2021 Braves Spring Training Roster Talk, Number 4

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This is our 3rd Braves Spring Training Roster Talk since games started and 4th overall. Here are the first 2 installments if you’re late to the series:

Braves 40-Man Roster and *Non-Roster Invitees Left in MLB Camp

PITCHERS

  1. Ian Anderson
  2. Grant Dayton
  3. Max Fried
  4. Luke Jackson
  5. Chris Martin
  6. A.J. Minter
  7. Tyler Matzek
  8. Charlie Morton
  9. Sean Newcomb
  10. Will Smith
  11. Drew Smyly
  12. Mike Soroka
  13. Josh Tomlin
  14. Touki Toussaint
  15. Jacob Webb
  16. Bryse Wilson
  17. Kyle Wright
  18. Huascar Ynoa
  19. *Carl Edwards Jr.
  20. *Nate Jones

INFIELDERS

  1. Ozzie Albies
  2. Johan Camargo
  3. Freddie Freeman
  4. Austin Riley
  5. Dansby Swanson
  6. *Ehire Adrianza
  7. *Sean Kazmar Jr.
  8. *Jason Kipnis
  9. *Pablo Sandoval
  10. Jake Lamb

OUTFIELDERS

  1. Ronald Acuna Jr.
  2. Abraham Almonte
  3. Ender Inciarte
  4. Marcell Ozuna
  5. Cristian Pache
  6. Phillip Ervin

CATCHERS

  1. William Contreras
  2. Travis d’Arnaud
  3. Alex Jackson

2021 Braves Spring Training Roster Predictions: The Locks

Starting Pitcher: Max FriedCharlie MortonIan AndersonDrew Smyly (*1 spot available)

Relief Pitcher: Will Smith,Chris Martin,Tyler Matzek, Josh TomlinA.J. Minter(*3 spots available)

Position Players: Freddie FreemanOzzie AlbiesAustin RileyDansby SwansonRonald Acuna Jr.Marcell OzunaTravis d’Arnaud(6 spots available)

*There are rumors aswirl that the Braves could choose to go with 4 starting pitchers out the gate and that wouldn’t surprise me. I’ll provide guesses for both scenarios. Also, Tomlin has only pitched 1 inning this spring and maybe that’s his personal choice, or maybe not. He said he’s been pitching on the side and is good to go. Regardless, until I hear different, he’s a lock.

Positions of Need

Here are the needs as I see them:

  • Backup Catcher
  • Utilty Infielder
  • Starting Outfielder
  • Backup Outfielder
  • Bench Bat
  • Bench Bat
  • RH Relief Pitcher
  • RH Relief Pitcher
  • Relief Pitcher
  • Starting Pitcher/Relief Pitcher

Braves Roster Talk: Starting Pitcher Candidates (1 available slot)

Breadown:Ynoa has looked downright dominant, but is still mirroring his past with THE inning where he just loses his marbles. Wilson and Wright haven’t “looked” better, but have had better results. It’s anyone’s guess here, but I still think it’s Ynoa’s to lose with Wilson and Wright on his tail. Obviously all three’s chances of making the roster as a starting pitcher decreases to 0 if the Braves choose to go with 4 pitchers.

Braves Roster Talk: Relief Pitcher Candidates (3-4 available slots)

Breakdown: . The Braves can stash both Newk and Touki in AAA, but Dayton and Jackson would have to be DFA’d. Neither losses would really bother me. If Ynoa becomes the 5th starter, CEJ and Nate’s chances increase dramatically, and while both have had good results, there’s still warts on their shiny ERAs (CEJ, BB rate, NJ, K-rate) . Word on the streets is Newcomb is hitting triple digits with his fastball and he’s also looked very strong in recent outing. And Touki, despite the occasionaly Touki-ish outing, has manage to put together a good spring. This is as tough as it gets, but I think it’s a strong possibility Jackson and Dayton are pitching for other teams in April, Webb is a near lock, and the other 5 are fighting for the final spots.

