Breaking down the battle for the Braves' bench

February 26th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Mark Bowman’s Braves Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- It’s certainly fun to see what Ronald Acuña Jr., Matt Olson, Austin Riley and the Braves’ other top hitters are doing in Spring Training. But roster battles also provide ample intrigue during camp.

The Braves could use internal candidates to fill their bench or they may end up going with a player who is released from another team’s camp at some point over the next few weeks. Regardless, what happens during these early days of the Grapefruit League season will shape how Atlanta’s roster looks on Opening Day.

Here is a look at some of the primary questions the Braves will face regarding their bench:

How many backup infielders should be carried?

This isn’t a battle between Luis Guillorme and David Fletcher. Barring an injury, Guillorme will be on Atlanta’s Opening Day roster. So the question is: Should the Braves carry an additional backup middle infielder?

Guillorme has come to camp in better shape than he was the past couple years. But though he has the range to play both middle infield positions, Fletcher is the better defensive player. But Fletcher was outrighted to Triple-A Gwinnett in December, so he would need to be added to the 40-man roster spot if the club opts to put him on the Opening Day roster.

Carrying both Guillorme and Fletcher seems to create some roster redundancy. So the Braves could look to better fill this spot.

Could they do so by carrying Forrest Wall?

Quite honestly, it makes perfect sense to carry Wall, whose primary value comes from his tremendous speed. There was a time when teams could waste a regular-season roster spot by carrying somebody who would essentially only be used as a pinch-runner. But that was before teams were using both a 26-man roster and a universal designated hitter.

If the Braves could go more than two months without using a backup infielder last year, they can certainly fill a spot with Wall, who was successful with five of his six stolen base attempts at the big league level last year. He was successful with 52 of 60 attempts for Triple-A Gwinnett.

Who will be the backup outfielder?

Even with the presence of Wall and designated hitter Marcell Ozuna, there is seemingly a need to carry a primary backup outfielder. With Acuña and Jarred Kelenic able to play center if necessary, the backup wouldn’t necessarily have to be able to play across the outfield. But most of the current candidates can.

Like Wall, J.P. Martinez is already on the 40-man roster. So, he could be considered the favorite, unless the Braves choose to get him regular at-bats at the Triple-A level. If so, they would likely need to give a 40-man spot to either Eli White or Jordan Luplow.

Who will likely be on the Braves’ bench when the regular season begins?

Backup catcher Travis d’Arnaud and Guillorme will fill two of the four bench spots. It also feels like Wall would be a perfect fit for that 26th spot. So instead of giving the backup outfielder spot to an internal candidate, I’m going to predict that spot is filled by somebody who is currently in another camp.