ATLANTA -- Since winning a fourth consecutive National League East title, the Braves have been evaluating how to best fill the 26-man roster they will use during their NL Division Series against the Brewers.
“I think the biggest thing is: how many pitchers do you carry?” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “Would you rather have the extra bench player or maybe a defender? If we’re going to go with a bullpen game or use an opener, you might want to have another pinch-hitter.”
Because the Braves won’t be playing more than two days in a row after the best-of-five NLDS begins Friday, they have some flexibility as they decide how many pitchers to place on their roster. Carrying 14 pitchers would seemingly be too many (some might argue there’s also no reason to carry 13 pitchers).
But when weighing whether it’s best to carry a 13th pitcher, one should also assess whether anybody within Atlanta's organization could provide more value as a 14th position player.
Here’s a look at what the Braves will evaluate while making their roster decisions:
Catchers (2): Travis d’Arnaud, William Contreras
Infielders (5): Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, Austin Riley, Ehire Adrianza
Outfielders (4): Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall, Jorge Soler, Joc Pederson
Possibilities: INF Orlando Arcia, OF Guillermo Heredia, OF Cristian Pache
If the Braves were to carry Arcia, they would simply be adding a backup infielder who likely wouldn’t play. There would be little reason to pull Freeman, Albies, Swanson or Riley. And if there is a need to do so, Adrianza can play each of the infield positions.
Atlanta would seemingly be better off carrying both Heredia and Pache to serve as a pinch-runner or late-inning defensive replacement. When Rosario and Soler are positioned at the corner outfield positions, there may occasionally be a need for multiple defensive replacements.
Starting pitchers (4): Charlie Morton, Max Fried, Ian Anderson, Huascar Ynoa
Relief pitchers (8): Will Smith, Luke Jackson, Tyler Matzek, A.J. Minter, Jesse Chavez, Rich Rodríguez, Chris Martin, Jacob Webb
Possibilities: Drew Smyly, Spencer Strider, Dylan Lee
Asked if he might use Chavez as an opener and follow with Smyly like he has over the past couple weeks, Snitker quickly said, “No.” So, Ynoa would likely be used as an opener in a potential Game 4. Chavez would be among the options to follow him.
Strider and Lee had never pitched in the Majors before the regular season’s final weekend. But each of them seem to be a strong candidate for what might be the final roster spot for a pitcher. Strider has the more electric stuff, but Lee has more consistent command.
MY BEST GUESS
The Braves will end up carrying 13 position players and 13 pitchers. Heredia and Pache will fill the last two spots for position players and Strider’s upside from the right side will get him the nod over Lee.