With rumors swirling about the potential of a late May beginning to baseball and newly structured divisions of 10 teams each, with focus on location, my mind rolls back to Spring Training. There were battles going strong for 3rd base, starting pitching, and relief pitching. However, the 3 battles were not yet decided and now, it just so happens that they might not need to be. So, what could a potential Braves 29-man roster look like for a shortened 2020 season? Let’s take a look.
Potential Braves 29-Man Roster: The Locks
I’m not pulling the 29-man roster speculation completely out of my keister. It was a month back when Boob Nightengale, who’s rarely right and I’m not sure why I’m relying on his words, dropped this tweet:
Since this tweet, multiple sources have yet to confirm, but agree that 29 seems to be the number that keeps getting tossed about. It’s my opinion that 29 is likely the lowest we would see, but for this exercise we will keep the number at 29. Also, for this exercise, it’s important to note that there will likely be a need for more pitchers than position players, assuming that starting pitchers likely won’t be able to pitch more than 4 innings at the beginning of the season. With that in mind, I’m going with the roster breakdown of 16 pitchers and 13 position players…at least to begin the season.
It’s been a while so let’s take a look at the locks.
- Catcher: Travis d’Arnaud
- 1st Baseman: Freddie Freeman
- 2nd Baseman: Ozzie Albies
- Shortstop: Dansby Swanson
- Left Field: Marcell Ozuna
- Center Field: Ender Inciarte
- Right Field: Ronald Acuña Jr.
- Bench: Nick Markakis, Adam Duvall, Adeiny Hechavarria, Tyler Flowers
- Mike Soroka
- Cole Hamels
- Mike Foltynewicz
- Max Fried
- Mark Melancon
- Will Smith
- Shane Greene
- Chris Martin
- Luke Jackson
- Darren O’Day
- Sean Newcomb
TOTAL LOCKS: 22
Potential Braves 29-Man Roster: Piggybackin’
There was a pretty great battle going on in spring training for the 4th and 5th rotation spots between Sean Newcomb, Kyle Wright, and Felix Hernandez. All 3 looked sharp and deserving of the spots, but what was 2 has now become 1 as Cole Hamels is expected to be healthy come Opening Day, whenever that may be.
However, that might not be a problem. As stated above, starting pitchers are going to lack some stamina (kinda like young Rob Copenhaver) and likely won’t last much more than 3-4 innings in the first month. If that’s the case, it’d be a great time for the Braves to experiment with piggybacking starting pitchers to try to get through 6-7 innings. My thought: 4 starting pitchers, 4 piggyback pitchers.
Let’s not get into who piggybacks who for now, but here would be my 8.
- Starters: Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Cole Hamels, Felix Hernandez
- Piggybackers: Kyle Wright, Sean Newcomb, Mike Foltynewicz, Touki Toussaint
Breakdown: I don’t think I’ll get much backlash from 7 of the 8 on this list, but I’m sure that some will question the inclusion of Touki. I’m convinced after watching him in spring and talking with David Lee, he’s gotten past something (likely mental), really controlled the strike zone in the spring, and his work in the offseason has moved him from raw prospect to MLB-ready pitcher. A piggybacking situation would be a great test to see if he can get MLB hitters out while going multiple innings.
*With the additions of Felix Hernandez, Kyle Wright, and Touki Toussaint, the roster now sits at 25.
Braves Relief Pitchers
With 8 of the 15 pitching slots available, this is a pretty straightforward decision for 6 of those spots (although I don’t think the Braves would hesitate to make Shane Greene available, but that’s for another time), but the one thing that the aforementioned 6 do not do is go 2+ innings. Yes, the Braves are going to need mop-up men. While last year’s choice, Josh Tomlin, makes a lot of sense for the 2 multi-inning spots, it’s important that the Braves test some of their cusp Minor League guys out, especially considering there might not be Minor League games in 2020. My gut tells me that Patrick Weigel and Phil Pfeifer, who are starters at heart, will land the jobs. They both looked extraordinary in spring and have all the makings of average to above average MLB multi-inning relievers.
Potential Braves 29-Man Roster: Position Players
While I don’t think it will be necessary and I’m not going to plan for it in this exercise, it’s at least worth mentioning that the Braves will need to carry an extra catcher to begin this shortened season. While pitchers need arm strength to extend their IPs, catchers need to also build their in-game stamina and it could mean that Flowers and d’Arnaud could use a caddy.
With the list of 11 position player locks already on the 29-Man Roster, there are 2 potential spots open for the offense. When Spring Training abruptly ended, both Austin Riley and Johan Camargo were playing out of their minds. With the idea of an uncertain MILB season and the lack of a Gwinnett shuffle, I think it’s darn near 100% that both Riley and Camargo would’ve made a 26 man roster, which means I think they’re locks for a 29.
Conclusion: A Very Well-Balanced Team
With the likely addition of a DH for the 2020 season, the Braves will have 3 left-handed hitters, 2 switch hitters, and 8 right-handed hitters, and should be able to field a top-tier lineup against LH pitching with at least a league average lineup against RH pitching.
The starting pitching is likely the least secure in terms of production as there are a lot of guys that could go very right or very wrong. Overall, I think this lot will be a league average rotation that plays up because of the deep bullpen and strong lineup.
While the bullpen is right-hand heavy, it’s deep in high end relievers that should give the Braves the chance to win on a regular basis.
Thanks for reading on the Potential Braves 29-Man Roster. If you enjoyed this and are missing a baseball fix, check out all of our Braves 2020 Spring Training Notes here!