Atlanta Braves 2016 Making the Team Meter: Pitchers, Week 2

mbanuelos2The Atlanta Braves Making the Team Meter (MTM) continues as your one-stop shop* for all the team’s spring training roster battles (*initially divided up between pitchers and hitters). The roster is getting trimmed quickly this year, as the team has already made their first round of cuts — some of the earliest significant cuts I can remember.

Every weekly MTM this spring I’ll present the locks for each area of the team, then the guys trending up and down. Those guys trending up and down (listed in red text) are the ones to keep an eye on, and should constitute the bulk of the players competing for open roster spots. The rest of the guys in camp are listed next to the ax, because, well, they will (more than likely) eventually be axed from the spring roster.

First up, the locks for roster spots (barring injury, of course):

icon-lockRotation locks (3 of 5): Julio Teheran, Bud Norris, and Matt Wisler continue to be locks for the starting rotation. Though neither JT nor Wisler have thrown in a major league spring game yet.

Bullpen locks (3 of 7): Jason Grilli, Jim Johnson, and Arodys Vizcaino are all still bullpen locks, with Vizzy striking out the side in order (a “Kimbrel”) during his first Grapefruit League action.

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.

icon-thumbs-upTrending up for the rotation (1-2 spots): Moving to the trending up section this week is Manny Banuelos. ManBan is apparently penciled in as the fifth starter — a spot in the rotation which won’t be needed until April 12 according to the AJC — even though he has yet to appear in any spring games.

It still looks like non-roster starters Kyle Kendrick and Jhoulys Chacin are in a good position to compete for the remaining rotation spot. Either one of them could also fall to the bullpen, and serve as the long reliever for at least the first two weeks of the season. In their first appearance of the spring on Sunday, Chacin seemed to take the lead with two spotless innings.

Trending up for the bullpen (4-5 spots): With the Braves indicating they will not need a fifth starter until April 12, that opens up the bullpen competition to one more spot. Mike Foltynewicz is still on the bubble between the rotation and the bullpen, so an eye will be kept on how long the team stretches him out in games.

aogandoMoving to the trending up section this week is Alexi Ogando. He has received a lot of praise throughout the spring, and it sounds like Atlanta want’s another veteran reliever in the pen. If the reports of his rejuvenated velocity are true, he could be a nice find.

Chris Withrow looks good in early spring action, and is likely a week or so from becoming a bullpen lock. Ian Krol sounds like the early favorite for the LOOGY role, even though he got Krolshed™ on Sunday.

While it’s been mentioned that the Rule 5 relievers Rutckyj and Winkler might be hard-pressed to make the club, Daniel Winkler remains trending up after two impressive appearances. Out of options reliever Jose Ramirez has also tossed two scoreless innings.

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.

icon-thumbs-downTrending down for the rotation: Aaron Blair moves to he trending down section this week. I still want to be bullish on his chances, but with ManBan now penciled into the fifth spot, and Kendrick and Chacin hoovering, Blair seems to be crowded out of a rotation spot to start the season. Besides, there’s no reason to rush the young hurler.

Even before tweaking his delivery, Tyrell Jenkins had drawn praise for his good work in camp — though like Blair, there’s no need to rush him. Williams Perez and Ryan Weber are still options, but they both seem to be further down he depth chart at this point.

rweberCasey Kelly is hanging around, and like Perez and Weber, he’s a long-shot right now.

Chris Volstad hurt his chances by getting rocked in his first game action of the spring, and David Holmberg hasn’t had any buzz about him. Both 4-A veterans are likely to be among the next round of cuts and become triple-A depth.

Trending down for the bullpen: While Matt Marksberry has pitched well and has received praise from the coaching staff, his available minor league option and the veteran relievers ahead of him will likely push him to open at Gwinnett. Fellow lefty Hunter Cervenka finds himself in a similar spot.

Both Alex Torres and Carlos Torres have thrown well and received some praise, but they are still likely behind other non-roster options such as Ogando, Chacin and Kendrick. With the Braves wanting to stash some experienced bullpen depth in the minors, the not-brothers Torres fit the bill perfectly.

Danny Burawa did not have the kind of first outing in this crowded field that gets him noticed in the right way. With another bad outing he becomes a candidate to be slipped through waivers as the team looks to create 40-man roster space.

Another victim of the roster space battle could be Rule 5 lefty Evan Rutckyj. He moves to the trending down section this week.

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.

icon-axAxed from rotation consideration for now: No change in the ax status of John Gant, Chris Ellis, Sean Newcomb, and Lucas Sims.

Madison Younginer has received some praise, but is still a ways away from major league ready.

Axed from bullpen consideration for now: The two big shocking pieces of news this week were the release of OG David Carpenter, and the probable second Tommy John surgery for Andrew McKirahan. Carp’s unexpected early release was likely due in part to two main factors, the lack of an available roster spot and a continued decline in velocity. While he had appeared in only one game, the Braves staff has a gun on every pitcher virtually every time they throw, and they know where a pitcher’s velocity should be at this point in the spring. OGDC’s velo likely wasn’t keeping up with other non-roster guys like the Law Firm of Ogando, Torres and Torres ©.

Shae Simmons is on the new 15 month recovery plan in return from his TJ surgery. Mauricio Cabrera and his 100 mph heat have been talked about this spring, but ultimately his control is not yet ready for prime time.

Ryan Kelly was released along with Carpenter.

The hitters MTM will be up at the end of the week.

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