As we move further and further into spring training, players inevitably continue to get cut. Sunday, the Braves made some more cuts which narrows down the number of players who could win a spot in the bullpen or on the bench.
The latest victims of roster reduction were Jeff Lyman, Mike Dunn, Mariano Gomez, Brent Clevlen, Mitch Jones, and Orlando Mercado.
But what do these cuts mean as far as the Braves opening day roster?
Sending Gomez and Mercado out of camp isn’t anything of a surprise. Mercado was there simply for catching depth and Gomez was well down the line of relief pitchers (and would be even if he had had a dominant spring).
Jones and Clevlen aren’t all that surprising either. Both have struggled mightily this spring (Jones is hitting a whopping .050 while Clevlen is hitting .115) which hurt the slim chance they had to make the opening day roster.
The biggest news here is that this just means that the Braves are this much closer to making Jason Heyward their everyday right fielder.
The outfielders left on the current roster include Nate McLouth, Matt Diaz, Melky Cabrera, Eric Hinske, Gregor Blanco, Matt Young, Jordan Schafer, and Heyward.
The first four guys in that list are already a lock to make the team. Between the final three, Heyward seems the obvious choice as Blanco has never proved to be all that valuable in the majors and Schafer has continued to deal with wrist issues that also plagued him in 2009. Young has little AAA experience, and has been solid but unspectacular in the minors.
As for the bullpen, all remaining candidates receive a boost because many had projected Dunn to win a roster spot since being acquired from the Yankees and Lyman had impressed a lot of people through four spring innings.
Jesse Chavez, Manny Acosta, Scott Proctor, and Jo-Jo Reyes are the most likely candidates to slide into the last two bullpen spots, but Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel are still in the race.
Proctor is almost assured a spot in the bullpen at some point this year, but is recovering from injury and so far has only got one inning of work in this spring (although it was a perfect inning).
After a solid rookie season, Chavez has struggled with his control. Through 5.2 innings he has walked four and struck out none.
Kimbrel is by far the most intriguing name on the list. One of the Braves top prospects, he has barely pitched above A+ ball but is seen as the closer of the future for the Braves. His control has always been an issue, and although he has struck out seven batters this spring (in five scoreless innings), he has also walked four.
Acosta got off to a great start, but has fallen back to earth recently. While his strikeout to walk ratio is good (4:1), he has allowed a pair of homeruns in 5.2 innings.
The last competitors are left-handed, which increases the likelihood that one will make it through the final cuts.
Both Reyes and Venters have been pleasant surprises this spring. Reyes has a 3.38 ERA through eight innings. Venters has been even more impressive with a 1.42 ERA through 6.1 frames.
Each one of these pitchers has their drawbacks (Reyes might not be able to step in as a starter,which might not be bad, and Venters is relatively inexperienced) but might get the nod now that Dunn is on his way to the minors.
If I were to choose I would say that Proctor and Chavez are both in the bullpen opening day, but if the Braves decide Proctor isn’t fully ready, Reyes likely will fill out the last bullpen spot.