Josh Donaldson has enjoyed his first healthy Spring Training in three years and Dansby Swanson is once again playing games in pain-free fashion. But the Braves dealt with a rash of minor ailments during the Grapefruit League’s first full week, and it’s still uncertain when Mike Foltynewicz will make his first start of the regular season.
Last month, MLB.com issued its first projection for the Braves' Opening Day roster. As we sit here three weeks from the March 28 season opener in Philadelphia, we have a decent feel for how the roster might change based on what's happened in Spring Training.
With that in mind, here's an updated projection for the 25 players Atlanta will start the season with:
Catcher (3): Brian McCann, Tyler Flowers, Alex Jackson
What changed: McCann is healthy after surgery to repair his right knee, and Flowers seems to have regained the strength he lost after left wrist surgery following the 2017 season. But the most encouraging development has come via Jackson, who now appears to be a capable insurance option if McCann or Flowers are sidelined during the season.
With two off-days scheduled before their fifth game and Foltynewicz likely unavailable until the latter portion of April’s first week, the Braves can carry three catchers and make Flowers or McCann more of a pinch-hit option through those first four games.
First base (1): Freddie Freeman
What changed: Further removed from the effects of the fractured wrist he sustained in 2017, Freeman has two homers through his first 13 at-bats, or one less than he hit over his final 160 at-bats of the 2018 season. When he needs to rest, Johan Camargo will dip into his glove collection to find the first baseman’s mitt.
Second base (1): Ozzie Albies
What changed: It’s too early to make judgments or give credence to early Spring Training stats. But as Albies has gone 2-for-9 with two walks from the left side thus far, he’s provided further reason to wonder how frequently Camargo could play second base against right-handed starting pitchers.
Third base (1): Donaldson
What changed: Like they have thus far in camp, the Braves will continue to protect their one-year, $23 million investment. But it’s been so far, so good for the slugger who is enjoying his first healthy camp since 2016, which is when he earned the most recent of his three top-four MVP Award finishes. Camargo will man the hot corner on those days Donaldson rests.
Shortstop (1): Swanson
What changed: Hours before his spring debut was postponed last week, Swanson took extra swings with Chipper Jones in the batting cage and then took regular batting practice. It was too much, too soon for the shortstop. But it appears he’ll have enough time to recover from November’s left wrist surgery and start for the third consecutive Opening Day as Atlanta’s shortstop.
Outfield (4): Ronald Acuna Jr., Ender Inciarte, Nick Markakis, Adam Duvall
What changed: Duvall’s two-homer performance on Sunday kept him on the roster through Tuesday, which is the last date the Braves could've released him without a cost of 30 days’ termination pay. Duvall's at-bats have been better, but he’s just 3-for-17 thus far and had a miserable stretch run last season. If his struggles continue, the Braves may have to look externally for a backup outfielder.
Utility (2): Camargo, Charlie Culberson
What changed: Andres Blanco and Pedro Florimon have fared well thus far, but both may serve as depth at Triple-A Gwinnett. Camargo will be available to be used everywhere other than center field and catcher. "Charlie Clutch" is capable of handling any role, including mop-up reliever -- he's capable of throwing 94 mph.
Starting pitcher (4): Sean Newcomb, Kevin Gausman, Julio Teheran, Touki Toussaint
What changed: The right elbow discomfort Foltynewicz felt after his first Grapefruit League start will prevent him from making what would have been his first Opening Day start, but the All-Star hurler should be ready before the rotation completes its second full turn. Kyle Wright has shown why he has more upside than any of the Braves’ highly touted starters, and he could soon become a rotation fixture. But during the season’s early weeks, he’ll likely shuttle between the Majors and Minors while sharing Atlanta’s fifth spot with Toussaint and Max Fried on a rotating basis.
Relief pitcher (8): Arodys Vizcaino, A.J. Minter, Jonny Venters, Darren O'Day, Sam Freeman, Jesse Biddle, Dan Winkler, Chad Sobotka
What changed: Sobotka needs to bounce back from a couple rough outings and Winkler needs to prove he’s past the elbow discomfort that slowed him during the early portion of camp. Minter is a little behind because of shoulder soreness he felt after a fender bender, but he too should have plenty of time to be ready. Time will tell if Vizcaino’s shoulder can endure a normal workload, but for now he joins Minter, Venters, O’Day, Freeman and Biddle as the best bullpen bets for the Opening Day roster. Shane Carle and Luke Jackson are the top candidates if Winkler and Sobotka aren’t ready. Jackson and Biddle both benefit from being out of options.
Updated projections of the Braves’ Opening Day roster will be provided throughout Spring Training.
Ronald Acuna Jr.