The Making the Team Meter returns for its ninth season as your one-stop-shop for all the Atlanta Braves spring training roster battles. I’ve settled on a new format this season which I hope will better illustrate the battles in each area of the team, as well as highlighting the players who are being seriously considered for those spots.
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 eventually be axed from the spring roster.
First up, the locks for roster spots (barring injury, of course):
Rotation locks (4 of 5): Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, and Brandon Beachy. All assumptions are that Beachy will be healthy. Gavin Floyd is unofficially the fifth guy in the rotation, but he won’t be ready until May or June, so the team will fill in from a host of candidates. Minor has been slowed this spring because of an off-season procedure, but is expected to be ready.
Bullpen locks (5 of 7): Craig Kimbrel, Jordan Walden, Luis Avilan, David Carpenter, and Anthony Varvaro. Carpenter and Varvaro are out of options, and last year’s work seemed to cement their spot in the pen even if they have rough springs.
Lineup locks (8 of 8): Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Freddie Freeman, Evan Gattis, Chris Johnson, B.J. Upton, Andrelton Simmons, and Dan Uggla. Yes, Uggla is a lock right now because, well, he makes $13 million. Second base is still his job to lose.
Bench locks (4 of 5): Gerald Laird, Ryan Doumit, Jordan Schafer, and Ramiro Pena. It’s a strong bench so far, and with these guys pretty much every spot on the field is covered, so the last guy can be a pure pinch hitter instead of someone who needs to fill a defensive 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.
Trending up for the rotation (1 spot): Freddy Garcia is in make-the-team-or-retire mode, and the Braves seem to like his veteran presents on the team. With a decent spring he should get the fifth spot. Alex Wood is the heir apparent to the rotation, but will the Braves deem him ready now? Both pitchers are in the spring rotation.
Trending up for the bullpen (2 spots): Luis Vazquez has gotten a lot of the buzz, and the Braves seem to want his arm in the pen. He’ll still need to have a good spring. Ryan Buchter has little left to prove in the minors. Cory Gearrin is reportedly healthy and ready to go (and out of options).
Trending up for the bench (1 spot): Joey Terdoslavich is the best hitter among the group of bench contenders, and another switch hitter. Remember that Jose Constanza is still around… or maybe you’d rather forget. Tyler Pastornicky will miss the first week of games as he continues to rehab his right knee after off-season surgery. He could get ready quickly once healthy.
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.
Trending down for the rotation: David Hale pitched very well last year in his two starts, but he’s likely behind Wood and Garcia. Hale could sneak into a bullpen spot.
Trending down for the bullpen: Wirfin Obispo is a bit of a fly in the ointment. First he was a surprise add to the 40-man, and with a good spring he could emerge as a power arm in the pen. Speaking of power arms, Juan Jaime — can he harness his control? Can Mark Lamm make an impression during the spring? Shae Simmons certainly made an impression already, and has to ride around on a pink bicycle because of it (good natured teasing).
Trending down for the lineup: Tommy La Stella is there, breathing down Uggla’s neck. We’ll see…
Trending down for the bench: Tyler Greene is a 30-year-old utility man with some Major League time each of the past five years. The former first-rounder has bounced around and mostly filled in for injured regulars. He’s actually been a really bad pinch hitter the last few years. Outfielder Todd Cunningham has apparently been taking balls at some infield positions to boost his versatility — he still needs to prove he can hit. Poor Ernesto Mejia. Of course, with one spot left that can be purely a pinch hitter, Mejia could have a shot. His power would be nice off the bench, but as he is limited to first base defensively it might be hard for the Braves to find him even the occasional start. Still, I’m rooting for the Caramel Bear.
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.
Axed from rotation consideration for now: J.R. Graham, Jason Hursh, Cody Martin, Yunesky Maya, Hector Daniel Rodriguez, Gus Schlosser, and Ian Thomas.
Axed from bullpen consideration for now: Carlos Perez, Aaron Northcraft, Lay Batista, and Atahualpa Severino.
Axed from bench consideration for now: Elmer Reyes, Phil Gosselin, Matt Lipka, Edward Salcedo, and Mark Hamilton.