Handicapping Atlanta Braves' Hotly Contested Spring Training Position Battles
Spring training is right around the corner, as pitchers and catchers are set to report for the Atlanta Braves in just over two weeks on Feb. 20.
This will be an important spring training to get a look at some young guys and gauge what the Braves will look like moving forward.
It will also be an important spring training for guys trying to make the 25-man roster and position themselves for starting spots.
The two main positional battles will include the second base job and the final starter in the rotation. We will also be monitoring what the Braves do in left field and who they may keep as the last positional player.
Let's take a look at some of those positional battles as we approach spring training.
The Braves have three likely candidates to fill the starting second baseman position in Alberto Callaspo, Jace Peterson and Phil Gosselin. Meanwhile, top prospect Jose Peraza could have an outside chance, but I think the Braves will start him in the minors to begin 2015.
The Braves signed Callaspo to a one-year deal this offseason and acquired Peterson from the San Diego Padres in the Justin Upton deal.
The Braves are hoping Callaspo's 2014 season (.223/.290/.290) was an anomaly and he returns closer to his career numbers (.267/.330/.370).
Peterson showed that he could hit in the minors, but he has limited experience at the MLB level with just a .113 average in 58 plate appearances.
Gosselin showed some promise in 2014 as he compiled a .266 average and .304 OBP, but the Braves seem to like him as a utility player.
In the end, I see Callaspo as the Opening Day starter with all three guys seeing plenty of action in 2015.
A week ago, I wrote that Manny Banuelos would be the last starter with David Hale being his closest competitor.
Since that article was published, the Braves signed Eric Stults to a one-year deal and traded Hale to the Padres.
It would make sense for Stults to come out of spring training as the fifth starter. The veteran left-hander put together three solid seasons for the Padres and has posted a career 4.12 ERA. He would also give the Braves a second left-handed pitcher to go with Alex Wood in the rotation.
However, this is far from a lock, as the Braves have young pitchers in Banuelos and Mike Foltynewicz who will have the chance to dazzle during spring training.
The other options include some veterans in Chien-Ming Wang and Wandy Rodriguez.
With the recent addition of Stults, I look for him to emerge as the last starter in Atlanta to begin 2015.
Like the starting rotation, there is a plethora of candidates who could see playing time in left field in 2015.
The Braves have newcomers Jonny Gomes, Zoilo Almonte and Dian Toscano who could all see some action. Then there is Todd Cunningham and Joey Terdoslavich, who could manage their way onto the roster and see some time in left.
The addition of Gomes indicates a likely platoon. Gomes hit just .165 with a .262 slugging against right-handed pitching but hit .276 with a .371 slugging against left-handers.
Almonte looks like the most likely candidate to play against right-handed pitching. The 25-year-old has yet to see consistent MLB time but did hit .268 for his career in the minors.
At this point, Toscano, Cunningham and Terdoslavich look like they'll be fighting for a spot on the roster, but not starting time, to begin 2015.