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 earlier in the week and can be found here. Last week’s hitters MTM can be found here.
We got a good idea of how Fredi Gonzalez is thinking about roster construction through comments he made to the media yesterday:
If camp ended today, Fredi G said #Braves would go w/ infielders Freeman, Peterson, Callaspo, Simmons, CJohnson, Gosselin (and 2 catchers)
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienAJC) March 19, 2015
If Markakis is ready, #Braves right now would go OFs Gomes, EY Jr (CF), Markakis, and EPerez, Almonte, KJ, Terdo compete for 2 spots…
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienAJC) March 19, 2015
Continue below to see the details of the competition.
First up, the locks for roster spots (barring injury, of course):
Lineup locks (6 of 8): Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Chris Johnson, Jonny Gomes, Christian Bethancourt and Nick Markakis are all lineup locks, or locks for regular playing time in a platoon. It is a bit concerning that Markakis hasn’t played in a game yet, but with two weeks of spring games left there should be time for him to make it back and get into the swing of things. Johnson’s .120 batting average this spring is concerning. Bethancourt joins the locks this week thanks to his solid hitting, especially in the extra base department; still no walks though.
Bench locks (2 of 5): Catcher A.J. Pierzynski will be on the team as the backup, and Alberto Callaspo is still a lock to make the team. Yes, Collaspo has been very disappointing this spring–first arriving overweight, then hitting poorly–but he has a guaranteed $3 million contract, so he’ll at least begin the year with Atlanta.
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 (5 spots): For the everyday lineup the Braves still need to find a second baseman and a center fielder. The second base job has been a good competition to watch this spring, but rookie Jace Peterson has run away with it. There’s a chance he may also get some time at third base, but second is where the more immediate need is. Another week of good returns and he’s a lock.
Eric Young, Jr. has been good this spring, and his style of play meshes well with the small ball Atlanta wants to adopt this season. He has been a good bet to make the team since the first spring game, and that continues to be the case.
I continue to believe that Eury Perez has the best shot at a backup outfield spot, and some platoon starts in center. Todd Cunningham is not mentioned by DOB in the tweets above, but he is still a strong competitor with Perez for a backup outfielder spot. While Cunningham’s defense may be better across all three outfield spots, Perez has hit better this spring and brings more speed to the team. The first backup outfield spot will likely be one of these two guys, but not both.
With Peterson, EY, and either Perez or Cunningham securing three of the five remaining spots, that leaves the team needing another infielder and another outfielder.
Zoilo Almonte hasn’t done much this spring, but neither has Phil Gosselin. Though when considering versatility, Almonte may be limited to a corner outfield spot, whereas Gosselin can play all over the infield and outfield.
Almonte’s main competition comes from Joey Terdoslavich and Kelly Johnson. Terdo has had a hot bat this spring, hitting doubles at a prolific rate. His ability to switch-hit could be useful off the bench, and means he could platoon with just about anyone in left field. Johnson has started to get hot at the plate during the past few games. If that trend continues, he could play himself onto the team in the final weeks. He has played a lot of third base this spring, which makes me think the Braves want him on the team to platoon with Chris Johnson more than they want him in the outfield. The third base platoon of Johnson & Johnson.
The last two or three position player spots on the roster are in a constant state of flux, and will be influenced by several factors. How these guys hit in the final weeks of spring training could go a long way towards determining who makes the team. Inclusion on the 40-man roster is working in favor of some of these guys who are struggling, and possibly working against Kelly Johnson, who is a non-roster invitee. Remember that the team may need to add as many as two starting pitchers to the 40-man, and possibly a reliever and Eric Young. The Braves should be able to find four spots on the 40-man, but finding a fifth for Johnson might be difficult.
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: With both Terdo and KJ moving to the trending-up section this week, and Jose Peraza being sent to minor league camp, that doesn’t really leave anyone to put in the trending down section.
That said, I’ll go ahead and move Pedro Ciriaco up here. He’s certainly a good defender, and he’s hit surprisingly well this spring. If Gosselin’s spring takes a turn for the worse, there’s a chance Ciriaco could sneak into a bench spot.