Braves Roster Talk: Catcher Candidates (1 available slot)

Breakdown: Bowman’s been pounding Alex Jackson’s name in as the backup catcher, but has recently changed his prediction to Contreras. Welcome aboard, Peanut. Contreras is darn near equal to Jackson with the glove and has way more potential with the bat and has displayed it all spring. Now is not the time for service manipulation.

Braves Roster Talk: Infield, Outfield, and Bench (5 available slots)

Breakdown: I’ll be real here…I’m going to be hacked off if Pache isn’t in the lineup on Opening Day. My stance hasn’t really changed. He has not had good results at the plate, but has hit the ball hard. We haven’t heard much buzz from Kipnis recently, but he’s done exactly what he should have to earn an Opening Day nod. Jake Lamb has been the big ? here as the Braves believe in the potential but have yet to see the results. Austin Riley isn’t hitting and maybe I shouldn’t be counting him as a lock, but the Braves have given me no reason to remove him. Adrianza is absolutely demolishing the baseball and Anthopoulos is likely running out of reasons to leave him off the roster. Camargo looks healthier, Ender still sucks, and none of the backup OFers are playing worth a toot. If AA stays internal, I think Ervin gets the opportunity due to his handedness, but this feels like a position that might be filled externally.

Final Breakdown: If all of these moves come to fruition, there would need to be 5 40-man roster moves. Luke Jackson would be the first casualty as he’s out of options. Two more that would be easy would be Heredia and Almonte. From there, Sobotka and Ender seem the logical choice.

Author: Ryan Cothran

Ryan is the site editor and manager of Braves Journal. Follow him on Twitter.

80 thoughts on “2021 Braves Spring Training Roster Talk, Number 4”

  1. Thank you, Ryan. It’s getting really interesting now.
    I think Touki is going to the pen, Newk goes to AAA due to the amount of LHP in the pen. He will get ready for a spot start. Webb & Ynoa round out the pen. I have Wilson as the 5th starter going into the season. He is the 1% ahead of Ynoa and Wright because he throws strikes, I think.
    I got AJax as the backup catcher because they should give Contreras regular games and at-bats at AAA.
    Lamb, Ender, Kipnis, Ervin and Carmargo for the bench. Pache will start.
    Go Braves!

  2. I’ve gotta believe that if there IS an “inside track” that it would have to be Wilson’s. He pitched an absolutely masterful game in the post-season. SSS buuuut it was vs Dodgers. He’s gotten results so far this spring.

  3. Austin Riley is a AAAA player and always will be. He cannot hit MLB pitching outside of a grooved BP fastball. Time for the Braves to move on.

    If they trot out Inciarte in game 1 to CF, I’m going to be pissed.

  4. I am shocked to see you predict Ender being dropped. If we’ve learned anything about ML orgs it’s that they will not throw away $M just because it’s the right thing to do.

    I am not sure why everyone is so high on Ervin. He hasn’t done anything either. And Adrianza is obviously better than Camargo at this point. Camargo to AAA and Adrianza on the roster.

    I also like the theory that Contreras will stay up until the AAA season starts then Jackson will take over.

    So to open the season, I see the bench as Contreras, Lamb, Ender, Adrianza, Kipnis/Camargo (probably Kipnis).

    I also think Newk and Touki will go to AAA so one NRI can be kept (either Jones or Edwards). It’s an absolute tossup as to which of Wright, Wilson, or Ynoa stay. At least until the AAA season starts. I also think Jackson will stay and Dayton will go.

    Seems like Heredia, Almonte, Ervin, Sobotka, Dayton should be released. Sobotka will likely be re-signed on a MiLB contract. Maybe Panda and the loser of the Jones/Edwards debate will also stick in the minors.

  5. Went to see my barber to get my first haircut since his recovery from Covid and small pox (don’t ask)
    He says Ron Washington was in earlier and got a text from AA that said the following blockbuster was in the works:

    ATL- Ed Suarez, Amit Garrett, Rafael Motero and Jesse Winker
    SEA- Riley, Jackson, Davidson, Inciarte
    Cin- Emmerson Hancock, Tom Murphy, Waters, Newk

  6. @1
    I think Conteras stays up for a month and when AAA kicks off, he might go back down unless he is absolutely crushing as the backup.

