Braves battle for final spots on the roster is fierce

Daniel young Braves

The Braves have countless position battles working themselves out in Spring Training. The final spot in the rotation is likely down to Ian Anderson and Bryce Elder, despite a strong showing from Kolby Allard. Michael Soroka‘s injury setback will likely have him start in Gwinnett. Some impressive major league arms will be left off the roster because the bullpen is loaded. I’ve got my eye on the bottom of the roster, though.

The battle for the final roster spots is fierce. Because Orlando Arcia can play multiple infield positions, he’ll be guaranteed a place on the bench. That only leaves a couple of openings. Eli White, Sam Hilliard, Kevin Pillar, and Jordan Luplow will compete for only two spots.

Luplow has been dealing with an oblique injury, and his spot is in serious jeopardy. Unfortunately, an injury might keep him off the Opening Day roster, but that’s the reality. Luplow does have options though, so he could begin the season in Gwinnett and work his way back up to Atlanta once he’s healthy. What makes this even more interesting; White, Hilliard, and Pillar have all been performing well in Spring Training.

White has elite speed and defense but always left a lot to be desired offensively. He accrued 1.0 WAR in just 47 games for the Rangers last year despite his unsightly .578 OPS. It seems the Braves coaching staff has tapped into something, though. White is batting .357 in 14 at-bats, including one triple, one home run, and three RBIs.

Hilliard is incredibly athletic and built like an NFL tight end at 6-5, 235 pounds. He can hit for power while providing fantastic defense; however, he has left a lot to be desired in the past. He somehow hit .184 last year while playing half of his games in Coors Field — the most hitter-friendly park in baseball. But much like White, he’s impressing with the stick in Spring Training — .375 in 16 at-bats with three doubles and six RBIs.

I’m more confident in Hilliard keeping up this offensive pace than I am White. All Spring Training results should be taken with a grain of salt. A lot of players look like Barry Bonds in the preseason before flopping once the bright lights come on. With that being said, Hilliard has had the batted ball profile in the past of a player that should be much better offensively. As a lefty, the shift has plagued him. With that no longer in play, we could see a meteoric rise in his offensive play.

Pillar is the most proven commodity out of the bunch, particularly on offense. He played in 124 games for the Mets two seasons ago, mashing 15 homers and posted a respectable .692 OPS. He’s recorded three hits in 12 at-bats so far this Spring, which isn’t too shabby. Pillar signed a minor-league deal, so he’s also candidate to begin the year in Gwinnett and work his way back to Atlanta.

Of the four potential candidates for the final two roster spots in the outfield (assuming the Braves carry six outfielders), Hilliard is the only one that cannot be optioned to the minors, which makes him even more likely to make the roster. The Braves will have a challenging time picking just two of these guys.

Photographer: Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire

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