Projecting Atlanta Braves' Final 25-Man Roster at the Start of Spring Games
We'll be able to get a glimpse of what the 2015 Atlanta Braves will look like when their spring training games begin on Wednesday.
There are still lots of questions to be answered this spring training. Who wins the second base job? Who platoons with Jonny Gomes in left field? How does the bullpen shake out? Who is the fifth starter in the rotation?
The injury to Melvin Upton also complicates what things will look like in center field to begin the season.
These next few weeks will help clear up a cloudy picture.
In the meantime, let's take a stab at what the 25-man roster will look like on Opening Day as we open spring training.
Projected Infield (5): Christian Bethancourt (C); Freddie Freeman (1B); Alberto Callaspo (2B); Andrelton Simmons (SS); Chris Johnson (3B)
Overall, the infield picture is pretty clear.
Two key franchise players, Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons, will man first base and shortstop, respectively. Catcher Christian Bethancourt will get his chance to be the everyday catcher. Chris Johnson will get the majority of playing time at third base but could see his playing time decrease against right-handed pitching.
Second base is the real wild card, with Alberto Callaspo, Jace Peterson, Phil Gosselin and Jose Peraza legitimate options.
In the end, I expect the Braves to go with Callaspo as the Opening Day starter, as they signed the veteran in the offseason to a one-year deal.
However, I expect playing time to be fairly even between Callaspo, Peterson and Gosselin, with Peraza called up later in the season.
Projected Outfield (3): Nick Markakis (RF); Eric Young Jr. (CF); Jonny Gomes (LF)
The Braves' outfield became even more of a jumbled mess with the news of a foot injury to Melvin Upton that could sideline him until May.
Nick Markakis should recover from his offseason neck surgery in time for Opening Day, but the other two spots are wide-open.
Jonny Gomes will be the starter in left field against left-handed pitching, so we'll pencil him in on this slide. That's because there are several candidates to platoon with him (more on this later).
I like Eric Young Jr.'s combination of speed and MLB experience enough to give him the nod as the starter on Opening Day. However, he will have to prove he can play the position, as he has more experience in left field (213 games) than center (42).
The other two most likely candidates to play center are Eury Perez and Todd Cunningham.
Projected Bench (5): A.J. Pierzynski (C); Jace Peterson (Inf); Phil Gosselin (Inf); Zoilo Almonte (OF); Eury Perez (OF)
The Braves signed A.J. Pierzynski to a one-year deal in the offseason. He'll be an important backup/mentor to catcher Christian Bethancourt.
I also expect the Braves to carry two extra infielders and outfielders.
With Callaspo as the starter, I project Jace Peterson and Phil Gosselin to be the two infielders. Both are solid utility guys who can play second base, shortstop and third base.
I think Zoilo Almonte is the leading candidate to platoon with Gomes in left field, as Dion Toscano hasn't reported to camp yet.
That leaves the last outfield spot to Eury Perez, as the speedy outfielder has the ability to play center field. I think this ability will give him the advantage over Kelly Johnson, who is limited to a corner outfield spot or infield position.
Projected Rotation (5): Julio Teheran; Alex Wood; Shelby Miller; Mike Minor; Eric Stults
Julio Teheran is scheduled to start on Thursday and is in line to be the Braves' Opening Day starter again in 2015.
Alex Wood, newly acquired Shelby Miller, and Mike Minor will follow in the rotation. The fifth spot in the rotation will be decided this spring training.
The most likely candidates are Wandy Rodriguez, Eric Stults, and Mike Foltynewicz.
I expect the Braves to keep Foltynewicz in the minors in order to further develop his changeup.
Rodriguez is set to start the opening spring training game on Wednesday, which seems to indicate the Braves would prefer to go with him if healthy.
However, the left-hander has only started 18 games the past two seasons.
In the end, I think Stults is the safer bet to begin the season as the fifth starter.
Projected Bullpen (7): Craig Kimbrel; Jason Grilli; Jim Johnson; Josh Outman; James Russell; Jose Veras; Arodys Vizcaino
The bullpen will be vastly different from last season but has the potential to be very good once again.
That starts with arguably the most dominant closer in the game, Craig Kimbrel. Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson have closer experience and will likely serve as setup men to begin the season.
I expect Josh Outman to be the lefty specialist, with James Russell serving as the long reliever. However, those two are not locks in my mind.
There are several other candidates who could start the year in the pen, including Jose Veras, Arodys Vizcaino, Michael Kohn, Matt Capps and Luis Avilan.
The Braves could also look at Mike Foltynewicz or Manny Banuelos in a long-relief role.
Veras is coming off a nice season with the Astros, as he posted a 3.03 ERA in 34 games after struggling with the Cubs. Vizcaino is a former top prospect in the Braves' organization and possesses the stuff to be a successful reliever.
The bullpen will ultimately shake out according to what manager Fredi Gonzalez feels best suits the team.
I am not completely confident here, but the final group should look close to this one.