    On Newk, it’s a SSS, but the year he was a full on RP, his splits were near neutral. If he’s truly flirting with triple digits and if he can control the zone, I think he’s there.

    @2
    Yeah…each outing of the 3 will change the %, that is if the Braves go with 5 starters out the gate, which I’m not sure they will.

    @3
    We know.

    @4
    Ender has very little purpose on this team if the Braves choose to go with both Lamb and Kipnis. They’re going to need a RHH that can hit LHP and Ervin has shown that thus far in his career. Truly, what’s the difference in paying Ender $9MM to play or not play if Ervin only costs $550K. Some team could pick up after he declares free agency and the cost would be neutral. And I agree with your DFA’s…all except Ervin.

    @5
    Where do I sign?

  7. Fangraphs posted their 1B preview and they have Freddie projected for 4.5 WAR and the second best at 3.1.

  8. Does anyone know why Newcomb didn’t appear for almost 3 weeks? He hadn’t appeared in a game in March until the 17th. To Ryan’s point, he has looked good in his two outings in the last week.

    He’s such a huge piece to this pen. He has closer stuff with the velo and slider. I think you would have to be much more excited about our pen if you knew Newcomb could repeat his 2019 season: as reliever, 53.1 IP, 57 K’s, 19 BB’s, 3.04 ERA.

  9. @10
    I don’t have any evidence of this, but I think the Braves are really valuing backfield work when it comes to certain pitchers, especially if they might be of the sort that get into mechanical flaws.

  10. 1B is historically talent-thin right now, but I dunno about FF being 50% ahead of the pack. Deadening the ball would impact him more than, say, Acuna or Ozuna. Those line drive wall scrapers stay in the park. I also worry about Albies in this regard.

  11. I suppose Sports Illustrated isn’t nearly as big a deal as it used to be, but I was pleasantly surprised that it (at least the version my son got in Columbus – don’t know if they have regional editions these days) picked the Braves to win the WS and Acuna to be NL MVP.

  12. As we suspected, AA is looking for external bench upgrades. Likely will be active on the waiver wire.

  13. Off-topic.

    By Chief saying that Austin Riley, a 24-year old, is a AAAA player, he enjoys the benefit of probably being right for long enough that you’ll forget that he said it in 2021. He said the same thing about Dansby a few years ago, that he would never live up to his draft position. Then Dansby ripped off 1.9 fWAR in a goofy 60-game Covid season as a 26-year old, and no one probably remembers what Chief said about Dansby since he makes so many prognosticators that you’ve already moved on to the next one. Quite a little racket you’re running here, Noccy. Chief should already have to admit he’s wrong — ain’t gonna happen — about Dansby, but we will re-approach if/when Dansby is able to reproduce 80-90% of his 2020 season and putting up a 4.5-5 WAR season this year. I think that’s possible if not probable.

    But I digress. Back to Riley. I don’t know what the projections say about Riley. I don’t care; they’re almost always wrong with young players. My prediction for Riley this year is that he gets to about 100 wRC+, he gets comfortable at one position and kicks a few less balls at 3B, and that equates to about a 1.5-2 WAR player. As comparisons, in 2019, Mike Moustakas gave the Brewers a 114 wRC+ and very average defense, and that equated to a 2.8 fWAR in 143 games. Unfortunately, he’s probably the best comp for the type of season I think Riley can have, and it’s still not that close. Evan Longoria, a much better defender than Riley, had an even 100 wRC+ in 129 games, and that gave him a 1.9 fWAR season. Get a few more games out of Riley and a few more errors and you probably end up in about the same spot. And he’d be one of the best 7-hole guys in the league. AAAA player? Fat chance, ya rascal.

  14. On-topic.

    What’s the overall feel on the bench? Pache should be the CF for 145 games or so. That puts Ender on the bench. Camargo’s on the bench. You’ll have a backup catcher that can do the job and run into a fastball every once and then. Adrianza is a Hechy-type. You need him. Take one of Lamb, Panda, or Kipnis, and leave the others. That’s not a terrible bench, is it?

  15. @16 If Riley is the #7 hitter, I think that type of production will be fantastic. If he was hitting fourth or fifth it would be more problematic.

