Spring Training Update: Braves Cut Seven, Bench Race Unfortunately Narrows

RHP Aaron Blair was one of seven Braves sent to minor league camp Thursday. (Photo: Reinhold Matay/USA Today Sports)

With eighteen days before Opening Day, the Braves made another round of cuts today to bring the roster a little closer to the 25-man limit. This round of cuts featured several top prospects.

Pitching

LHP Max Fried, OFR’s #8 prospect, was optioned to AA Mississippi. Fried was perhaps the most impressive prospect in the major league camp this spring as he didn’t allow a run in his 4 innings pitched in 3 appearances, striking out 5 while allowing only 1 hit and 3 walks. If the AA assignment holds, it represents a double promotion for Fried, skipping over the high-A level.

RHP Aaron Blair is no longer a prospect due to his presence in the Atlanta rotation from much of last season, but he is still a young talent that will be looked to provide starting depth. While his results were inconsistent and he missed all but four pitches of one start after a line-drive hit him in the hand a couple weeks ago, there was plenty of good signs for Blair. The slider that Blair started throwing late in the 2016 season showed signs of being a plus pitch for him, and his change-up is already there. The key for success for Blair will be command of the fastball, and he will have more opportunity to work on that as he stretches for starting duty in the minor league camp. Blair was optioned to AAA Gwinnett.

RHP Lucas Sims (#20) was also optioned to AAA. Sims will likely start the season in the Gwinnett rotation, trying to show improvement with the control problems that wrecked a AAA promotion for him last season. Sims did not allow a walk in the 7 innings he pitched for the Braves this spring. While still only 22 years old, this nevertheless feels like a critical year for Sims’ future with the club.

RHP Akeel Morris was also optioned to AAA Gwinnett, a placement that represents a promotion for the reliever. While Morris is on the 40-man roster, winning a major league roster spot out of spring training was always a longshot for Morris, but he’s positioned well as a potential call-up in case of injury, trade, or poor performance by a major league reliever.

LHP A.J. Minter (#19) on the other hand was expected to challenge for a major league spot after a spectacular return from Tommy John surgery last season, but he wasn’t able to get into a game due to what was diagnosed as nerve inflammation in his left forearm. As a non-roster invitee, Minter was reassigned to minor league camp so it remains to be seen if he’ll start off back in Mississippi or get the promotion to Gwinnett, and if he’ll start the season on an active roster or on the disabled list.

Position Players

Infielder Johan Camargo set career highs last season in AA Mississippi in home runs and extra base hits and he continued that trend this spring as he slugged .500 in 32 at-bats, getting extended playing time thanks to Dansby Swanson‘s back issues and Chase d’Arnaud‘s flu. Camargo is mostly known as an elite defender, but his six errors this spring likely ended his quest to take a major league bench job. Camargo was optioned to AAA Gwinnett, where he will likely start at shortstop.

Second baseman Travis Demeritte (#17) also exits his first major league spring training camp. Demeritte hit .150/.261/.200 in limited action, and wasn’t ever a threat to make the major league team, as expected for a prospect who has not played above high-A to date. Demeritte was reassigned to minor league camp, and I project him to go to AA Mississippi to play second base and perhaps other positions as well.

In The Trainer’s Room

Camargo’s exit likely signals the imminent return to action of Dansby Swanson. Swanson has not appeared in a Grapefruit League game in nearly two weeks as the team has been careful with the top Braves prospect and projected starting shortstop as he recovers from what has been termed “tightness” in his lower back and side.

Utilityman Micah Johnson received bad news on his injured left wrist. While initial X-rays did not discover any breaks, subsequent testing showed that he did sustain a fracture and will require surgery. Johnson sustained the injury diving to make a catch while playing left field on Tuesday. No time frame has been given for his return. The injury likely puts non-roster veteran Emilio Bonifacio in the driver’s seat for the fourth and final bench spot, barring an acquisition before Opening Day.

About Andy Harris 73 Articles
Andy Harris has been a baseball fan since seeing the Big Red Machine in 1978 and hardcore baseball fan since reading Bill James's Historical Baseball Abstract in 1990. Andy moved to the Atlanta area in 1991, which turned out to be a pretty good year for the local team.

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