Final Predictions for Atlanta Braves Spring Training Battles

Gavin Andrews@@gavin_andrewsCorrespondent IIMarch 22, 2013

Final Predictions for Atlanta Braves Spring Training Battles

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    As March Madness begins and spring training draws to a close, baseball fans have but one thing on their mind.

    April Fool's Day.

    Exhibitions will soon give way to games that count. 

    Starting pitchers will be let off their leashes.

    Justin Upton's tape-measure shots will be on SportsCenter.

    Meanwhile in Braves camp, there are six position battles that are being decided. 

    These position battles are not determined by their statistical performances during the month of March but rather by overall value, fit and utility. 

    So who wins out? Here's one writer's purely speculative-based opinion.

Final Bullpen Spot

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    Heading into spring training, the Braves held open auditions for the final bullpen spot. 

    The names of David Carpenter, Yohan Flande, Daniel Rodriguez, Anthony Varvaro, Wirfin Obispo (who is worthy of a longer look) and Cory Gearrin were atop the list of possible candidates to nab the job.

    And with Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Eric O'Flaherty, Christhian Martinez, Luis Avilan and Jordan Walden already residing in the pen, the Braves can afford to be a little creative with the role. 

    That said, Gearrin will likely be the runaway winner here. 

    A side-arming righty, Gearrin gives the Braves a little of what Peter Moylan was able to provide from the pen during his tenure in Atlanta.

    Look for Gearrin to not only win the job but to seize it and become an integral part of the Braves bullpen with his righty-killing repertoire.

    Winner: Cory Gearrin

No. 5 Starter

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    This position battle was never truly in any real doubt. 

    Officially, Sean Gilmartin and Julio Teheran have been competing for the gig of No. 5 starter.

    Unofficially, the job was Teheran's to lose.

    And by the way, he also turned in the best spring training performance of any Brave pitcher.

    If Teheran has finally put it all together, Atlanta fans could be in for a treat this season. Teheran has the look of a future No. 2 starter, and he'll start by proving he belongs as a No. 5.

    Expect Teheran to turn in a solid season (albeit with expected ups and downs) before being shelved to make room for Brandon Beachy.

    Winner: Julio Teheran

Third Base

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    Juan Francisco can't seem to catch a break this offseason.

    He worked himself into the best shape of his life, started fixing a hole in his swing and turned in an excellent winter league performance.

    But the Braves still went out and got Chris Johnson to battle Francisco for the third baseman's job.

    The Atlanta brass wanted either Johnson or Francisco to win the job outright, but instead, both players hit extremely well. 

    So in all likelihood, there will be a platoon between the left-handed Francisco and the right-handed Johnson.

    Francisco brings a better glove and a little more power to the table but at the cost of more strikeouts and a bat that simply does not hit southpaws well. 

    Johnson hits for a higher average and hits right-handed pitchers but does not have a very good glove and doesn't take many walks.

    While an outright winner would be cleaner, the collaborative effort these two will bring to the table should be pretty valuable.

    Winner: Both. Or Neither. Depends on your life's philosophy.

Backup Infielder

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    Because Paul Janish is injured, Atlanta auditioned both Ramiro Pena, Blake DeWitt and Tyler Pastornicky for the role of backup infielder.

    Without the ability to play shortstop though, DeWitt doesn't quite fit onto Atlanta's major league roster.

    Pena versus Pastornicky is the classic battle of defense versus offense. Glove versus bat.

    Offensively, Pastornicky has actually had a brilliant spring training. Pena has been merely mediocre.

    However, from the backup infielder, Atlanta primarily needs a good glove. 

    And right now, Pena's superior glove gives him the edge in this contest.

    Expect Pastornicky to continue to prove himself in Triple-A while Pena attempts to play well enough to keep the job once Janish returns.

    Winner: Ramiro Pena

Backup Catcher

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    For the past season or so, Evan Gattis has done nothing but impress. 

    First, he killed the pitching of the lower levels of the minor leagues.

    Then, he turned in a winter league performance so dominant that the pitchers are still having nightmares of "El Oso Blanco" crushing fastballs deep into the seats.

    To top it off, he came to spring training and turned the head of every member of the organization.

    The message is clear: The Braves need to make room on their roster for Gattis. 

    With Brian McCann out for the first part of the season and Gerald Laird the starting catcher, Gattis has the opportunity to be named the backup catcher and start two to three days a week.

    When he's not starting, he could come off the bench as a pinch-hitter, fifth outfielder or backup first baseman.

    It's time to give Gattis a major league roster spot.

    Winner: Braves fans. Baseball fans. Also, Evan Gattis.

Final Roster Spot

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    With a bench of Ramiro Pena, Chris Johnson/Juan Francisco, Reed Johnson and Evan Gattis, one might be led to believe that the Braves should spend their final roster spot on someone with speed.

    If Atlanta were to go that route, Jordan Schafer would probably be the most likely option. 

    However, as much as Atlanta needs speed, the wisest course of action would be to award the final roster spot to a third catcher, Matt Pagnozzi.

    Atlanta signed Pagnozzi to provide a backup for Gerald Laird, and while Gattis may seize that spot, having Pagnozzi on the roster would give the Braves a lot of lineup flexibility.

    With Pagnozzi as insurance, Atlanta is free to utilize Gattis whenever and however it wants to, from pinch-hitting to outfield duties.

    Basically, Pagnozzi is an enabler that provides value simply existing on the roster.

    Winner: Matt Pagnozzi


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