As Braves enter final spring stretch, roster decisions draw closer

The Braves are entering the final stretch of spring training. They’ll have eight exhibition contests remaining after Monday. And that means time is precious for those competing for roster spots.

“We’re still making decisions,” manager Brian Snitker said. “The games, the innings, the at-bats — it’s a continuous evaluation process.”

Most of the roster is set — that’s the case when you’re a contender — but there are multiple openings on the bench and in the bullpen, along with one temporary rotation vacancy (that’s expected to be filled by Kyle Wright or Bryse Wilson).

The Braves’ depth will be an ongoing storyline throughout the season. The team isn’t comfortable with the situation, as general manager Alex Anthopoulos recently explained to The AJC, and will continue exploring options. That said, there have been a handful of intriguing veterans in camp.

Johan Camargo, who made his first start at second base Monday, is expected to make the team as a utilityman. Ender Inciarte will be the fourth outfielder (the Braves haven’t yet declared Cristian Pache their starting center fielder, though that’s the likely outcome). Alex Jackson or William Contreras will back up Travis d’Arnaud at catcher.

Jake Lamb has had a quiet spring, but he could still make the team as a corner infielder with theoretical power. Jason Kipnis, Pablo Sandoval and Ehire Adrianza are among other accomplished players vying for roles.

Atlanta Braves' Ehire Adrianza follows through on a two-run base hit in the fifth inning of a spring training game against the Boston Red Sox, Saturday, March 20, 2021, at CoolToday Park in North Port, Fla. (John Bazemore/AP)

Credit: John Bazemore

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Credit: John Bazemore

“We know the histories of guys who’ve had time in the league, but we’re going to evaluate what we’re seeing as opposed to the past history,” Snitker said.

That’s great news for Adrianza, who’s been the team’s most productive player in the past month. The non-roster invitee entered Monday hitting .455 after doubling twice Sunday. The infielder doesn’t have a history of offensive success, but his exhibition outburst has quite possibly earned him a spot. His defensive versatility is also a plus.

The next week will be all-important for each of these players. A strong final push could be what determines their fate.

“We don’t have a history with some of these guys, so that could do a lot,” Snitker said. “We’re going to make evaluations up until the last day, and if you’re doing good at that time, it’s only human that we have strong feelings in those evaluations at that point if they’re doing good.”

Snitker mentioned the bullpen decisions also will be difficult. The Braves, who lost three key relievers over the winter, have plenty of options there, too. Luke Jackson, Grant Dayton, Nate Jones, Carl Edwards, Touki Toussaint, Sean Newcomb and Huascar Ynoa are among those in the mix for the three open spots.

For a player like Ynoa or Toussaint, their remaining options are a factor. They’ll eventually find themselves in the majors, but MLB roster science will work against some of them making the initial cut.

“The bullpen is always a tough one,” Snitker said. “You’re trying to keep depth. Options are huge this time of year. Somebody might not make the team because he has an option. I tell players until you’re out of options, you have no control. You’re going to look at the depth of your club, and options play a part in it. The bench, that changes every year like the bullpen. Those are the two areas that are the most changing. The rotation, there’s still a spot there. We’re going to break with one rotation, that thing is going to be fluid throughout. You’re going to need multiple pieces to fill that. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t go north (make the team) because you’re going to be up there at some point in time. We’re going to need that depth.”