Welcome 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):
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.
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.
Trending 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.
Axed 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.