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What roster decisions remain for Braves?

@mlbbowman
July 22, 2020

ATLANTA -- Though he has five additional spots this year, Braves manager Brian Snitker knows it will still be tough to make his final Opening Day roster decisions. “I think it always is, but honestly, I don’t think it will be as hard as we think just because we’re about

ATLANTA -- Though he has five additional spots this year, Braves manager Brian Snitker knows it will still be tough to make his final Opening Day roster decisions.

“I think it always is, but honestly, I don’t think it will be as hard as we think just because we’re about there now really with the guys we have left in camp,” Snitker said.

All MLB teams will be permitted to carry 30 players on the active roster through the season’s first 15 days. That number will drop to 28 players over the 15 days that follow and then fall to 26 over the remainder of the 60-game season.

Braves ink veteran Chacín to 1-year deal

The Braves took another step toward finalizing their 30-man Opening Day roster on Tuesday, when they selected the contract of popular role player Charlie Culberson, who was a non-roster invitee, and signed veteran lefty Jhoulys Chacín to a one-year big league deal.

Another recent addition was left-handed slugger Matt Adams, who signed a Minor League deal on Monday and hit the walk-off homer in Tuesday's 10-9 exhibition win over the Marlins at Truist Park.

Culberson, Chacín and Adams, barring an injury, will both be on Atlanta’s Opening Day roster. Here’s a look at some of the other final decisions:

40-man roster status
The Braves have three open spots after placing right-handed reliever Jacob Webb (right shoulder strain) and left-handed reliever Philip Pfeifer (left elbow contusion) on the 45-day injured list on Tuesday.

Three of those four vacancies account for the fact All-Star reliever Will Smith, first baseman Freddie Freeman and right-handed reliever Touki Toussaint are all currently on the COVID-19 injured list.

Freeman will almost certainly be activated before Opening Day. Though he has remained asymptomatic, Smith still has not produced the negative tests needed to join the team.

As for Toussaint, he didn’t gain clearance to join the team until Friday. But he threw a three-inning simulated game on Tuesday afternoon and still has at least an outside chance of convincing the team he is ready despite being quarantined most of this month.

Assuming Freeman will be removed from the COVID list, the Braves may have up to three available spots on their 40-man roster. That number would drop to two if Toussaint is added.

What is the significance?
With Smith unavailable for an uncertain period of time, Snitker said he will likely begin the season with at least three left-handers in his bullpen.

Former closer A.J. Minter has regained a feel for his cutter and now looks like a near lock to begin the year in the bullpen. The second lefty could be Tucker Davidson, a rising prospect who has impressed with the aggression he showed during scrimmage and intrasquad games.

Like Davidson, Grant Dayton is already on the 40-man roster, but he has not looked as sharp. So unless the Braves want to guard against another team possibly claiming the veteran lefty, who is out of options, Davidson would seemingly be the better choice.

There’s a chance the Braves could opt to carry Davidson and Dayton. But with some room on the 40-man roster, they may opt to carry either Tyler Matzek or Chris Rusin, a pair of non-roster left-handed relievers.

Matzek was once a promising prospect in the Rockies' system and had a promising 2014 rookie season before being undone by the yips in '15. Adding him to the Opening Day roster would be a feel-good story. But he has also been more impressive than Rusin.

Bench pieces
It looks like the Braves’ bench will include Adeiny Hechavarría, Adam Duvall, Yonder Alonso, Culberson and Adams. Third-base candidate Johan Camargo could also factor into that mix. But the Braves are not certain whether Camargo’s recently strained right hamstring will improve enough for him to be ready for Friday’s season opener in New York.

After adding Alonso to their 40-man roster this weekend, the Braves still pursued Adams. The two bring similar qualities as left-handed sluggers who are limited defensively. But this is certainly not the year for any team to ever shy away from collecting as much depth as possible.

While Alonso could be used as a left-handed pinch-hitter, Adams might be used as the designated hitter against right-handed pitchers.

Adams has homered once every 14.9 at-bats against right-handed pitchers since the start of 2017, so this could prove to be a valuable piece. The downside would be Marcell Ozuna would be forced to play defense in a majority of the games. Ozuna could be used as the DH and Duvall could play left field against lefties.

"We signed [Ozuna] to play left field this year,” Snitker said. “If we didn't have the DH, we wouldn't be thinking twice about putting him in the outfield."

Now that the DH is in place, it can be argued you should think twice about using Ozuna as an outfielder. But as Snitker said, many of these current plans could change multiple times, even within this shortened season.

“We’ll see,” Snitker said. “If we start somewhere, it doesn’t mean we’ll end there. We’ll play the games and see how things pan out.”

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