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.
The 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):
Lineup 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.
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.
Before 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.
Trending 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.
Axed 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.