Braves Spring Training Predictions: Final Roster Spots

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This continues my series of Spring Training predictions for the Braves; if you missed any of the previous editions of this series, follow the links below.

Braves Final Roster Spots

The final edition of this series focuses on the bench, an area with some concerns for the Braves. The star power on this team is evident, but the depth leaves a lot to be desired. However, the Braves have proven in the past that they can take lesser-known players and turn them into productive pieces because of their outstanding player development. They’ll need that to happen again this year if they want to reach their ultimate goals.

I have Marcell Ozuna earning an Opening Day roster spot, even if I don’t think it will just be handed to him. That leaves two open roster spots, with six potential candidates to fill them — Sam Hilliard, Jordan Luplow, Kevin Pillar, Eli White, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Ehire Adrianza.

Because left field is the biggest question mark on the roster, the outfielders have an edge in this race. I also think the Braves will be favoring offense, and Orlando Arcia is the perfect backup utility infielder, so that eliminates Adeiny Hechavarria and Ehire Adrianza. I see those two as long shots to make the Opening Day roster.

That leaves us with four outfielders, and I could see any two of them making the roster. Sam Hilliard is the player that intrigues me the most. He’s incredibly athletic and has the batted ball profile of a player that could potentially hit 25+ homers. At 6-5, 235 pounds, Hilliard is built like a tight end and runs like one as well. In the past, the shift has plagued him, as it has many left-handed hitters over the years. But with the shift ban in place, Hilliard should be able to focus on what he does best — pulling the ball with power. If that’s the case, not only will he be on the roster, but he could also challenge Marcell Ozuna and Eddie Rosario for starts.

Eli White hasn’t brought much to the table offensively over his career, but defensively, he’s a stud, which is why he accrued 1.0 WAR in just 47 games for the Rangers last year despite his paltry .578 OPS. He very easily could fill the role of Guillermo Heredia, and perhaps the Braves might even tap into some of his offensive ability.

However, the other two options are also above-average defensively and have a better track record with the stick. Kevin Pillar played in 124 games for the Mets two seasons ago, smacking 15 homers and recording a respectable .692 OPS. That’s not a bad guy to have coming off the bench, but my final roster spot is going to Jordan Luplow.

Luplow is never going to hit for average, but he takes his walks, has some pop, and crushes left-handed pitching, owning a career .841 OPS against southpaws. I think there’s a high probability that he finds himself in the lineup when a left-handed starter is on the mound, which is why he’s a favorite to earn one of the final roster spots up for grabs in Spring Training.

Photographer: Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire

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