Predicting the Braves' Opening Day roster
ATLANTA -- At some point over the next six weeks, injuries, improvement or regression will inevitably alter the plan nearly every Major League club brings into Spring Training. The Braves must decide exactly how to round out their rotation and bullpen, but for now it looks like they won't have any position-player battles. Here's the first prediction of how Atlanta's Opening Day roster might look.
Catcher (2):Brian McCann and Tyler Flowers
McCann has distanced himself from last year's knee surgery, and Flowers was happy to experience an offseason that didn't include surgery. But the Braves are rolling the dice with two over-30 veterans
First base (1): Freddie Freeman
Freeman leads all MLB first basemen with the 15.8 fWAR he has produced since the start of 2016.
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Second base (1): Ozzie Albies.
Albies' struggles from the left side of the plate may lead to Johan Camargo drawing some starts on the diamond's right side.
Third base (1): Josh Donaldson
Camargo will also occasionally spell Donaldson, who produced MLB's second-best bWAR from 2013-17 and then missed most of last season with a left calf strain.
Shortstop (1): Dansby Swanson
Camargo and Albies are the primary backup options for Swanson, who showed offensive progress before battling pain in his left wrist, which was surgically repaired in November.
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Outfield (4): Ronald Acuña Jr., Ender Inciarte, Nick Markakis, Adam Duvall
Acuna and Duvall are options to occasionally spell Inciarte in center. Camargo will introduce himself to the outfield during Spring Training. But for now, it appears Duvall and Charlie Culberson will be the primary backup outfielders
Utility (2): Camargo and Culberson
Culberson proved to be the only valuable asset on last year's bench. This year, he'll share the super-utility distinction with Camargo, a skilled defender who was Atlanta's third-most productive offensive performer after he became the primary third baseman in late May.
Starting pitcher (5): Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb, Kevin Gausman, Julio Teheran, Touki Toussaint
The Braves will essentially have a six-man rotation as they attempt to routinely give their starters an extra day of rest while routinely shuffling their optionable prospects from Triple-A Gwinnett's roster to a spot within Atlanta's rotation. Toussaint or Max Fried will likely get the first crack in the rotation as the Braves may take a cautious approach with Mike Soroka and provide Kyle Wright more time to develop.
Relief pitcher (8): Arodys Vizcaíno, A.J. Minter, Jonny Venters, Darren O'Day, Sam Freeman, Jesse Biddle, Dan Winkler, Chad Sobotka
Unlike Biddle, Winkler and Shane Carle both have a remaining option, meaning they can be sent to the Minors without being placed on waivers. The same goes for Sobotka, but given what was seen in September, it would be tough not to give him a spot. If manager Brian Snitker wants a multi-inning option, one of the Opening Day spots could go to Fried or Luiz Gohara.
This is the first predicted version of the Braves' Opening Day roster. Updated projections will be provided a couple of times throughout Spring Training.
Ronald Acuna Jr.