, as the organization looks to keep a close eye on his innings in just his second year back from Tommy John surgery.

I’m going to move a couple of guys up here from the axed position, the first one being Tyrell Jenkins. He’s been impressive early in camp, pitched well in his first spring outing, and with the springboard of a strong Arizona Fall League campaign this past offseason, he enters into the conversation for a rotation spot.

cmartinThe other guy moving up was the guy who filled in for Minor in the spring rotation. Even Fredi Gonzalez said that Cody Martin is in the mix for a rotation spot. I’m a little less optimistic right now, but Martin has proven about all he can in one-and-a-half seasons at triple-A. Still, major league scouts may look on him with a little skepticism, as he went un-selected in the Rule 5 draft. If enough baseball people thought he could join a major league rotation this year (heck, if just one other team did), then why didn’t another team draft him?

Because of his potential injury, Mike Minor drops down here. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for Minor that he’s just experiencing some spring soreness, and nothing serious.

Trending down for the bullpen: While Avilan moved to the trending up section, veteran relievers Jose Veras and Matt Capps got moved down. Both pitchers have struggled in early spring action. Veras, who has a history of wildness, has lived up to his reputation by walking multiple batters in each of his two spring appearances. His velocity is also lagging behind, though there’s still time for that to heat up.

When Matt Capps was closing games for Minnesota his velocity was 91-95, but so far this spring he hasn’t tickled 90. Consequently he’s not missing many bats. If he doesn’t get his velocity back I don’t see how he regains his effectiveness and makes the roster. [UPDATE: Not more than an hour after posting this the Braves reassigned Capps to minor league camp. Consider him moved down to the axed category.]

Juan Jaime ran into all sorts of control problems, and though he is out of options, without a quick turnaround he likely won’t make the team. If his next few outings also go poorly, we could see the Braves send Jaime out to minor league camp quickly to stash him away for when they have to pass him through waivers to the minors at the end of spring.

Lefty Donnie Veal hasn’t separated himself from the other lefties in camp. Veteran Todd Coffey had a good outing, but still seems on the outside of this competition for now.

Below are the rest of the guys in camp, and while there is some talent in this group, they are not likely to be around the Major League camp in the final weeks of spring. That being said, I may move one or two of these guys up if they have a great spring or there is some buzz about them in the press.

icon-axAxed for rotation consideration for now: Sugar Ray Marimon has had good results. Yean Carlos Gil, Williams Perez, and Jason Hursh are still out of the conversation.

Axed for bullpen consideration for now: Moving down here this week is David Carpenter, who someone pointed out to me may not even be in big league camp. I guess I had seen it incorrectly somewhere, or else I imagined it. Among the other axed players it’s worth continuing to keep an eye on lefty Brady Feigl, who has had two great outings so far. For a good synopsis of who he is and where he came from, head on over to the blog Walk-Off Walk.

Mauricio Cabrera opened some eyes when he hit triple-digits in his first inning of work. Brandon Cunniff may also be worth keeping an extra eye on. No one else who has previously been axed is worth noting.

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Atlanta Braves 2015 Making the Team Meter: Hitters, Week 2

eyoungWelcome to week 2 of the Atlanta Braves Making the Team Meter(MTM), your source for all the spring training roster battles. This edition will cover the position battles in camp. The pitchers were covered yesterday, and can be found here. Last week’s edition of the position battles can be found here.

The position player battles in camp are getting even hotter than they were at the beginning of spring training. Much of that is due to the injury to the last remaining Upton, as well as other injuries that could slow some starters.

First up, the locks for roster spots (barring injury, of course):

icon-lockLineup locks (5 of 8): Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons and Nick Markakis are still locks, even though Simmons will miss the first week or so of spring. We can also assume that other lineup semi-regulars Chris Johnson and Jonny Gomes are still locks. Dropping out of the lock position for the lineup are Alberto Callaspo and B.J. Upton.

Callaspo drops to a bench lock, but with news of other competition for the second base job getting better billing this spring, and the Braves’ disappointment with Callaspo showing up to camp a little overweight, he is no longer a lineup lock. Upton will miss all of spring training with a foot injury, likely starting the year on the disabled list.

Bench locks (2 of 5): Catcher A.J. Pierzynski will be on the team as the backup, or should Bethancourt falter, the starter. Alberto Callaspo drops down to become a bench lock.

Next up are the players trending up to make the team. There may be more players listed than spots available, but as spring training goes on I’ll whittle these players down.

icon-thumbs-up

Trending up for the lineup/bench (6 spots): With the Upton injury, a new spot opens up in the lineup. I’m combining the lineup and bench here for now, until a clear candidate for the center field job emerges. So let’s talk about the three main center field contenders first.

