Sometimes quality isn’t better than quantity. And for the Braves, they’ll be choosing the latter this spring as the team brings in numerous players to help fill out a few positions of need. With starting pitchers Drew Smyly and Charlie Morton, to go along with slugging left fielder Marcell Ozuna as the only newly-added regulars with guaranteed roles from this winter, Atlanta is essentially holding a teamwide tryout to round out their 2021 roster. And judging by some of GM Alex Anthopoulos’ lottery ticket signings this offseason (the most-recent being second baseman Jason Kipnis on Monday) and the shear numbers being invited to Spring Training, at the end of the day, the Braves are prepared to throw a ton of stuff at the wall… with hopes that something will stick.
Although, that’s not to mean that Atlanta’s strategy is sacrificing potential success. Just look at the names featured on the team’s list of non-roster spring invitees:
#Braves Announce 2021 Non-Roster Spring Training Invites: pic.twitter.com/bmP23DDSwG
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) February 15, 2021
With the Braves set to invite 25 non-rostered players to Spring Training (with pitchers and catchers reporting Thursday, followed by the beginning of full workouts next Tuesday), as of right now, only the Mets have invited more players to spring camp, with 30. (Although I believe the Nationals have yet to release its list.)
# of non-roster invitees (NL East)
- Mets — 30
- Braves — 25
- Marlins — 7
- Phillies — 9
- Nationals — 0
Of the 65 players the Braves will open spring camp with, 12 finished the 2020 season ranked within MLB.com’s top 30 prospects list for the team, including three of the top-five. I’m sure you’ve heard of them:
- Drew Waters, OF (MLB.com rank: #2)
- Shea Langliers, C (#4)
- Braden Shewmake, INF (#5)
And that’s not counting the next tier of Braves prospects that’ll be playing in North Port this spring. Some of these guys are longtime prospects in the system, while some aren’t necessarily considered prospects. However, there’s legit interest in every single name:
- Thomas Burrows, LHP
- Jason Creasy, RHP
- Daysbel Hernandez, RHP
- Kurt Hoekstra, RHP
- Connor Johnstone, RHP
- Nolan Kingham, RHP
- Freddy Tarnok, RHP
- Victor Vodnik, RHP
- William Woods, RHP
- Logan Brown, C
- Jonathan Morales, C
- CJ Alexander, 3B
- Bryce Ball, 1B/DH
- Justin Dean, OF
- Michael Harris, OF
- Trey Harris, OF
And if none of those 19 young players combined in the two lists above crack the team this spring, there’s always the group of invited minor league journeyman and major league vets:
- Carl Edwards Jr., RHP
- Nate Jones, RHP
- Ehire Adrianza, INF
- Sean Kazmar, INF
- Jason Kipnis, INF
- Pablo Sandoval, INF
Sure, none of these guys are exactly in the prime of their careers, and you could argue that there’s a lack of major league ready outfield depth across the board, but all-in-all, there is potential for a few to wind up as contributors this coming season.
The aforementioned lack of outfield depth is still a problem. As the roster sits right now, the Braves seem to be putting a ton of trust in their young guys like Cristian Pache and even potentially Drew Waters. And that’s also including Ender Inciarte, who has been essentially useless at the plate over the last couple of seasons.
Ideally, given the usual behavior of teams during spring camp, there will be several options that present themselves as clubs begin making their first rounds of cuts, and I’m sure Anthopoulos is counting on at least a few of them to pan out. There’s also the frequently-talked-about outfielder Yasiel Puig, though I’m not sure how his current lawsuit (stemming from 2018) is impacting interest right now. Until there’s more light shown on his allegations of sexual assault, I’d be shocked if any team reached out to Puig.
For now, Atlanta’s outfield will most likely consist of Ozuna, Pache, and Ronald Acuna Jr. It isn’t a bad group but one that is extremely thin depth-wise (not to mention the enormous question marks on offense for Pache). A lot will need to go perfect for this to work, and in the event of an injury or two, the Braves outfield could turn into a real disaster. But this is all based on Anthopoulos doing absolutely nothing from now until Opening Day… which is extremely doubtful.
Regardless, it’ll be interesting to see what comes of Atlanta’s outfield and what type of additions pop up over the next month or so. I’m sure the team we’re looking at right now won’t be the same team that opens up the 2021 regular season.
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