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Young infielders to suit up for first spring game

Swanson, Albies and Camargo set to start in infield; Wisler gets call on mound
MLB.com @mlbbowman

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Braves will get a look at their young infielders when Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies and Johan Camargo start Friday afternoon's Grapefruit League season opener (1:05 ET, live on MLB.TV) against the Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

While many of Atlanta's veteran position players will not play during this first weekend of games, Swanson, Albies and Camargo will get an early opportunity to begin accelerating their preparations for what will be an important season for each of them.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Braves will get a look at their young infielders when Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies and Johan Camargo start Friday afternoon's Grapefruit League season opener (1:05 ET, live on MLB.TV) against the Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

While many of Atlanta's veteran position players will not play during this first weekend of games, Swanson, Albies and Camargo will get an early opportunity to begin accelerating their preparations for what will be an important season for each of them.

Braves Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule

"This is an important camp for all of our young guys because they don't have a track record or a history or a baseball card that would allow them to come here to just get in shape," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "They're here to perform. They need to go about it like that."

As Camargo bids to open the regular season as Atlanta's third baseman and Albies prepares to cement the role he was given in August, when he became the Braves' primary second baseman, they are both in somewhat of a honeymoon phase. They both tasted initial success and now will attempt to avoid the sophomore slump that altered Swanson's stock value.

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After hitting to an .803 OPS while experiencing the first six weeks of his Major League career at the end of the 2016 season, Swanson produced a .626 OPS and committed 20 errors last year. The Braves are hoping he still stands as their shortstop of the future, but there certainly aren't any guarantees for the former No. 1 overall Draft pick as he enters what will be his fourth full professional season and third season as a big leaguer.

"We've talked to them all and we have an idea of what we want to do, but that can change too," Snitker said. "I think it's important for these guys to take this camp [seriously] and be very competitive and try to be as productive as they can."

Camargo supplanted Swanson as Atlanta's shortstop after last year's All-Star break and could once again be utilized in that role if necessary. The other internal third-base options are Rio Ruiz and Charlie Culberson, who currently projects to open the season as the team's versatile backup infielder.

Video: Swanson on learning from 2017, 2018 expectations

Bullpen competition set to start
Snitker said he likely won't have any of his pitchers throw more than one inning in any of the three games scheduled for this weekend. Matt Wisler is scheduled to start Friday's game. Sean Newcomb will be given the first inning in Saturday's road game against the Astros and Scott Kazmir will start Sunday's game against the Nationals in West Palm Beach, Fla.

After Wisler exits Friday's game, the Braves will utilize a bevy of relievers, including long-relief candidate Chase Whitley, Sam Freeman and Rex Brothers. Freeman is a favorite to open the season within Atlanta's bullpen, and Whitley and Brothers are also among the top candidates for the final two or three spots available within the 'pen.

A.J. Minter and Freeman provide the Braves a pair of lefties who are already within Atlanta's projected bullpen mix. But given they both are viewed as full-inning relievers, there still may be a desire to add a lefty specialist. That role could possibly be handled by Brothers, who limited left-handed hitters to a .216 batting average and a .293 on-base percentage this past season.

It still seems like the Braves will utilize an eight-man bullpen. The recently-signed Peter Moylan essentially stands as a right-handed specialist. Snitker will have to determine whether he wants to also carry a lefty specialist or simply rely on Freeman or Minter to get a big out against Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy of the Nationals, or any other left-handed slugger the Braves will see on a regular basis.

Early focus on the prospects
Alex Jackson (The Braves' No. 15 prospect according to MLB Pipeline) has impressed the Braves coaches with the tremendous power he has shown during batting practice. The former first-round selection who was converted from an outfielder to a catcher last year will serve as the designated hitter on Friday and likely start Saturday's game behind the plate. His defensive success and maturation as a catcher will significantly influence how fast he might progress toward the Majors.

Austin Riley (MLB Pipeline's 97th-best overall prospect and ninth-best prospect within Atlanta's system) will play third base during the latter half of Friday's game and serve as the designated hitter on Saturday. He'll likely serve as the starting third baseman during Sunday's game against the Nationals.

Top prospect Ronald Acuna (MLB Pipeline's 2nd-best overall prospect) is not on Friday's travel list and Snitker has not said when the highly-touted outfielder will make his debut. But there is no doubt Acuna will get plenty of playing time over the course of the Grapefruit League season.

Video: Chipper and Snitker on the Braves' future

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

Atlanta Braves, Ozzie Albies, Johan Camargo, Dansby Swanson