Eury Perez has had a few cups of coffee the past three years, but has never cracked a major league roster as a regular. He’s proven about all he needs to at triple-A, so with a vacancy in center this is his chance to win a starting job and then see if he can keep it. He’s the front-runner.

eperezThe second guy with the best shot at the starting job–the guy who started in center for the Braves’ first spring game–Eric Young, Jr. has received a good deal of praise from coaches this spring. His case for a roster spot is aided by his ability to play second, though whether he has enough range to play center should be closely watched.

Moving up from the trending-down section is the home-grown rookie Todd Cunningham. He might be the best defensive center fielder in camp, both in terms of range and arm, and that has him in what should be a tight race with Perez and Young.

Zoilo Almonte was mentioned as someone who might play some center, and we’ll need to keep an eye on the box scores to see if he gets any reps there, but he’s more likely to just be a candidate for a corner outfield spot.

Around the infield Phil Gosselin’s case to be the super-utility guy and steal some starts at second and third is still strong. Kelly Johnson also still has that veteran edge to be a backup in the outfield and second.

Infielder Jace Peterson joins Cunningham in moving up from the trending-down section because of his ability to play all over the infield. With a possible injury that could slow Simmons into the early days of the season, a capable backup who could start at short may be necessary.

Catcher Christian Bethancourt is still the favorite to be the starting catcher, but I’m keeping him from being a lock for a few weeks to see how his spring unfolds.

The next group of players are trending down. For one of these guys to make the team they would need to have an amazing spring, or there would have to be an injury to a player above.

icon-thumbs-downTrending down for the lineup/bench: With Peterson and Cunningham moving to the trending up section, the biggest name in the trending down section is top prospect Jose Peraza. While some, including Fredi Gonzalez, thinks Peraza can make the jump to the majors, I’m still going to take a wait and see approach and keep him down here. If there is an injury to Simmons that puts him on the DL to start the season, we could see the opportunity for Peraza open up even more, as he is a natural shortstop. Other than that, or a huge spring at the plate, I still see Peraza starting at triple-A.

We haven’t heard much about Joey Terdoslavich for a bench spot. Dian Toscano is still held up with immigration paperwork, so he stays here, and will likely start in the minors.

Backup catcher candidates John Buck and Jesus Flores are in camp and looking for an opportunity.

Below are the rest of the guys in camp, and while there is some talent in this group, they are not likely to be around the Major League camp in the final weeks of spring. That being said, I may move one or two of these guys up if they have a great spring or there is some buzz about them in the press.

icon-axAxed from bench consideration for now: Still down here are Johan Camargo, Daniel Castro, Pedro Ciriaco, Elmer Reyes, Rio Ruiz, Jose Constanza, Tyler Pastornicky and Mallex Smith, as well as Cedric Hunter, though he did make it into the starting lineup for the first spring game. That opened some eyes, and Hunter did spend a week or so in the majors back in 2011 as an injury replacement. He’s still a real long-shot to make the team with the competition ahead of him, so he stays down here for now.

There are other catchers in camp, but none even worth mentioning here unless an injury to one of the backstops above occurs.

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Atlanta Braves 2015 Making the Team Meter: Pitchers, Week 2

mcappsWelcome to week 2 of the Atlanta Braves Making the Team Meter (MTM), your source for all the spring training roster battles. This edition will cover the pitching battles in camp, with the hitters’ edition getting posted tomorrow.

Last week’s MTM can be found here. There are a few players moving up and down from last week to this week, even though the first spring game is today. This movement has to do with the articles that have been written about the players and position battles since the start of spring. Each week I’ll examine these articles, read between the lines, and use my experience of covering these battles for the past decade, to get to the bottom of which 25 guys will go north* when spring training ends.

*Actually they’ll go south, since the first series is in Miami.

First up, the locks for roster spots (barring injury, of course):

icon-lockRotation locks (4 of 5): Julio Teheran, Shelby Miller, Mike Minor and Alex Wood are all still locks for the opening day rotation.

Bullpen locks (4 of 7): Craig Kimbrel, Jim Johnson, Jason Grilli and James Russell are still be in the bullpen locked position, with one member moving down. Russell bears watching though, as he apparently showed up NOT in the best shape of his life.

Next up are the players trending up to make the team. There may be more players listed than spots available, but as spring training goes on I’ll whittle these players down.

icon-thumbs-upTrending up for the rotation (1 spot): The early word from spring camp is that the race for the fifth starter spot is a three-man race, I’ll pare it down to a two-man race here.

Most likely leading this race is veteran Wandy Rodriguez. He’s already been complimented by Fredi Gonzalez, and he’s starting the first game of the spring for Atlanta.

