With a week of spring training in the books, I will give my first projected roster of the year. Most of the spots were already filled coming into spring training. In fact, I think that there are only five spots where any changes could happen.
While spring training doesn’t mean much to most players, a good spring could be the difference between someone playing in the majors or heading back to Gwinnet for another year after falling a bit short.
Because most of the roster is already set, I will focus my analysis mainly on the remaining open spots: right field/backup outfielder, utility infielder, and three bullpen spots.
Brian McCann: C (Lock)
Troy Glaus: 1B (Lock)
Martin Prado: 2B (Lock)
Chipper Jones: 3B (Lock)
Yunel Escobar: SS (Lock)
Matt Diaz: LF (Lock, although he will platoon with Melky Cabrera)
Nate McLouth: CF (Lock)
Jason Heyward: RF
The starters are nearly set, with the only question mark remaing in right field. Most people have heard the debate about Jason Heyward. Yes, he is ready to compete in the majors, but will the Braves opt to give him the Tommy Hanson treatment to save money in the long run?
Right now, given the spring that he is having, I think Heyward will start in the majors.
Other than that, there are no real surprises in the starting lineup, and nothing will change unless someone suffers an injury.
David Ross: C (Lock)
Eric Hinske: 1b (Lock)
Omar Infante: IF (Lock)
Melky Cabrera: OF (Lock)
Brooks Conrad: 2b
Conrad has been the Braves best hitter so far in spring training. Through 13 at-bats, Conrad is hitting .462 and has three extra-base hits, including a home run. Conrad has also added a stolen base and three walks to what has been an impressive start to spring.
With Diory Hernandez out of the picture, it basically comes down to Conrad and Joe Thurston for the last bench spot, and even though Thurston is playing well thus far (4-8, all singles), he can’t match Conrad.
Derek Lowe (Lock)
Tommy Hanson (Lock)
Tim Hudson (Lock)
Jair Jurrjens (Lock)
Kenshin Kawakami (Lock)
The starting rotation has been set in stone since the Javier Vazquez trade. With Jair Jurrjens on schedule to return for his first start, the rotation will be the strongest and most stable part of the team this year.
Billy Wagner (Lock)
Takashi Saito (Lock)
Peter Moylan (Lock)
Eric O’Flaherty (Lock)
I’m guessing that nobody really had any major issues on the first three sections. Sure, maybe you think Heyward will start in the minors, but this is more of a financial issue than one about his ability. However, I can see a lot of people questioning my bullpen, so let me give you my reasoning for the three non-locks I have.
If you have an issue with Medlen, it’s probably because I don’t have him as a lock. He’s young, and I think that if he were to struggle at all, the Braves could opt to send him to the minors for some extra seasoning.
However, he has started off the spring strong, and I don’t think that the minors are in his future (at least for now). With another week or two, he could solidify himself as a lock.
Chavez has had an up-and-down spring, and the Braves have only been in camp for two weeks. Although he quickly impressed Bobby Cox, he has been bad in his first two outings, and walked four people in 2.2 innings. However, there is plenty of time for him to turn things around, and I think that he will find his control in time to get a spot on the Braves opening day roster.
Proctor hasn’t pitched at all this spring, but supposedly is ahead of schedule for returning from surgery and might be ready for opening day. If he is, I think he will make the roster because of his experience and success at the major league level in the past.
I know that I currently have only one lefty in the bullpen, which is dangerous considering that the Braves will often face some tough left-handed hitters from division opponents. At this point, Mike Dunn hasn’t been great (he has a 0.00 ERA, but has walked a couple people in his first couple innings of work) and I haven’t seen enough from Mariano Gomez or Lee Hyde to make me think they will beat out a healthy Proctor for the last bullpen spot.