Pitchers and catchers have reported and we find ourselves just over a week away from the start of spring training action. Spring training can be interested and boring to watch all at the same time.
Most of the early games will feature guys who will be in the opening day lineup for an at-bat or two and then pave the way for role-players, Double-A question marks and even some A-ballers who have found themselves on the big league fields.
There are also veterans looking to hang on, a guy or tow coming out of semi-retirement and plenty of wide eyes as the baseball season gets underway.
Most contending teams have their core intact, the Braves are no different. Any additions or subtractions to the roster figure to be on the bench or bullpen level.
Despite all the hype and talk around Jason Heyward it’s looking like the 20-year old will at-least start the year in the minors. The reasons are simple: get him needed at-bats at the highest minor league level, ensure he is healthy and well of course to delay service time. So while it will be curious to see what Heyward can put up this spring anything less then amazing should send him to the minors to start the year.
The Braves dodged the first bullet when Jair Jurrjens MRI came back clear but there will still be an eye of Jurrjens as well as Tim Hudson who is looking to pitch his first full season since 2007. We’ll all be holding a hand over our mouths as Derek Lowe throws his first spring innings while we cheer the sophomore season of Tommy Hanson. And of course Kenshin Kawakami will be looked upon to prove that he is the answer in the fifth spot.
By my count the Braves have 11 position players who are guaranteed to make the team barring injury.
With David Ross sitting behind Brian McCann the Braves are perhaps the deepest in the majors at catcher.
The infield from left to right leads Jones, Escobar, Prado and Glaus. No changes are expected or hoped for.
The outfield figures to be a mix of Melky Cabrera, Nate McLouth and Matt Diaz. Sprinkle in a little Eric Hinske, maybe a bit of Omar Infante for fun and there you go.
That leaves roughly two spots open. One of the spots will go to an infielder with Brooks Conrad (fair or unfairly) having a leg up on the competition at the moment.
The remaining spot may go to a thumper off the bench. And to that we turn to Mitch Jones. Jones comes to camp hoping to crack the bench and spend his first full season in the majors. While he’s shown to be a minor league bopper it’s yet to be proven if he can hit in the majors. But that’s what spring is for huh?
If the Braves hold 13 position players that leaves 7 in the pen. Billy Wagner will pitch the ninth with Takashi Saito and Peter Moylan ahead of him. Eric O’Flaherty will again act as the primary lefty and Kris Medlen figures to be given a spot based on his strong run at the end of the year.
All these numbers leave two spots in the pen of which newcomer Jesse Chavez and Manny Acosta would appear to be the favorites. JoJo Reyes, James Parr, Luis Valdez and even Scott Proctor who is returning from Tommy John surgery will do all they can to wrestle those spots away from them.
The best chance to impress the Braves front office would be at infielder or bullpen.