Rookie Mike Foltynewicz may have the next best shot at the fifth spot. Atlanta likely wants him in the rotation eventually, and while they’re not going to rush him into that role before he’s ready, if he proves to be ready this spring then he’ll likely get a shot. Of course, if one of the other fifth-starter candidates also has a good spring and deserves the job, then Folty could work his way into a bullpen spot.

Trending up for the bullpen (3 spots): I moved Arodys Vizcaino down here from the lock position because I may have erroneously stated that he was out of options in my last post. It seems that he may still have an option remaining… MLB options are hard to get accurate information on for some reason. That said, he’s still probably a leading candidate for the pen, but due to the number of veterans in camp I wonder if he could get bumped (if he does have an option left).

I still consider Michael Kohn a favorite for a bullpen spot, though I haven’t seen anything written about him this spring. Ditto on the no news front for Josh Outman, who is still the favorite for a LOOGY role due to his presence on the 40-man.

Jose Veras certainly seems like he’s on a mission to win a spot on the roster. He’s likely got some allies on the coaching staff in former Astros’ manager Bo Porter (now Atlanta’s third base coach) and former Astros’ coach Dave Trembley (now Atlanta’s director of player development).

Former closer Matt Capps has been mentioned among the other former closers in camp, and I move him to the trending-up section this week. While he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since 2012 because of shoulder surgery in 2013, the Douglasville, Georgia native may have extra motivation to both make it back to the big leagues while doing so with his hometown team.

The next group of players are trending down. For one of these guys to make the team they would have to have an amazing spring, or there would have to be an injury to a player above.

icon-thumbs-downTrending down for the rotation: While Eric Stults has been mentioned as one of the three main contenders for the last spot in the rotation, my feeling is that he’s behind Folty and Wandy. He stays in the trending down section for now, but any uncertainly from the other two could vault him into the lead.

Manny Banuelos moves down here this week. A probable innings limit this year could push him to the bullpen to begin the season. While he could challenge for the major league bullpen, the more likely option is for him to go to triple-A, where he can focus on increasing his workload throughout the season with an eye towards joining the rotation later in the year.

Chien-Ming Wang seems like a forgotten option for the rotation, but he’s still an option. There certainly hasn’t been any reported coaching praise for Wang out of camp.

Trending down for the bullpen: There hasn’t been much news about the guys on the outside of the bullpen battle. Holdovers Luis Avilan and Juan Jaime seem buried by older competition despite being on the 40-man roster.

Lefty Donnie Veal appears to be behind several other lefties for a spot. Todd Coffey, another veteran on the comeback trail, has not been mentioned in the same light as the other veterans in camp. No mention of the new David Carpenter either… that disappoints me.

Below are the rest of the guys in camp, and while there is some talent in this group, they are not likely to be around the Major League camp in the final weeks of spring. That being said, I may move one or two of these guys up if they have a great spring or there is some buzz about them in the press.

icon-axAxed for rotation consideration for now: Yean Carlos Gil, Williams Perez, Jason Hursh, Sugar Ray Marimon and Cody Martin are still axed. Tyrell Jenkins has been the most impressive new pitching prospect in camp, but unless something crazy happens, he’s ticketed for the minors.

Axed for bullpen consideration for now: Mauricio Cabrera, Brandon Cunniff, Leyson Septimo, and Ian Thomas are all still in the axed category, and so is Brady Feigl, even though he received some praise from coaches. Feigl is still solidly on the outside of the bullpen battle, but we’ll keep an eye on him. Shae Simmons and Daniel Winkler are out after surgery, but will have help in their recovery from new rehab coordinator, and former Braves prospect Dan Meyer.

Hitters tomorrow.

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Atlanta Braves 2015 Making the Team Meter: Hitters, Week 1

Week 1 of the Atlanta Braves Making the Team Meter (MTM) continues with a look at the hitters in camp. There are a lot of new bats in camp, and too many bodies for the available spots, so I expect a lively and long competition.

jgomesOne of the more interesting side stories will be the dual between non-roster veterans (KJ, EY) looking to make the team and younger players on the 40-man roster pushing hard to crack the 25-man roster (EP, TC). The safe money is on the veterans, as the team tries to stuff the roster with useful pieces they can move at the trade deadline. But what happens if the vets struggle and the kids shine?

The MTM for the pitchers was posted last week, and can be found here. While the catchers were included in that post, I’ve included them here as well to keep all the hitters in one place.

Each week this spring I’ll present the locks for each area of the team, then the guys trending up or down. Those guys trending up or down (listed in red text) are the ones to keep an eye on, and should constitute the bulk of the players competing for open roster spots. The rest of the guys in camp are listed next to the ax, because, well, they will (more than likely) eventually be axed from the spring roster.

