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Atlanta Braves: Final Predictions for the Opening Day 25-Man Roster

Jim PrattContributor IIJune 2, 2016

Atlanta Braves: Final Predictions for the Opening Day 25-Man Roster

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    UPDATED to include the Livan Hernandez signing.

    Once the Atlanta Braves' front office felt they had exhausted all trade possibilities for Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado, they made a decision shortly after the winter meetings to keep last year’s core roster intact.

    With Opening Day quickly approaching, many teams have difficult decisions still left on the table.

    Although the Braves have a couple unresolved positional choices to make, they are mostly complimentary roster decisions rather than vital ones.

    Who will get the nod at shortstop?

    Will Chipper Jones’ DL stint open a roster spot for another infielder or with Martin Prado moving to third base will the Braves need that extra outfielder?

    Does either Randall Delgado or Julio Teheran break camp as a big leaguer?

    With the season-ending injury to Arodys Vizcaino, who fills that open vacancy in the bullpen?

    For the answers to those questions and others, check back on Opening Day.

    Until then, this column will attempt to project what the most likely resolutions to those questions will be.

Infield (8 Roster Spots)

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    The left side of the infield could remain in a state of uncertainty for at least the first half of the season.

    Chipper Jones is tentatively scheduled to return to the lineup for the home opener on April 13. How many games he can still give the Braves at third base will continue to be a question as the season advances.

    Regardless of who wins the shortstop job out if spring training, a full-time starter might not be decided for some time. Tyler Pastornicky will likely get the nod on Opening Day, but he doesn’t provide the upside of an Andrelton Simmons.

    After some seasoning at Double-A, it’s not inconceivable that Simmons will get the call to replace Pastornicky if he struggles the first month or two of the season.

    Veteran Jack Wilson seems to be the backup plan if neither rookie can offer the Braves a stable shortstop throughout the grind of a 162-game major league schedule.

    STARTERS:

    C) Brian McCann

    1B) Freddie Freeman

    2B) Dan Uggla

    3B) Martin Prado

    SS) Tyler Pastornicky

    BENCH:

    C) David Ross

    INF) Jack Wilson

    INF) Drew Sutton

    POTENTIAL ROSTER CUTS:

    SS) Andrelton Simmons

    INF) Josh Wilson

Outfield (5)

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    Chipper Jones hasn’t played left field since the Vinny Castilla days in Atlanta, yet his DL stint to start the season has caused a vacancy at that corner outfield spot.

    Eric Hinske (vs. RHP) and Matt Diaz (vs. LHP) are both competent fill-ins when Prado moves to third base on occasion.

    Neither of those players have much defensive prowess, which will make the front office inclined to use the last roster spot on a bench outfielder with defensive upside along with the speed to be a pinch runner.

    Vying to be that player is Jordan Parraz, Luis Durango and Jose Constanza.

    Also, Heyward has proved this spring that he is a viable option to replace Michael Bourn in center field for short stretches if needed.

    STARTERS:

    RF) Jason Heyward

    CF) Michael Bourn

    LF) Eric Hinske

    BENCH

    Matt Diaz

    Jose Constanza

    POTENTIAL ROSTER CUTS:

    Jordan Parraz

    Luis Durango

STARTING PITCHING (5)

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    With expected Opening Day starter Tim Hudson sidelined until the first of May recovering from a back injury, Tommy Hanson appears to be in line to start the season opener.

    Jair Jurrjens has temporarily dodged all the trade rumors and should follow Hanson in the rotation.

    Personally speaking for a moment, Brandon Beachy will be the most reliable and by many accounts the best starter for Atlanta this season.

    Mike Minor has been undoubtedly the best pitcher in camp this spring. He quickly separated himself from the competition for the fifth starters spot.

    In fact, he has pitched well enough that it wouldn’t be a surprise if manager Fredi Gonzalez slots him in between Jurrjens and Beachy in the rotation.

    Hudson’s previously mentioned injury will allow either Randall Delgado or Julio Teheran a chance to make three or four starts before he returns.

    Delgado seemingly has the momentum to replace Hudson and if he can make a good impression in those starts, expect him to get the first look as the season moves towards when the Braves need the occasional sixth starter.

    ROTATION:

    RHP) Tommy Hanson

    RHP) Jair Jurrjens

    RHP) Brandon Beachy

    LHP) Mike Minor

    RHP) Randall Delgado

    POTENTIAL ROSTER CUTS:

    RHP) Julio Teheran


Bullpen (7)

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    Craig Kimbrel headlines what again is anticipated to be one of the best bullpens in Major League Baseball.

    Eighth-inning man Jonny Venters threw a 25-pitch bullpen session recently and afterwards reported the soreness that has kept him shelved for 10 days had subsided. He is expected to pitch on Thursday.

    Until announced out for the season, Atlanta had hoped that the addition of Arodys Vizcaino to the bullpen for the entire year would have lightened the workload for the returning trio of late-inning relievers.

    It would have also taken some of the pressure off a player like Eric O’Flaherty to repeat the career year he had in 2011.

    RHP) Craig Kimbrel

    LHP) Jonny Venters

    LHP) Eric O’Flaherty

    RHP) Kris Medlen

    RHP) Livan Hernandez

    RHP) Cristhian Martinez

    LHP) Yohan Flande

    POTENTIAL ROSTER CUTS:

    Cory Gearrin (UPDATE: AJC reports the Livan Hernandez signing will most likely affect Gearrin)

    Anthony Varvaro

    Jairo Asencio (UPDATE: Traded to Cleveland Indians for cash considerations)

    Jim Pratt is a Featured Columnist covering the Atlanta Braves for Bleacher Report, MLB contributor for MLBDepthCharts and BravesWire. Follow Jim on Twitter, @2OutSacBunt

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