With Major League rosters slated to expand on Monday, the Atlanta Braves will be calling up several players to fill out the opened active roster spots and, hopefully, provide some needed depth and flexibility in the lineup. But the question is: Who will get the call? Will it be the exciting youngsters that fans want to see, like the cannon-armed Christian Bethancourt and speedster Jose Peraza? Or will it be the bland, no-name options that provide needed depth, like Juan Jaime and Chasen Shreve?
In all likelihood, Atlanta will call up familiar faces who have already had a taste of the big league club. Roster expansions are often used by managers as a way to expand and rest a tired bullpen before heading in to the playoffs. Since the Braves are still locked in a playoff run, it is unlikely that any of the position players called up will get any significant playing time. Most likely they will see a few pinch-hitting and pinch-running appearances, and possibly a defensive substitution late in a game. Relievers who are called up, however, are very likely to get into games, especially in middle relief or against lefties.
So, who is likely to be called up Monday (or Tuesday, depending on which minor league affiliate is involved)?
Constanza is a fan favorite, and many fans have wondered why he is not on the big league club as at least a backup, given the struggles of B.J. Upton. Constanza has been around enough and been seen enough for the Braves to know what he is: a speedy little slap hitter with no power who doesn’t walk and is highly dependent on contact to be successful. He plays a capable LF and a league average CF (although his big league sample size is far too small to make an accurate determination). With a career MLB OPS of .651 (.278/.322/.359) and wRC+ of 80 (20% below league average), Constanza would not normally be a viable option to start in the outfield of a playoff contender. However, with the struggles of B.J. Upton and the defensive liabilities of Emilio Bonifacio in CF, Constanza may get a spot start or two in the final month.
Cunningham isn’t flashy. He isn’t a speedster. He doesn’t have any power. Yet, he still manages to put up decent seasons in the minors. At AAA Gwinnett this season he hit to a .758 OPS (.289/.349/.409). His range in the minors was greater than that of Costanza, despite not being as fast. The Braves could do worse than a .330-ish OBP who converts 75% of his steal attempts. And as a switch hitter, he gives Fredi Gonzalez options later in the game. I would expect to see Cunningham used late in a game as a PH/defensive substitution, replacing Justin Upton or Emilio Bonifacio.
IF/OF Joey Terdoslavich
Terdoslavich has been around the organization seemingly forever. He’s been on the cusp of promotion as a third baseman, then a first baseman, and now as a corner outfielder. He is a switch hitter with a little power, so he would be a good bench option. But his power is very inconsistent, and his defense is non-existent. Terdoslavich is a AAAA level player, and projects to a DH in skill set. He has primarily played first base in Gwinnett this year, but I just can’t see a scenario where Gonzalez sits an MVP candidate for a 25-year old September call up.
LHP Chasen Shreve
Shreve was successful in his stint with Atlanta, although he had significant reverse split (lefties hit .556 against him). He’s a high strikeout pitcher who doesn’t walk many, and he continued that success after he was sent down. He was 5-3 with a 2.43 ERA (1.61 FIP) and 87 strikeouts in 63 innings. Shreve could find himself in the mix as a seventh inning option.
RHP Juan Jaime
Jaime could be a very good option out of the bullpen if he could keep his walks down. Both in Atlanta and Gwinnett this year, his walk rate was greater than 5.5 BB/9. It doesn’t matter that his K rate was higher than Craig Kimbrel‘s; a reliever just can’t afford to walk that many batters. When he is on, he is tough to hit.
RHP Gus Schlosser
Schlosser is this season’s Kris Medlen, in that he’s been asked to relieve and start, as needed. He hasn’t had a particularly successful season by traditional measures (4.17 ERA, 4.36 FIP). However, he eats innings in those games in which you don’t want to kill your bullpen. He makes a team a little better by not burning up the guys counted on to get outs in key situations. Look for Schlosser as the long relief option.
In addition to those likely call ups above, two other players have either been rumored to be on the call up list or are on fans’ wish lists for call up:
C Christian Bethancourt
This is the one most fans are clamoring to see. And, in some regards, rightfully so. His defensive prowess is legendary. His arm is from the gods. He’s Johnny Bench and Tony Pena rolled into one mutant catcher. Or, so says the hype. Bethancourt does have a cannon for an arm; of this, there is no doubt. And, his defense behind the plate is well above that of his peers. But his bat? It’s undeveloped, to say the least. After seven minor league seasons, Bethancourt has a career OPS of .679 (.279/.300/.379). His .303 OBP at AAA this season was 35 points below the league average. Will he be promoted? That all depends on whether the Braves think he is fully healed from his recent DL stint for a hand injury. If so, expect to see Bethancourt called up.
There has been speculation that the Braves may look into trading Evan Gattis to an AL team this off-season. If that does happen, Bethancourt will almost guaranteed be the starting catcher next season. That presents both good and bad scenarios. With only 14 MLB games under his belt, Bethancourt is an unproven commodity, and his bat especially so. The Braves would be replacing one of their more potent offensive weapons with the equivalent of BJ Upton. And, his for all the talk surrounding his defense and arm, Gattis graded better than Bethancourt in both defense and throwing out runners so far in Atlanta, although to be fair, Bethancourt has had an especially small sample size.
But trading Gattis gives the Braves more years of team control at catcher, and fewer payroll dollars at the position. And, realistically, a probable defensive upgrade. And, the return for a power hitting C/DH with a couple of years of team control could be significant.
I think Bethancourt could be a viable option in Atlanta, but fans should temper their expectations. All the hype surrounding Bethancourt is due to his glove, and, with this inconsistent offense that already features, Gattis’ power bat, I’m not sure replacing Gattis with Bethancourt makes the team better. The move, should it happen, should be graded in conjunction with other moves that are made.
IF Jose Peraza
Peraza is another player who fans are starting to scream for. And, again, rightfully so. Peraza came up as a shortstop, but was moved to second base when it became clear that Andrelton Simmons was Atlanta’s shortstop. Peraza has incredible speed, great range, a decent arm, and is excellent at getting on base. He has a career .743 OPS in four minor league seasons, including this year’s .810 (.341/.366/.444). In addition, Peraza has stolen 177 bases at an 81% success rate. e very well could be the leadoff hitter that fans have ben looking for (even though Jason Heyward has handled the job as well as anyone in baseball), allowing Heyward to drop down to what seems to be a more natural #2 spot in the order (or, replacing Heyward as the leadoff hitter if he leaves as a free agent).
Peraza, however is unlikely to get the call for a few reasons. First, he isn’t on the 40 man roster. If the Braves want to call him up,
they will need to remove someone from the 40 man roster to make room for Peraza they will need to add him to the 40 man roster (EDIT: I miscounted the roster spots, forgetting one of the 60-day DL moves that doesn’t count towards the 40-man). I don’t know if that will happen before the end of the year, but Peraza will definitely be on it after the season. Secondly, Peraza is nursing a strained groin, having gone in the DL about 10 10 days ago. It is unlikely the Braves would want to risk injury to a player they certainly have plans for. And lastly, the Braves are unlikely to call Peraza up to have him sit and see an occasional PH appearance. With just 40 games to his credit above the A level of ball, the Braves would prefer he see regular ABs in instructional leagues and fall leagues, after resting his injury.