  16. I’ll admit, Riley’s a tough one to pick right now. I watched him adjust at every level in the minor leagues. When he got the call in 2019, he destroyed fastballs and couldn’t recognize the slider. In 2020, he could recognize the slider but couldn’t catch up to the fastball. I’m no expert, but the either/or thing seems problematic for long-term success and I think we’ll be able to see pretty early whether he can adjust to a full arsenal of MLB pitching.

  17. So Ynoa was undone today by an error by Lamb but you still can’t give up 5 runs including a 3 run homer after the fact. Not a great showing today even though his era will no climb as all 5 runs are unearned.

  18. Struggling with a major league slider is something I can empathize with. But there’s a growing body of scout reports and stats that suggest that, like Cavan Biggio, he can’t catch up to big-league cheese. Anybody can hit 94, but not anybody can hit 98.

    I fear that maybe Austin’s not one of them.

  19. Riley is just that kind of interesting player. I wish we didn’t rely on him as a starter. It’s possible that if he can stick at third base, he’ll show some improvement at the plate. In 131 games, he has not shown any indication that he will amount to a league average third baseman. Therefore, he will have to make some improvement this year. Otherwise, not only might he not be worth 2 WAR, but he could end up being worth -1 WAR depending on your WAR source.

  20. Tomorrow is a deadline for a lot of opt-outs across the MLB. I’m not sure what the Braves situation is in terms of date, but something to keep an eye on.

  21. @Myself

    Apparently the date for most of the Braves decisions is this coming Saturday.

  22. Spring Training is not completely meaningless, but 36-year-old Sean Kazmar is actually the same person that Sean Kazmar was last year, only a year older. If he gets a lineup spot I will go vintage Alex R. and go absolutely ape on this here board.

    Alex Anthopoulos, you know you ain’t want none of that.

  23. @20 Ynoa looks to be a great candidate for the bullpen. He seems to be usually getting hit hard after two strong innings.

  24. @23 So of course Lamb starts hitting today…lol
    You should have called him out sooner

  25. Why should Camargo start out on the roster on OD? He has an option. Send him to AAA and let Adrianza see if his season is as good as his Spring.

  26. I don’t know what Adrianza is up to, but I’ma lookin’ and I’ma likin’.

  27. @17–it may not be terrible, but that’s a pretty weak bench. Without the DH, obviously, pinch hitting is much more important. If you need a right handed pinch hitter, it’s either Camargo or Adrianza. From the left side I like Lamb but Ender makes me shudder. And the back up catcher is never used as a ph (not that Ajax would do much good in that role).

    I’m not so sure you need Adrianza. I know he’s knocking the cover off the ball, but to paraphrase AAR, he’s still Adrianza but a year older. Unless Swanson gets hurt, Adrianza’s primary role is pinch hitter. There must be better options out there for that. If Camargo really can fill in once a month at short, I’d rather carry a RH hitting thumper in place of Adrianza. As several have said, AA will be scouring the waiver wire for those kind of bats.I’m pretty confident one or more of of our bench pieces for the upcoming season is in another camp right now.

  28. My personal preference for bench is Adrianza, Lamb, Kipnis, Ervin, Contreras. It’s, by far, the most versatile.
    •Adrianza, capable SH bat, can play 5-6 positions
    •Lamb, LH complement to Riley/LH bench bat
    •Kipnis, LH bench bat, capable of playing 2nd and corner OF
    •Ervin, 4th OF, Ozuna caddy, and good hitter against LHP
    •Contreras, backup catcher getting 1-2 starts/week

  29. Interesting tidbit about Nate Jones…

  30. Also, if Seitzer can turn Adrianza into an above average bat, I would like to rename him Seitzer the White.

  31. The 6,7,8 spots in the batting order are really what’s going to determine if the Braves offense is regular good or elite. If all 3 fail to put up 100 wRC+ then I worry about performance vs playoff-caliber pitching.

    Pache – Not fair to expect even league average offense from a rookie. He’s your 8th spot.

    Swanson – We ask every year, but which Dansby are we going to get? He could be an all-star or we could be SS shopping at the deadline. Should hit 6th or 7th.

