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 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):
Lineup 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.
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.
The 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.
Trending 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.
Axed 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.