As we head into the final week of Spring Training there are still several spot on the Braves roster that have not been settled yet. Let’t take a look at the candidates for each area of the team, and see who will make the cut. The guys in bold are locks for the team, the guys in red are the players on the bubble.
Rotation: The going theory is that the Braves will use a 4-man rotation until April 12th. Those four would be Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, David Hale, and Freddy Garcia. While Fredi Gonzalez wouldn’t commit to saying that Garcia is in the opening day rotation, it’s probably not completely his call to make, so he was just being cautious and non-committal. I say that Garcia will be in the rotation on opening day.
The only other internal option being considered at this point seems to be Gus Schlosser. He seems to be in line to make the roster in some capacity, either in the rotation or as a long reliever in the bullpen. I don’t see the Braves gambling and putting Schlosser in the rotation instead of Garcia. The other option is that the Braves could acquire another starter from outside the organization, a long shot at this point.
Bullpen: The core four seem set — Craig Kimbrel, Jordan Walden, Luis Avilan, and David Carpenter. Anthony Varvaro, previously considered a lock, might have pitched his way out of the opening day bullpen. He’s given up 18 hits in 8 spring innings. Unless Varvaro puts together a couple of spotless appearances this week he doesn’t make the team. Cory Gearrin has also had a rough spring, but most of his damage came in one bad appearance. Outside of that he’s pitched good enough to make the team, though he’ll have to continue to pitch good this week.
One thing Gearrin has working for him is that he’s limited his walks, something that has been troubling Fredi Gonzalez about the other relievers being considered. While at least one of the left-handers in camp will make the team, Ryan Buchter and Ian Thomas have both pitched good enough to head north. Both guys have been extra tough against left-handed batters, but have had their problems against right-handers. It might be tough to carry two guys who are primarily LOOGYs, so that could work against both making the club.
The only other guy who might be considered is lefty Atahualpa Severino. I really don’t want to consider him, as he’s gotten blown up a few times this spring, and has been hit hard by both lefties and righties during those blow ups. Outside of those two games though, he’s pitched decently, so he’s lightly considered.
We will also have to see if the Braves go with an 8-man pen or a 7-man pen, using an extra spot on the bench. I believe they’ll go with an 8-man unit that will include Schlosser as the long reliever. The other three guys I see in the lead right now are Gearrin, Buchter, and Thomas. That would leave Varvaro off the roster and needing to make it though waivers. When Ervin Santana joins the rotation on April 12th, the Braves can then send Schlosser, Buchter, or Thomas to the minors.
The Braves thinking may be to keep Varvaro in the bullpen and hope his awful spring does not show up during the regular season. He’s got two or three more games this week to change minds, but if he gets hit hard in any of them, the Braves may feel confident that he can make it through waivers without getting claimed by another team.
The Braves could also still add someone from outside the organization in a trade, signing, or waiver claim of their own.
Lineup: This seems to be set and hopefully fully healthy and unchanging: Jason Heyward, Chris Johnson, Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton, Evan Gattis, Dan Uggla, B.J. Upton, and Andrelton Simmons.
Bench: Barring injury, the first four guys are set: Gerald Laird, Ryan Doumit, Ramiro Pena, and Jordan Schafer. That leaves one spot left (possibly two if the Braves go with a 7-man pen). That last spot should go to Tyler Pastornicky. He was slowed this spring recovering from injury, but he’s back now and making amazing plays all over the field.
If Pastornicky isn’t ready, or if another bench spot is used, then the candidates remaining in camp are Tyler Greene, Jose Constanza, Joey Terdoslavich, and Ernesto Mejia. Greene would get the nod if another infielder is needed. If the Braves need a pure pinch hitter then Mejia should get the call. Constanza started the spring off hot, but has cooled in the past two weeks. Joey-T hasn’t hit well all spring.
Overall the bullpen is the biggest area of concern, and the place with the most uncertainty. This coming week of games will be critical for the relievers fighting for a spot on the team — it should be a fun battle to watch.