    Riley – Another wild card. Don’t think anybody outside of Facebook is dreaming all-star production here. Needs to prove he can hold his own against top-flight pitching. Just overmatched by Dodgers in October.

    Let’s see what they do until the all-star break. But if neither Dansby or Riley are giving you average production with the bat, you’ve gotta make an in-season upgrade.

  32. Wow. Wright and Webb were optioned to AAA today. Wright I get, but Webb? I had him as a near lock for the roster.

  33. I think either Touki or Ynoa makes the roster as a reliever now. And maybe Edwards Jr.

    Looks like Bryse Wilson won the rotation job.

    Edit: I forgot about Nate Jones and somehow Luke Jackson. Since they are out of options I guess 2 out of the 3 of them and Edwards make the roster.

  34. @44 I think that’s also a clue that Ynoa and Camargo will likely get sent down. I’m wondering where the “options game” ends and the “40-man roster game” begins. That game says “who can I drop off the roster and pass through waivers”. Almonte, Sobotka seem pretty obvious. Then Heredia and Ervin, although either of those may refuse an assignment. Maybe even Alex Jackson.

  35. I actually think Dansby is quite likely to contribute average to above-average offense IF HEALTHY. His health is a much bigger question mark than his bat for me at this point.

  36. @43 I’m not seeing the reason for all the concern for a guy who OPS’d .748 in 2019 and provided 1.5 WAR. He was having a monster season last year.

    Riley by comparison is a big concern, especially since Camargo ran out of magic years ago. That kid is a serious danger to be of negative value this season.

  37. Chief’s evaluation of Riley is aging about as well as a week-old tuna sandwich in the hot sun.

  38. Even before he hit two homers today, I would have still said that I don’t see why Riley can’t make the necessary adjustments to be a perfectly cromulent “three true outcomes” power hitter who plays a decent third base and has a very long career. I could definitely see him putting up Todd Frazier’s career line: .242/.319/.448. He can leave as a free agent and have provided tremendous value to us.

    Surprised about Webb, but it’s certainly not the first time the Braves have optioned a better reliever to get a longer look at a worse reliever with no options. Give someone 5-7 relief innings in the first few weeks, and then bring Webb back up.

  39. @48 – The concern is that a .748 OPS in 2019 wasn’t very good (8% below league average) and it really isn’t good in the 6th spot for a WS contender. For comparison, the Dodger and Padres project to slot Cody Bellinger and Wil Myers into the 6-hole.

    I maintain the lineup is a bat short at this time. The positions for upgrade are 3B, CF, SS. One of the incumbents COULD become that guy, but they’ve probably got 3 months to prove it.

  40. It scares me to death that AA will DFA Inciarte based solely on his terrible spring. He should DFA him based on his terrible body of work over the last 2+ years!

  41. @53–2019 was a tale of two seasons for Lt Dans. In the first half his Ops was .822 and he hit 17 homers by the all star break. He then got hurt and had dismal results in august and September. Last year his OPS was again over .800 and he hit 10 homers in 60 games.
    I think if he’s healthy, an OPS between .800 and .850 is his base, and it could be better.

    Riley I’m more skeptical of. His ceiling is pretty high, but he may yet turn out to be a real bust. And I don’t expect much offense from Pache, at least at first. So the bottom of the order could be a problem, especially on the one or two games a week that TDA doesn’t start.

  42. Apparently our old pal J.C. Bradbury ran the math and wouldn’t you just know it, but the gigantic Cobb cash giveaway that induced the Braves to flee Atlanta for the ‘Burbs was a poor use of money:

    “Added tax collections fall well short of covering the public subsidies that fund the stadium.”

    Hat tip to CBS Sports.

  43. It’s not exactly Dansby’s problem if he doesn’t produce commensurate with a particular spot in the batting order. He fields his position well and hits enough — I don’t find him to be an impediment to winning whatsoever.

  44. So MLB is going to try and crack down on pitcher use of sticky stuff this year. We’ll see how that goes, but it’s worth noting that Charlie Morton was one of those guys whose spin rate jumped significantly after joining the Astros.

    Not super concerned, but it will be worth keeping an eye on.