First up, the locks for roster spots (barring injury, of course):

icon-lockLineup locks (7 of 7): Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons and Nick Markakis. We can also assume that the following players will have a spot on the 25-man roster, while being in the lineup more than they aren’t: Chris Johnson, Jonny Gomes, Alberto Callaspo and B.J. Upton.

It is depressing to say that this group represents the players who are projected to receive the majority of the starts, barring any platoons that could develop, but remember that Fredi Gonzalez has shied away from platoons in the past. This different and less-powerful lineup will produce a different brand of Braves baseball than we’ve become accustomed to the last few years. bupton

  1. Markakis, RF (L)
  2. Callaspo, 2B (S)
  3. Freeman, 1B (L)
  4. C. Johnson, 3B (R)
  5. Gomes, LF (R)
  6. Upton, CF (R)
  7. Simmons, SS (R)
  8. catcher

Bench locks (0 of 4): None. This is where the competition will be…

Catching locks (1 of 2): The catching lock is not the guy one would think. A.J. Pierzynski is the only catcher I consider a lock to start the spring. I’ll explain further below.

Next up are the players trending up to make the team. There may be more players listed than spots available, but as spring training goes on I’ll whittle these players down.

icon-thumbs-upTrending up for the bench (4 spots): These guys will not only be competing for a spot on the bench, but some regular playing time in any platoons that could emerge. Phil Gosselin seems like the best bet to become the team’s super-utility man, who can play all over the infield and outfield. The other infielder/outfielder who may have an inside edge is Kelly Johnson, though he’s not on the 40-man, so with a bad spring he may not get a chance.

In the outfield the talk all winter has been about Zoilo Almonte, a switch-hitter with some pop. He’s never cracked a major league lineup so it will be an uphill battle, but the team seems to believe in him. The other outfielder who has a good shot at a backup role is Eury Perez. Atlanta claimed him off waivers in late January, and probably see him as a late-innings speedster and defensive replacement.

Just before spring training Atlanta signed veteran Eric Young, Jr., a switch-hitting outfield speedster whose case for a roster spot is aided by his ability to play second base.

Trending up for catching (1 spot): Christian Bethancourt is the presumptive starting catcher, and he will be given plenty of rope, but he’s still a rookie, and the jury is still out about his ability to hit at the MLB level. A terrible spring and he could wind up back at triple-A, especially with other veteran options looming.

The next group of players are trending down. For one of these guys to make the team they would need to have an amazing spring, or there would have to be an injury to a player above.

icon-thumbs-downTrending down for the bench: The most major-league-ready prospect acquired in the Justin Upton trade was Jace Peterson, a speedy infielder who could steal time at third and second. He’ll need to have a good spring, and his bat will need to separate him from his competition.

Todd Cunningham has been a favorite of people who follow the Braves minor league system, but with other outfielders entering the system this winter his spot in line has moved back.

There will be a lot of people watching Jose Peraza, and he probably has the ability to make the jump from double-A to the majors. But even with a good spring would the Braves feel confident in promoting their next young hitter that fast? I’d like to see Peraza have a good spring and force this tough decision.

Joey Terdoslavich seems like a forgotten player in the system. The switch-hitter would need to have a monster spring to crack the roster.

We don’t know what kind of player we have in Dian Toscano, but most early reports indicate that this Cuban outfielder will start his American professional career in the minors.

Trending down for catching: It should not be overlooked as a sign that the Braves lack confidence in Bethancourt that they signed two veteran catchers to minor league deals. John Buck is a season removed from a big contract, and Jesus Flores had some decent years with Washington. If Bethancourt can’t break camp with the team, then one of these guys could split time or back-up Pierzynski.

Below are the rest of the guys in camp, and while there is some talent in this group, they are not likely to be around the Major League camp in the final weeks of spring. That being said, I may move one or two of these guys up if they have a great spring or there is some buzz about them in the press.

icon-axAxed from bench consideration for now: Jose Constanza and Tyler Pastornicky are familiar names, but no team claimed them this offseason as they were waived off the 40-man roster. They will likely be in camp, but I don’t expect either player to compete for an opening day spot as other players are now favored over them.

Minor league free agent Pedro Ciriaco can play everywhere, but his good defense offers little offense.

Johan Camargo, Daniel Castro, Elmer Reyes and Rio Ruiz are infield prospects of varying degrees who will get a nice taste of major league camp. Castro and Reyes could get talked up some, but they’re swamped by veterans in front of them.

Cedric Hunter and Mallex Smith should be ticketed for the minors.

Axed from catching consideration for now: Yenier Bello might pique some interest. Matt Kennelly had a good winter ball campaign in Australia. Jose Yepez, Chris O’Dowd and Tanner Murphy are just around to catch all the extra pitchers in camp. As is Braeden Schlehuber, who will have his own bobblehead night this year in Mississippi.

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