This will wrap up our series of Spring Training Roster Battles. With pitchers and catchers reporting yesterday and workouts starting today, it is officially baseball season. Clint wrote earlier in the week how the Braves will be relying on quantity rather than quality when it comes to their bench and bullpen. Anthopoulos signed a bunch of names, hoping some of them will stick this spring. Yesterday, Andrew did a fantastic job of breaking down the bullpen competition that will ensue, and today, I will finish things by breaking down Atlanta’s bench options.
Click the links below if you missed any of the previous parts to this series:
If the Braves don’t bring in another catcher, Alex Jackson seems like the most likely candidate to backup Travis d’Arnaud. He’s shown off his unreal pop in AAA, smacking 28 homers in just 85 games for the Stripers in 2019. However, he’s struggled in a small sample size with the Braves, going just 2-20 at the plate over the last two seasons. Jackson’s a true two-result hitter; he either strikes out or drops a bomb, and I don’t expect that to ever change. That’s not the worst thing to have coming off the bench, but he will have to prove that his power can translate in the majors this season.
Contreras’ MLB debut went a lot smoother than Jackson’s, and he is a part of Atlanta’s future at catcher. Depending on where you look, he’s a top-five prospect in the Braves farm system and has the potential to develop into one of the best offensive backstops in the game, just like his brother, Willson. However, Contreras has yet to even log a game in Gwinnett, so it’s difficult to imagine him beginning the season in Atlanta. But if Jackson struggles mightily this spring and Contreras thrives, I wouldn’t totally count it out.
Given that the Braves bench is littered with question marks, Johan Camargo has to be among the favorites to make the Opening Day roster, but he shouldn’t be guaranteed anything. After putting up a 3+ WAR season as the starting third baseman in 2018, Camargo has failed to eclipse a .700 OPS over the last two seasons, resulting in multiple demotions. He has plenty of talent, but the Braves are really counting on him to turn things around in 2021.
Mayfield was acquired by the Braves this offseason after being released by the Astros. He put up some marvelous numbers with their AAA affiliate in 2019, smacking 26 homers and 26 doubles — good for a .916 OPS. However, that success has yet to translate to the majors. The Braves are hoping that changes this season.
Kipnis isn’t the All-Star caliber player he once was with the Indians, but he can still provide the Braves with a quality at-bat off the bench, something they desperately need. He may not be on the 40-man roster, but I expect him to be on the team come Opening Day.
Another veteran option for the Braves, Sandoval struggled in 2020, but he’s just a year removed from posting an .820 OPS with the Giants. If he has a quality spring training, I could see him making the team as well.
Adrianza is never going to provide much with the stick, but his versatility with the glove will give him an opportunity if other options struggle.
Inciarte’s offensive production has fallen off a cliff, and you have to think his confidence has as well. The three-time Gold Glove award winner’s hefty salary makes him a likely candidate to begin the season in Atlanta, but if he continues to struggle, there is no way the Braves can keep giving him opportunities.
Demeritte can play the infield or the outfield. That kind of versatility gives him a great chance at earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Before suffering some lumps with Detroit, Demeritte was a promising young prospect in the Braves system, hitting 20 homers in just 96 games with the Stripers in 2019.
Almonte is an eight-year veteran with an uninspiring track record. He will have to show a lot in spring training to make the team.
Of all the outfielders on this list, Waters is undoubtedly the most talented, but it’s highly unlikely he begins the season in Atlanta. He barely has a month of AAA experience under his belt, and the Braves would be foolish to keep him on the bench in the majors, preventing him from developing in the minors.