The “Too Early” Prediction of the Braves’ Opening Day Lineup

FILE – Atlanta Braves pitcher Mike Soroka throws against the New York Mets during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, June 13, 2018, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/AP File Photo)

KEVIN MCALPIN
NORTH PORT, FL – With less than a month until Opening Day, it feels like the first few weeks of Spring Training have really flown by. While a lot can change over the next four weeks, here’s an all-too-early prediction and what the Braves 26 man Opening Day roster will look like on March 26th in Arizona…

Starting pitchers (5): When camp opened, there was one spot up for grabs in the Atlanta rotation. But shortly thereafter, Cole Hamels’ injury opened the door for another candidate to join the staff. If I had to guess, the Atlanta rotation will look like this – Soroka, Fried, Foltynewicz, Newcomb and Hernandez. While I’m not ready to give up on young guys like Wright, Wilson and Toussaint, I believe they could all benefit from a bit more seasoning in the Minors. Through two starts, while the velocity isn’t going to blow you away, I like what I’ve seen from Felix Hernandez, who has had the changeup and curveball working early in camp.

Relievers (8): There isn’t nearly as much up for grabs here. The pen features three All-Star closers in Melancon, Smith and Greene. Chris Martin also returned this offseason on a two-year deal and could also be featured in higher leverage situations. Last years closer Luke Jackson will likely transition to a sixth inning role, while the club also has Josh Tomlin back on a minor league deal, looking to serve as a long man like he did so effectively in 2019. Darren O’Day is once again healthy and would offer a different look with his sidearm delivery. While the team knows its righties can get lefties out, it’d be nice to find one or maybe even two southpaws to add to the pen which could open the door for guys like AJ Minter or Grant Dayton.

FILE – Atlanta Braves’ Johan Camargo celebrates with teammates hitting a walk-off home run to defeat the New York Mets 7-6 in a baseball game Tuesday, May 29, 2018, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/AP FILE)

Catchers (2): This is perhaps the easiest of all. Travis d’Arnaud will take over the everyday responsibilities behind the dish, limiting Tyler Flowers to a backup role. In a perfect world, d’Arnaud would catch 110 games with Flowers getting one, maybe two starts per week, depending on how days off play out.

Infielders (6): We know what three quarters of the infield will look like with Freeman and Albies holding down the right side. At short, I’m looking for big things out of Dansby Swanson in 2020, a year I think he can finally put it all together. So, what about third base? Both Austin Riley and Johan Camargo will get plenty of opportunities to win the job, but I truly believe it’s Camargo’s job to lose. He’s shed close to 20 pounds coming into camp and has better range at the hot corner than Riley. In a perfect world, Riley starts at Triple-A, gets four at bats a day, and returns to the form we saw from him in mid-May. Add in the slick fielding Adeiny Hechavarria and the Swiss Army knife Charlie Culberson and Brian Snitker will have a much deeper bench than in years past.

Outfielders (5): We know the two everyday players who will man the corner spots with Marcell Ozuna in left and Ronald Acuña in right. What we don’t know is how much playing time guys like Nick Markakis and Adam Duvall will get, both of whom will likely appear in limited pinch hitting roles. With Duvall’s right handed power, the team could always shift Acuña to center on days they want to load up on right handed bats versus lefties, but Brian Snitker will have a much bigger challenge ahead of him trying to find enough at bats to go around to keep guys like Markakis locked in.

@KevinMcAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet

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