Braves: Predicting the 2026 Opening Day roster

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Ah, we’ve finally made it. This piece marks the final one where I attempt to predict the Braves Opening Day roster for the next five seasons. If you missed any of the previous parts of this series, please follow the links below.

Starting Lineup

  1. Ronald Acuña Jr. (RF)
  2. Michael Harris (LF)
  3. Freddie Freeman (1B)
  4. Austin Riley (3B)
  5. Ozzie Albies (2B)
  6. Shea Langeliers (C)
  7. Jesse Franklin (DH)
  8. Dansby Swanson (SS)
  9. Cristian Pache (CF)

Personnel-wise, the lineup is the exact same. I bumped Jesse Franklin up in the order because I believe he has a real chance of being a middle-of-the-order bat. If things shape up as I have been predicting throughout this series — Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson re-sign long-term — all the focus will be around Austin Riley, who will become an unrestricted free agent in 2026. My hope is that the Braves lock him up to an extension well before that happens, but I can’t blame any player as talented as Riley for wanting to wait it out and test the waters of free agency.

Rotation

  1. Max Fried
  2. Ian Anderson
  3. Ryan Cusick
  4. Bryce Elder
  5. Spencer Schwellenbach

For the most part, this group is the same. I have the Braves keeping Fried in Atlanta long-term. Ian Anderson will be entering his final year of arbitration in 2026. Cusick and Elder are both prospects that could be staples in the Braves rotation for years to come. The only change to the rotation was Kyle Wright. He is set to become a free agent at the end of the 2025 season. By that time, I believe Wright will be a highly valued commodity, and given how much money the Braves will have tied up in their lineup, they won’t be able to pay him. Many different names could potentially replace him in 2026; some of them probably aren’t even in the organization yet. But I went with Spencer Schwellenbach. He was the Braves’ second-round pick from 2021, and after undergoing Tommy John surgery, it will be a while before we see him in the majors, but he has a ton of projectability as a starting pitcher.

Bullpen

  1. AJ Minter
  2. Spencer Strider
  3. Huascar Ynoa
  4. Kyle Muller
  5. Indigo Diaz
  6. Jared Shuster
  7. AJ Smith-Shawver
  8. Jared Johnson

Most of the bullpen remains the same, and it’s because this is a potential group that I’m very excited about. Minter, Strider, Ynoa, and Muller could shut down the later innings for years to come. I also have high hopes for Indigo Diaz, who is a player that has dominated during his minor-league career. Shuster was the Braves 2020 first-round pick, but I’m not sure he ever cracks the majors as a starter. The last two spots were handed to Smith-Shawver and Jared Johnson. Both are new to the system, but they have high-powered arms that could be touching triple digits as they develop through the system.

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