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Projecting Braves' 30-man Opening Day roster

@mlbbowman
July 2, 2020

ATLANTA -- When projecting who might be on the Braves’ 30-man Opening Day roster, here are a few rules to keep in mind. 1. No limit to the number of pitchers a team can carry at one time on its active roster When MLB opted to expand active rosters to

ATLANTA -- When projecting who might be on the Braves’ 30-man Opening Day roster, here are a few rules to keep in mind.

1. No limit to the number of pitchers a team can carry at one time on its active roster
When MLB opted to expand active rosters to 26 players for 2020, the rule stated a team could not carry more than 13 pitchers. Now that the long coronavirus shutdown has led to the implementation of a shortened training camp, MLB has attempted to protect players by initially expanding the active roster and removing the max pitcher limit.

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With the opportunity to potentially add four more pitchers to his roster for at least the regular season’s first two weeks, Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos has already said the team will likely limit its starting pitchers to 3-4 innings during their first couple starts. This opens the door to carry a few more pitchers who are capable of piggybacking these starters during the early part of the season.

Who might this benefit?
This certainly enhances the likelihood the Braves will opt to carry Félix Hernández, who could be used as either a starter or reliever during those first couple weeks. But given Hernández might have been on the Opening Day roster back in March, this roster expansion will likely be more of a short-term benefit to Kyle Wright, Touki Toussaint, Josh Tomlin and possibly Bryse Wilson, each of whom could be used to piggyback with a starter during the season’s early stages.

2. Active rosters will be reduced to 28 players on the 15th day of the season. They will then be pared to 26 players on the season’s 29th day.
One of the most interesting decisions will center around whether the team opts to add Hernández, Tomlin or Charlie Culberson to the 40-man roster. Each of these non-roster veterans would come at a cost of less than $400,000 for the season. But that small price might be viewed as being too costly if any of these guys were to not be considered a fit after the roster starts to shrink.

Maybe more importantly, the Braves would need to determine whether it makes sense to carry these guys at the expense of possibly losing a couple players. There is currently one vacancy on the team’s 40-man roster. Left-handed reliever Grant Dayton and right-handed reliever Chad Sobotka seem to be the players who could be most comfortably removed from this roster. But Anthopoulos has repeatedly shown how much he values preserving depth.

Who might this hurt?
Culberson is one of the most popular figures in the clubhouse, but there might not be a long-term fit. In March, it looked like Culberson’s roster bid might hinge on whether the Braves opted to place Austin Riley on the active roster to begin the season. Now, it’s much more likely Riley will be on Atlanta’s roster at the start of the season. This means Johan Camargo could then account for much of the versatility the Braves would have sought from Culberson.

Universal DH
The most significant rule change will allow National League clubs to use the designated hitter this year. But barring a rash of ailments, this shouldn’t necessarily impact the Opening Day roster decisions. Marcell Ozuna, Nick Markakis and Riley already give the Braves a few good options. So instead of carrying somebody like Yonder Alonso just to DH, it would be more beneficial to fill that spot with pitching.

Opening Day roster predictions
Pitching staff (17)

RHP (12): Mike Soroka, Mike Foltynewicz, Mark Melancon, Shane Greene, Luke Jackson, Chris Martin, Darren O'Day, Jacob Webb, Touki Toussaint, Kyle Wright, Josh Tomlin, Félix Hernández
LHP (5): Cole Hamels, Max Fried, Sean Newcomb, Will Smith, A.J. Minter

Position players (13)
Catchers (2): Travis d'Arnaud, Tyler Flowers
Infielders (6): Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, Austin Riley, Johan Camargo, Adeiny Hechavarría
Outfielders (5): Ronald Acuña Jr., Ender Inciarte, Marcell Ozuna, Nick Markakis, Adam Duvall

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.