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Projecting Braves' 2020 Opening Day roster

@mlbbowman
February 17, 2020

ATLANTA -- Before the Braves staged their first Spring Training workout, their Opening Day roster plans were altered by Cole Hamels, who will miss at least three weeks while recovering from a sore left shoulder. • Forecasting all 30 teams: Lineups, rotations, closers Other unavoidable developments could further change the

ATLANTA -- Before the Braves staged their first Spring Training workout, their Opening Day roster plans were altered by Cole Hamels, who will miss at least three weeks while recovering from a sore left shoulder.

Forecasting all 30 teams: Lineups, rotations, closers

Other unavoidable developments could further change the landscape before the campaign begins. But this is how the Braves’ Opening Day roster might look if the regular season were to begin today.

Catcher
Locks: Travis d’Arnaud and Tyler Flowers
Possibilities: Alex Jackson

While d’Arnaud might be used more primarily than Brian McCann and Kurt Suzuki were the past two years, we can still expect Flowers to be behind the plate for at least 70 games. Jackson currently stands as the only internal option to be promoted if d’Arnaud or Flowers were to be sidelined. But if prospect William Contreras can make some offensive strides, he might become a late-season roster option.

First base
Locks: Freddie Freeman
Possibilities: None

Freeman quickly regained full range of motion after undergoing surgery in October to remove a bone spur and other foreign substances from his right elbow. He feels better than he has in years and arrived at Spring Training without any limitations.

Second base
Locks: Ozzie Albies
Possibilities: None

Albies has established himself as one of the game’s top young players. The decision to move him from shortstop has continued to pay dividends, as he has provided Gold Glove-caliber defense each of the past two seasons.

Shortstop
Locks: Dansby Swanson
Possibilities: None

Swanson’s postseason success restored some of the confidence that was influenced by a midseason right heel injury, which sidelined him for a month.

Third base
Locks: Johan Camargo
Possibilities: Austin Riley

Barring injury, Camargo will be part of the Opening Day roster in some shape or form. He’ll most likely begin the season as the starting third baseman, but Camargo could become a valuable bench piece once the Braves are confident that Riley is ready to once again be a productive everyday asset at the big league level.

Utility
Locks: Adeiny Hechavarria
Possibilities: Charlie Culberson and Yangervis Solarte

Hechavarria’s decision to return erased the need for a backup shortstop. If he can hit like he did after joining the Braves late last year, he’ll further enhance the value he brings to what should be a strong bench. Culberson’s candidacy is strengthened by the fact that active rosters will expand to 26 players this year, but he’ll draw competition from the switch-hitting Solarte, who has shown some power at the big league level.

Outfield
Locks: Ronald Acuña Jr., Marcell Ozuna, Ender Inciarte, Nick Markakis, Adam Duvall
Possibilities: Rafael Ortega

By signing Ozuna, the Braves formed an outfield trio that will also include a three-time Gold Glove-winning center fielder in Inciarte and Acuña, who will make the switch to right field. Markakis and Duvall, who had been targeted to platoon in left field, will now serve as two potentially valuable bench pieces. Duvall could play right field on days when the Braves sit Inciarte against lefties and move Acuña to center field. Ortega would be an early-season insurance option. But as the season progresses, top prospect Cristian Pache or Drew Waters could become roster options.

Starting pitchers
Locks: Mike Soroka, Mike Foltynewicz, Max Fried, Sean Newcomb
Possibilities: Félix Hernández, Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson

Hamels’ absence significantly increases the possibility that Newcomb will be granted his wish to work as a starter again. Hernández will need to impress to extend his career and fill the last available rotation spot. If Hernández struggles to the point where the Braves do not think it’s worth committing $1 million to him, Wright or Wilson could be added to the rotation earlier than expected. Non-roster invitee Ian Anderson likely wouldn’t be an option until later in the season.

Relievers
Locks: Mark Melancon, Will Smith, Shane Greene, Luke Jackson, Darren O’Day, Chris Martin
Possibilities: Jacob Webb, Josh Tomlin, Chris Rusin, Grant Dayton, A.J. Minter, Patrick Weigel, Huascar Ynoa, Bryse Wilson, Phil Pfeifer

Webb has reported to camp healthy. If he pitches like he did before being shut down with right elbow soreness last year, it will be hard to keep him off the Opening Day roster. But with Smith being the only lefty currently projected to start the season in the 'pen, the Braves may opt to go with Minter, Rusin or even a Cinderella option Pfeifer. Tomlin has rejoined the Braves with the expectation that he’ll once again be a versatile asset who can provide multiple innings when necessary. Weigel and Ynoa are among the prospect candidates who could find a spot if any of the key relievers are not ready at the start of the season.

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