Final Prediction for Winners of Atlanta Braves' Key Spring Position Battles
The Atlanta Braves entered the 2014 spring training with their starting lineup set and the majority of their rotation in place.
Due to injuries, the starting rotation looks almost undoubtedly to be Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, David Hale and Freddy Garcia, with Ervin Santana set to join after the first week.
The key positional battles involve the final bench spot and a couple slots in the bullpen.
Here are the list of positional players who will likely begin on the 25-man roster: B.J. Upton, Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, Jordan Schafer, Ryan Doumit, Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla, Ramiro Pena, Andrelton Simmons, Chris Johnson, Evan Gattis and Gerald Laird.
Here are the likely players to start in the bullpen on Opening Day: Craig Kimbrel, Luis Avilan, David Carpenter, Jordan Walden and Anthony Varvaro.
I see the Braves filling the final two bullpen spots with one right-hander and one left-hander.
With that in mind, here's one man's prediction on the final three roster spots for Opening Day.
Positional Player: Tyler Pastornicky
Tyler Pastornicky has encountered some ups and downs in his professional career but seemed to carve out a role in 2013.
However, his season was cut short after suffering an ACL injury, which has affected his availability this spring.
Despite that injury, Pastornicky has began playing in spring training games and already has MLB experience.
Here's a tweet from David O'Brien that shows one of the reasons Pastornicky is the leader.
#Braves Pastornicky moves from 2B to CF to start the 8th inning— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) March 23, 2014
This leads me to believe the Braves feel good about his recovery if they are putting him in outfield and like the fact that he can play a little bit of outfield as well as the middle infield positions.
Look for Pastornicky to get that final bench spot over guys like Joey Terdoslavich, Jose Constanza and Tyler Greene.
Left-Handed Reliever: Ian Thomas
With Jonny Venters injured, the Braves entered the spring with Luis Avilan as the only left-handed reliever as a lock to make the team.
The Braves hoped someone would emerge, and that appears to be Ian Thomas.
In nine innings this spring, Thomas has posted a 3.00 ERA and held opponents to a .194 batting average.
Thomas has been more consistent this spring than his left-handed counterpart Ryan Buchter (5.19 ERA), and he is coming off a 2013 season at Double-A Mississippi in which he posted a strong 2.76 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 104.1 innings.
There's no guarantee the Braves select another left-hander, but if they do, expect the 26-year-old Thomas to be the guy.
Right-Handed Reliever: Gus Schlosser
I've continually wrote about Gus Schlosser this spring and believe he's pitched his way onto the Opening Day roster.
Schlosser has notched a 2.03 ERA this spring and is coming off a start in which he allowed just one hit and one run in four innings against the Baltimore Orioles.
He has solid minor league numbers to support his strong spring with a 2.79 career ERA in three seasons (2.39 ERA in Double-A in 2013).
Meanwhile, many of the other candidates seem to be fading.
Juan Jaime effectively pitched his way off the roster. Luis Vazquez has been behind all spring dealing with a lat injury. Cory Gearrin hasn't helped himself with a 7.20 ERA.
Signs are pointing toward Schlosser being on the Opening Day roster, which will make for a good story for the 26-year-old and former 17th-round draft choice.