Braves opening-day roster: Here’s how it could look as picture becomes clearer



NORTH PORT, Fla. — The dust is, as they say, beginning to settle.

The Braves have made decisions and moves. The opening-day roster is becoming clearer.

Things could change, but we might have a decent idea of how that 26-man roster might look when the Braves stroll into Nationals Park on Thursday.

As of now, here are the 26 players who appear poised to be on the roster.

Starting rotation (four)

Max Fried

Spencer Strider

Charlie Morton

Jared Shuster

Yes, there are four starting pitchers and not five. We will get to that.

Max Fried, Spencer Strider and Charlie Morton were locks. So, too, was Kyle Wright – if he were ready. But Wright will begin the season on the injured list because the Braves want him to get one more start before joining them. They want him to be built up so he isn’t playing catch-up during the season.

Congratulations are in order for Jared Shuster, who has made the opening-day roster as a 24-year-old. The lefty had a terrific spring. He’s expected to debut April 2, the final game against the Nationals in Washington.

Congratulations are also in order for Dylan Dodd, the other 24-year old lefty prospect. He has effectively made the opening-day roster, but you won’t find his name here. Why? Well, Dodd and Shuster are “non-roster” players in camp, meaning the Braves can simply select them to the roster whenever they’re ready. Dodd is expected to start April 4 in St. Louis, so the Braves can add him for that start without carrying him on the opening-day roster.

As of now, it appears the Braves’ first turn through the rotation will go as follows: Fried, Strider, Shuster, Morton, Dodd.

But because there’s no fifth starter on this opening-day roster projection, where would that roster spot go?

It would go to a reliever.

Bullpen (nine)

LHP A.J. Minter

RHP Joe Jiménez

RHP Collin McHugh

LHP Lucas Luetge

RHP Kirby Yates

LHP Dylan Lee

RHP Jesse Chavez

RHP Nick Anderson

RHP Michael Tonkin

You see nine names here. This accounts for an extra reliever.

Along with Wright, Raisel Iglesias will also open the season on the injured list due to right shoulder inflammation. That opens two spots.

The Braves had optioned Nick Anderson, but manager Brian Snitker on Sunday said the Braves will carry Anderson on the opening-day roster. The manager also said the Braves will put Michael Tonkin, who is out of minor-league options, on the roster. The injured-list placements for Wright and Iglesias allowed the Braves to avoid having to make a decision on Anderson (the better reliever) and Tonkin (the one they would possibly lose if he didn’t make the team because he’s out of options).

A.J. Minter could see most of the save opportunities. Joe Jiménez, if healthy, was a lock. So, too, were Collin McHugh, Lucas Luetge, Kirby Yates and Dylan Lee.

When the Braves optioned Anderson, they effectively chose Chavez over him. Now there’s room for everyone.

Something to keep in mind: If the Braves want to recall anyone – relievers or otherwise – they have a few moves in their pocket. Tyler Matzek (Tommy John rehab), Huascar Ynoa (Tommy John rehab) and Kolby Allard (Grade 2 oblique strain) will all start the season on the injured list, and the Braves could theoretically put one or more on the opening-day roster before placing them on the injured list and recalling someone from the minors. (This way, the player who is recalled wouldn’t need to meet the minimum number of days in the minors for players who are optioned.)

Infield (seven, including the two catchers)

1B Matt Olson

2B Ozzie Albies

3B Austin Riley

SS Orlando Arcia

C Sean Murphy

C Travis d’Arnaud

Utility infielder Ehire Adrianza

Last week, the Braves surprisingly optioned Vaughn Grissom and Braden Shewmake, clearing the way for Orlando Arcia to start and Ehire Adrianza to be the utility infielder.

Anything could change, but the Braves shouldn’t have any switches here.

We knew Matt Olson, Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley were locks. Sean Murphy and Travis d’Arnaud are in the same spot. The Braves’ recent moves meant Arcia and Adrianza would make the team.

Outfield (six)

RF Ronald Acuña Jr.

CF Michael Harris II

LF Eddie Rosario

DH Marcell Ozuna

Backup OF Kevin Pillar

Backup OF Sam Hilliard

Ronald Acuña Jr., Michael Harris and Eddie Rosario were locks. In early March, Snitker said definitively that Marcell Ozuna would make the team, so it seemed like he was also destined to grab a roster spot.

The outfield depth was a fun storyline this spring.

The Braves brought in Jordan Luplow, Kevin Pillar, Sam Hilliard and Eli White to compete for roster spots. This battle cleared up a bit when the Braves optioned Luplow and White as part of a flurry of moves. It seemed headed that direction, for a couple reasons.

First: If the Braves didn’t put Pillar on the opening-day roster, he could’ve asked for his release and signed elsewhere.

Second: Hilliard is out of minor-league options, which is an advantage. Plus, he has played really well this spring.

White had a great spring in big-league camp but has options remaining. Luplow also has an option remaining and can benefit from regular at-bats in the minors after reporting to camp with an oblique strain that put him behind.