Braves: Alex Anthopoulos on what will decide final roster spots

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Brian Snitker is the luckiest manager on the planet. He’s arrived at Braves Spring Training, and there’s really not too much to think about over the next six weeks when it comes to roster decisions.

The entire starting lineup is set in stone, as Alex Anthopoulos revealed yesterday that the plan going into the season is for Jarred Kelenic to receive everyday at-bats. The rotation does present competition for the final spot, but it also comes with a plethora of enticing candidates. Snitker really couldn’t go wrong with Bryce Elder, Reynaldo Lopez, AJ Smith-Shawver, or even Hurston Waldrep. It’s an embarrassment of riches in Atlanta, and the same can be said for the bullpen. The Braves relief core features 10-12 guys that would be on major-league rosters across the league on Opening Day.

The bench is a little less clear, and Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos discussed what could decide those final roster spots at his first press conference of Spring Training.

“It’s not just necessarily going to be who are the best players, it’s who’s the best fit,” Anthopoulos said, via David O’Brien of The Athletic. “The same way that (infielders Vaughn) Grissom and (Braden) Shewmake weren’t going to be up here to sit on the bench last year, they needed to play. So those last two spots, knowing that we’re likely not going to have playing time, I think they’re going to be really specific, defined roles. That’s where I think speed will be certainly one of the two.

“And look, if there’s somebody going on the IL and we think there’s at-bats, then that that’ll certainly change things.”

Anthopoulos brings up a good point, and it’s why the Braves probably have a tough time acquiring top-of-the-line bench players in free agency. Brian Snitker plays his guys every day. That’s never going to change, and with the designated hitter now in place, the role of a pinch hitter has basically become obsolete. The bench players in Atlanta will almost never see the field, which isn’t an attractive sales pitch to prospective free agents.

Specifically speaking, the Braves could probably use a fourth outfielder in case the Jarred Kelenic experiment goes south. However, with Anthopoulos naming Kelenic the everyday starter in left field, why would a worthwhile platoon option like Adam Duvall, or even Kevin Pillar, be interested? They aren’t, but as the season inches closer, more options will become available. Eventually, I still expect the Braves to add another outfielder to their roster before Opening Day.

Photo: John Cordes/Icon Sportswire

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