It’s two weeks until the start of the regular season, and the excitement and anticipation of the start of camp as given way to most fans, and no doubt the players, to the drudgery of meaningless games. In fact, this is the part of spring training where it seems like the best you can hope for is that nobody gets hurt. The Braves had a scare on Tuesday as star prospect Ozzie Albies fouled a ball off his knee and writhed in pain at home plate for several moments. Albies and the Braves may have dodged a bullet as the injury was diagnosed as a contusion that will only see Albies out for a day or two. The Braves took no chances and quickly re-assigned him to the minor league camp.
With twelve days (twelve days…?) left, there’s little intrigue left in the roster decisions.
GM John Coppolella didn’t mince any words on Monday when he told reporters “We are trying to upgrade the bench. If we can’t upgrade the bench, we’ll just go with what we have. But we don’t want to limit ourselves. We are always trying to find ways to get better.” As it stands right now, the Braves will likely have a four-man bench of catcher Kurt Suzuki, utilitymen Jace Peterson and Chase d’Arnaud, and veteran outfielder Emilio Bonifacio. Needless to say this is not what the Braves anticipated at the start of camp, when free agent signee Sean Rodriguez was expected to provide not just positional flexibility, but a potentially productive everyday bat that plays everywhere. Problems were compounded by injuries to potential bench candidates Dustin Peterson and Micah Johnson.
A bench of Suzuki, Jace Peterson, d’Arnaud, and Bonifacio would be, quite frankly, atrocious. While the Braves have been rumored to have been interested in free agent Angel Pagan, the price tag has reportedly cooled any chance of an acquisition. Instead the Braves seem to be looking toward the trade market. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman floated the names of Nationals 1B/OF Clint Robinson and Phillies 1B/OF Daniel Nava. Late Tuesday, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported that the Braves have at least discussed outfielder Matt Szczur (pronounced like “Caesar”), who is out of options and on a talented and crowded roster.
I don’t believe the Braves can go into the season with that bench, or if they do it won’t be for long. One option could be to keep Rio Ruiz on the roster to share third base with Adonis Garcia. While this isn’t an ideal option as I suspect the Braves would prefer to have Ruiz continue development in AAA, both Ruiz and third baseman Adonis Garcia would be legitimate late-game weapons that manager Brian Snitker could employ. If the Braves insist on keeping only a four-man bench, Ruiz would likely be kept at the expense of d’Arnaud.
Ideally however, there is an option currently outside the organization than can be acquired.
Cut: RH Luke Jackson
Injured: RH Armando Rivero
I have moved Mauricio Cabrera from “Lock” to “Likely” in response to comments by skipper Brian Snitker on Monday. “He’s going to have to figure some things out on the side, because obviously there’s some mechanical issues right now.” If the Braves don’t believe Cabrera’s issues are figured out the team could option him to AAA, a level that Cabrera skipped when recalled to Atlanta in late June.
On the flip side, journeyman reliever Blaine Boyer has had an upsurge in both performance and velocity as the spring as progressed. Boyer has had one of the slowest fastballs in the majors the last several seasons, but he has seen his velocity tick up this spring, with a fastball clocked at 95 mph on the stadium gun on Monday. Likewise Eric O’Flaherty has nearly secured himself a bullpen roll with improved performance thanks to his sinker that has shown much more bite than it has the last several years.
John Danks Asks For and Gets His Release
The Braves announced their starting rotation on Sunday, and to no one’s surprise right-hander Julio Teheran was tabbed to make his fourth consecutive Opening Day start. He will be followed in turn by righty Bartolo Colon, left-hander Jaime Garcia, then righties R.A. Dickey and Mike Foltynewicz. Not among the listed was veteran right-hander John Danks, who signed a minor league contract with Atlanta over the winter in an effort to jumpstart his stalled career after a long tenure with the Chicago White Sox. Danks is reportedly not interested in pitching in the minor leagues, so he will try to catch on with another team.
Here is my current projection for the starting rotations in the minors to start the season:
- RHP Matt Wisler
- RHP Aaron Blair
- LHP Sean Newcomb
- RHP Lucas Sims
- RHP Joel De La Cruz or LHP Andrew Albers
- RHP Ian Anderson
- LHP Joey Wentz
- RHP Jeremy Walker
- LHP Drew Harrington
- RHP Luis Gamez, RHP Luis Mora, or LHP Jaret Hellinger