Deeper Braves lineup? Snitker dreaming of it

Manager excited for forthcoming additions of Flowers, Bautista, Acuna

April 23rd, 2018

CINCINNATI -- Asked about the enhanced depth he may soon have at his disposal, Braves manager Brian Snitker admitted he spent some time Monday afternoon mapping out how his lineup and bench might look once , Tyler Flowers and Ronald Acuna Jr. are added to Atlanta's roster.
"I've been toying with it, because it's things you have to prepare for, the inevitability of getting new players," Snitker said. "You've got to make moves. A lot of times, things take care of themselves. But if you don't have a plan, then you'll get bit. So you have to prepare, just in case."
As Bautista, Flowers and Acuna prepared for Triple-A Gwinnett's Monday doubleheader in Rochester, none of them had a definitive arrival date. But there's at least a chance all three could join Atlanta's lineup by the end of this week, or at least by the time this current road trip concludes on May 3.
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"It's encouraging -- and it's kind of exciting -- that we could potentially add three really good players," Snitker said. "Any time you add depth or good players to your team, it's exciting. The guys we have here are exciting. We have guys who are getting opportunities and doing a lot with them."
Bautista is less than a week removed from signing his Minor League deal. But the six-time All-Star and two-time American League Hank Aaron Award winner has impressed enough with his physical condition and skills to give reason to think he might replace as Atlanta's third baseman by the time the Braves play Friday's series opener in Philadelphia.

"From what I've heard, he's close," Snitker said. "He needs to see some better pitching now in his eyes. That's why he's going to Triple-A."
Acuna recorded three hits for Gwinnett on Sunday and entered Monday having hit .333 (8-for-24) with a homer and six strikeouts over his past five games. The sample size is small, but the top prospect is trending in the right direction and showing signs he might be nearing a torrid stretch that will show the Braves what they need to see before promoting him.

Following the first game of Monday's doubleheader, Flowers is also slated to serve as Gwinnett's starting catcher on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. The veteran catcher has been sidelined since straining his left oblique muscle during the second inning on Opening Day. These games this week will give him a sense of whether he could be ready to be activated as early as this weekend's series in Philadelphia.
Once Flowers returns, he'll likely replace , who has spent the past couple of weeks serving as the Braves' backup catcher.
The additions of Bautista and Acuna will most likely affect backup infielder Charlie Culberson and backup outfielder , both of whom are out of options. There is a chance the Braves could lose Culberson or Bourjos if they are indeed eventually placed on the waiver wire. The same goes for , who was designated for assignment last week.
Once the Braves add Bautista, Flowers and Acuna, their bench will likely consist of Flaherty, who entered Monday leading the National League with a .362 batting average; Tucker, who ranks among the NL's RBI leaders; and . Because Flowers and Suzuki will share the catching duties, either could be considered the backup.
"It's a good thing to have that depth," Snitker said. "It just takes so many players to get through a season. The depth is really important. It's something we haven't had for a while."
Soroka stars
Mike Soroka is likely at least six weeks away from being added to Atlanta's rotation. But the highly touted right-hander proved that he's close to being Major League-ready as he pitched a three-hit, seven-inning shutout during the 1-0 win Gwinnett notched in the first game of Monday's doubleheader.
Soroka has posted a 1.99 ERA and limited opponents to a .207 batting average through his first four starts for Gwinnett. The 20 year old ranks 31st on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list. The general consensus entering the season was that as long as Soroka continued to impress, he might join Atlanta's rotation at some point in June.
Acuna provided a glimpse of how exciting he can be after he delivered an opposite-field single in the first inning. The 20-year-old outfielder stole second and third base before scoring on Flowers' groundout.