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Can Acuna play way onto Opening Day roster?

Braves beat reporter Mark Bowman opens the Inbox to answer questions from fans
March 5, 2018

If Ronald Acuna Jr. continues playing the way he has lately, do you think the Braves will be forced to put him on the Opening Day roster? -- @elliott_propes Barring an agreement on an eight-year deal that currently doesn't seem to make sense for either party, I'd say Acuna could

If Ronald Acuna Jr. continues playing the way he has lately, do you think the Braves will be forced to put him on the Opening Day roster?
-- @elliott_propes

Barring an agreement on an eight-year deal that currently doesn't seem to make sense for either party, I'd say Acuna could go 40-for-40 with 20 home runs over the remainder of the exhibition season and still be destined to spend the first couple weeks of this season with Triple-A Gwinnett.
Acuna's elite potential as the Braves' top prospect is evident, but until he spends some time playing at the Major League level, I don't foresee any scenario where his representatives would be willing to entertain the offer the Braves would be willing to make to buy out his arbitration-eligible years and lock him up beyond his projected potential free-agent date.
• Acuna adds to hot-hitting spring with 1st HR
If Acuna were to be placed on this year's Opening Day roster and then never be optioned back to the Minors, he would be eligible to become a free agent at the end of the 2023 season, when the outfielder will be 26 years old. By choosing to keep Acuna with Gwinnett during the first couple weeks of this season, the Braves would secure an extra year of contractual control.
While the Braves should certainly be better this year -- especially once some of the other top prospects arrive during the summer months -- they are not in a position where not having Acuna in the lineup for a few weeks would suddenly make them a playoff contender.
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So, I'd say it's safe to assume the Braves will sacrifice a couple weeks of Acuna in order to secure an additional full season. My guess is he'll join the lineup at some point during the team's second homestand, which runs from April 16-22.
Who will fill the final three spots in the starting rotation? I keep hearing Luiz Gohara as one, but he hasn't pitched yet this spring.
-- @big_phil22

A left groin strain has put Gohara about two weeks behind schedule, but he still has plenty of time to be ready by April 11, when the Braves would first need to have five starters in their rotation. The big left-hander threw his first live batting practice session on Monday and could make his first start during the upcoming weekend.
As things currently stand, Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz and Brandon McCarthy are the only locks to begin the season in the rotation. Assuming Gohara stays on track, he and Sean Newcomb remain the favorites to win the final two spots.

Scouts who have seen Mike Soroka believe he is ready to make the leap to the Major League level. Kolby Allard could soon be in the same boat, but he could seemingly benefit from the chance to further develop from a physical perspective.
Though the Braves have the option to place Scott Kazmir in their rotation if necessary, this year's focus will be on providing opportunities for the young starters, who have the potential to significantly influence the rotation's success for many years to come.
So as Soroka, Allard and Max Fried prove they are big-league ready, the Braves' rotation will start to evolve and quite possibly have a much different mix by the end of the season.
Do you think #Braves missed some good buy-low opportunities on this year's free-agent market?
-- @baldheaded1der

Though there might be a need to add a proven front-line starter, it's easy to understand why the Braves chose to prioritize their top young hurlers this year. This team could also use a right-handed power hitter and more experience in the bullpen.
But there's only so much you can do when you have what is believed to be approximately $6 million left to spend. Maybe this money will prove to be more valuable around the Trade Deadline, when the Braves will have a better understanding of next year's needs. But if simply looking at what else could have been done to impact this season, I think it would have been wise to sign at least one more experienced reliever.
Any changes in your prediction of the opening day bullpen? Seems like Anyelo Gomez has made a strong case?
-- @dappercale

If Gomez continues to pitch effectively once he starts facing Major Leaguers over the final weeks of camp, the Braves will seemingly have no choice but to keep the Rule 5 Draft selection.

As of now, I'd project the first seven bullpen spots will be filled by Arodys Vizcaino, A.J. Minter, Jose Ramirez, Sam Freeman, Dan Winkler, Peter Moylan and Gomez. If the final spot is reserved for a long reliever, it will likely be given to Chase Whitley, Lucas Sims, Aaron Blair or Matt Wisler.
Each of these long-relief candidates has options. Consequently, they could be shuffled from Gwinnett to Atlanta's roster throughout the season.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for since 2001.