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Projecting Braves' 2020 Opening Day roster

@mlbbowman
January 14, 2020

ATLANTA -- Though the Braves have not made a significant move in over a month, the flurry of activity completed within the offseason’s first few weeks provided a better understanding of how the roster might look at the start of the upcoming season. While Atlanta entered the offseason hoping to

ATLANTA -- Though the Braves have not made a significant move in over a month, the flurry of activity completed within the offseason’s first few weeks provided a better understanding of how the roster might look at the start of the upcoming season.

While Atlanta entered the offseason hoping to re-sign third baseman Josh Donaldson, the 34-year-old veteran reportedly has agreed to a four-year deal with the Minnesota Twins, leaving the position unresolved for the Braves.

Here's the latest look at Atlanta’s potential 2020 Opening Day roster:

Catcher

Locks: Travis d'Arnaud, Tyler Flowers
Possibilities: Alex Jackson

While d’Arnaud might be used more 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 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 multiple bone spurs and other foreign substances from his right elbow. He feels better than he has in years and will not have any limitations at the start of Spring Training.

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 Award-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 lost following a midseason right heel injury, which sidelined him for a month.

Third base

Locks: None
Possibilities: Johan Camargo, Austin Riley

Donaldson spent this past summer showing how valuable he can be at third base and when situated in the middle of Atlanta’s lineup. Now he's off the table, so the Braves will likely pursue an outfielder and open the season with Camargo at the hot corner. Riley could eventually fill that role, but given how 2019 concluded, the young slugger will likely begin this year at the Triple-A level.

Utility

Locks: Charlie Culberson, Johan Camargo
Possibilities: Adeiny Hechavarria, Matt Joyce

Culberson’s candidacy is strengthened by the fact that active rosters will expand to 26 players this year. Camargo struggled as he adjusted to a bench role last season, and there are a number of ways the Braves could go to fill the remaining spots on their bench. Hechavarría, who would fill the need for a backup shortstop, and Joyce are familiar free-agent options who had success in Atlanta last year.

Outfield

Locks: Ronald Acuña Jr., Ender Inciarte, Nick Markakis, Adam Duvall
Possibilities: Free agents/trades

The current plan is to put Acuña in right field, keep Inciarte in center and platoon Markakis and Duvall in left. The Braves would need to alter that formation if they were to pursue free agent Marcell Ozuna, the Pirates’ Starling Marte or another outfielder to account for Donaldson’s absence.

Starting pitchers

Locks: Mike Soroka, Mike Foltynewicz, Max Fried, Cole Hamels
Possibilities: Kyle Wright, Sean Newcomb, Bryse Wilson, free agents/trades

Hamels will provide some stability in the middle of Atlanta’s rotation and will also help foster the developments of both Fried and Soroka. Foltynewicz has shown the potential to be a front-line starter. Newcomb will work as a starter during Spring Training, but there’s still a chance the Braves could opt to give the fifth spot to Wright, Wilson or Ian Anderson at some point during the upcoming season. This would give Newcomb a chance to return to a relief role, where he found some success last summer.

Relievers

Locks: Mark Melancon, Will Smith, Shane Greene, Luke Jackson, Darren O'Day, Chris Martin, Jacob Webb
Possibilities: Josh Tomlin, Grant Dayton, A.J. Minter, Chad Sobotka, Jeremy Walker, Patrick Weigel, Huascar Ynoa, Bryse Wilson, Touki Toussaint

With the addition of Smith, the Braves gained another potential closer, and more importantly, a proven lefty who can fill a variety of late-inning needs. By re-signing both O’Day and Martin, Atlanta created enviable bullpen depth. Minter and Sobotka were considered potential closers at this time last year. Neither will come to camp considered to be a favorite for an Opening Day roster spot.

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