  45. AAR, I take it that you’re strongly against Kazmar. I’m on the opposite side. I haven’t seen anyone I think who will significantly beat his production and I don’t think he’ll be given a lot of playing time. I would love to see him get a shot. I think he’s earned it.

  46. The criminal brain is always superior. It has to be. –Dr. No

    Hopefully Charlie can come up with something else to get elite spin.

  47. @62, it’s not so much that I despise the idea of Kazmar riding the pine as the 25th man on the bench, though I think he irredeemably sucks. What I really don’t like is the idea that he’ll get the job because he’s hitting well in spring training.

    He’s a 36-year-old who was drafted in 2004 (he was taken six picks ahead of former Brave Paul Janish) and who now has over 6600 plate appearances in the minors with a .313 OBP. His one and only cup of coffee was 46 plate appearances with a 63-99 Padres team in 2008; he put up a .520 OPS, rode the shuttle back to the farm, and spent the next decade and a half of his career in Triple-A.

    I genuinely don’t care how he’s hitting Grapefruit League fastballs. I don’t want any fans to clamor, or anyone with the front office to decide, to give him a roster spot just because he “earned it” with a couple of weeks in spring training.

    As someone once said about something else, he’s been telling you who he is all along. Believe him.

  48. AAR, I agree with you that no one should make the team based solely on spring training numbers. It’s just that 2019 would have been a passable year if it was in the major leagues (his best in 5 years at Gwinnett) and for all we know he could have figured everything out in 2020 (I know, chances are miniscule, but who knows?).

    I doubt he’ll make the team out of spring training, but when someone goes on the IL I think he should have a chance at getting a call up if he continues to hit in the minors. Maybe I’m too nostalgic, but I would love to see another Brooks Conrad story. I guess this year is the year since we have such weak bench options.

  49. So the team has not approached Freddie about an extension according to him. That’s a little curious.

  50. Heredia optioned to alt-site and Goins reassigned to MILB camp. 38 players still in camp.

  51. @49 @Rob I love anytime Austin Riley proves me wrong or in this case invalidates my concerns. The guy has literal sky-is-the-limit potential so long as his bat can meet any fastball and his eye can see a slider. I really hope he finds some adjustments and becomes that perfectly cromulent 3-outcomes hitter.

  52. My take on Riley: I think he has shown consistent improvement at every level. No reason to think he won’t. I think having Chipper around will help him. If he can cut down on the Ks and walk a little more, he will be good. He is going to hit 6-7 most of the year and be streaky. He is probably going to play 145 games and will probably need to sit a game or two when he is in a rut. It would be nice if Lamb or Sandivol could stick and make 15-20 starts.
    We need Riley to have an OPS around .780-.800. I think our real problem is if Pache isn’t hitting and Riley goes cold. Then you are giving three outs in a row.

  53. Bullpen taking a shape that I didn’t envision as Webb was optioned and Carl Edwards Jr opted out.

  54. First time watching Smyly. I feel bad that I didn’t know he was a lefty. He’s looking good out there. I wonder if he’s even better using his right hand…

  55. Both BR and Fangraphs had Riley as sub replacement level in 2020. His lack of range at third is an issue. He has to hit this season or the Braves are going to have to find someone else. I think AA knows that and that’s why they picked up Lamb for depth.

  56. @74 Agreed that it’s a big year. Riley just doesn’t have the glove (or the position) to demand patience with the bat. He’s a hitter, and he needs to hit.

  57. I have no idea what the bullpen is at this point. I, too, thought Edwards would be on the roster. Webb too.

  58. I don’t really buy defensive stats in a third of a season. I think Riley’s glove is fine to above average. It just ain’t enough. He’s got to hit to eat.

  59. @77 – I know spring training stats are supposed to be meaningless, but even though he escaped damage, Edwards’ walk rate this spring pointed to problems that he’s struggled with throughout his career – especially lately. Maybe Atlanta thought they could fix him or they saw encouraging signs in the last year or two, but I’m afraid control issues were a little much. As a passive observer in spring training stats I kept noticing he wasn’t giving up many runs, but a WHIP of over 1.5 isn’t going to cut it.

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