On Sunday, the Atlanta Braves finalized their Opening Day 25-man roster for the 2017 season. After spending much of the spring considering opening the season with an eight man bullpen and a four man bench, the Braves decided to carry a more traditional seven man bullpen with five bench players.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) April 2, 2017
The glaring surprise to most Atlanta Braves fans is the decision to carry three catchers. Anthony Recker makes the team as the final bench player, after being expected to play at AAA Gwinnett. Carrying a third catcher gives Atlanta manager Brian Snitker an extra PH option, as both Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki would probably be the best PH option off the bench on days they aren’t catching.
In the outfield, the Braves opted to carry four OF. Emilio Bonifacio will serve as the primary backup to starters Matt Kemp, Ender Inciarte, and Nick Markakis. Bonifacio made the club on the strength of a solid spring (.361 OBP) and his experience playing two of the three OF spots. His presence allows the Braves to continue developing budding young stars like Dustin Peterson (currently injured) without slowing their development. Bonifacio has also been praised by the Braves in the past for his clubhouse presence.
The starting position players were no surprise. Freddie Freeman, Brandon Phillips, Dansby Swanson, and Adonis Garcia all won their respective starting positions. Chase d’Arnaud and Jace Peterson will serve as the utility infielders. Both D’Arnaud and Peterson have a great deal of positional flexibility that will allow Snitker to better play matchups and make late inning moves. The bench is certainly lacking an option with power, and the Braves are said to still be considering whether to make other early season moves to shore up any weaknesses. Despite the youth movement in the Atlanta Braves’ rebuild, Swanson is the only rookie to make the team.
The starting rotation of Julio Teheran, Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey, Jaime Garcia, and Mike Foltynewicz was decided relatively early in spring. New arrivals Colon and Dickey are expected to provide a steady supply of innings to help reduce some pressure on a bullpen that was largely over-worked last season. While both Colon and Dickey have probably seen better days, the quantity of the innings they provide is likely more important to the Braves than the quality of innings. Certainly, the Braves would love to see high level performances from all of their starters, but Colon and Dickey were both brought in for their ability to throw a high number of innings, and the Braves expect that to continue.
In the bullpen, Jim Johnson will serve as the closer, being set up by Arodys Vizcaino and Ian Krol. Old Braves fan favorite Eric O’Flaherty makes the team as the lefty specialist after a series of disappointing and injury plagued years. O’Flaherty posted a Spring ERA of 2.19 (0.00 vs LHB) with a BAA of .205 (.143 vs LHB). In a slight word of caution, those numbers came in small sample sizes, as he only pitched 4.0 innings vs LHB this spring. Jose Ramirez and Chaz Roe receive the last two middle relief spots. Josh Collmenter will serve as the long reliever and spot starter.
The Braves also announced that pitchers Mauricio Cabrera, Armando Rivero, and Daniel Winkler will all start the season on the 10-day DL. Infielder Micah Johnson will also start the season on the 10-day DL. IF/OF Sean Rodriguez and P Jacob Lindgren were already on the 60-day DL.