While nothing is official yet, word around baseball is that when things resume, MLB rosters will expand to 30 players, and there will be a universal DH. That leaves teams with some adjustments to make, particularly in the National League. While the Braves are in fantastic shape compared to most of the NL teams, they still need to fill out the roster. I expect that there will be 1-2 position players added, and 2-3 pitchers. Let’s take a look at some guys who were not projected to make the everyday roster but now have an opportunity to spend 2020 with the big league club.
Hernandez was on track to make the Braves’ rotation out of camp, but by the time the season begins, Cole Hamels should be healthy. I think King Felix ends up on the Braves’ roster, but his role will be dictated by how the season is formatted. Assuming fewer off-days or an abundance of double-headers, teams may ultimately roll with a six-man rotation. Even if this is not the case, I could see the Braves using him in a long-relief role to have an additional major-league caliber starter on the roster in case of injury.
A few of these names were sent down to the minors, but it is not certain who would have made the final cut. Any fringe player now has a chance. I fully expect the Braves to carry an additional reliever or two and turn AAA Gwinnett into a turnstile to keep the back-end arms fresh. Here’s a breakdown of those players who should be in the mix.
Tomlin had a great chance at a roster spot despite being a non-roster invite. The grind of a shortened season increases those odds as he was the team’s primary long-reliever last season.
Grant Dayton/Phillip Pfeifer
Dayton is coming off an injury and struggled in Spring Training, but the Braves have a limited number of left-handed relievers. Pfeifer was far more impressive in Spring Training, but considering he was sent down before the season was suspended, Dayton seems to have the edge. It is always possible the team carries two southpaws outside of Will Smith, however.
Webb was terrific last season, but he was surprisingly optioned during Spring Training as he recovers from injury. He is the most talented arm who did not make the cut, and this should increase his chances of re-establishing a role out of the gate in 2020.
Technically, Walker was never optioned, so he had a good shot of earning a bullpen spot outright, and rightfully so. With an expanded roster, I expect him to be in the mix throughout the season, as he should be capable of long relief if needed.
Weigel was very impressive during Spring Training, and if not for Tommy John Surgery a couple of seasons ago, he would likely have been contributing to Atlanta’s ‘pen for a while now. If a couple of bullpen spots open up, he has a high chance of earning one based on his body of work.
The Braves have reiterated they want to keep Wright down in AAA until they feel he is ready to receive the call up with the expectation he will never be sent back down. He has some work to do after a down 2019, but he turned things around late in the season, and that translated to 2020 Spring Training 1.0.
Travis d’Arnaud has an injury history, and a condensed schedule could force Atlanta’s hand to carry a third catcher. Though Jackson’s performance in the bigs leaves a lot to be desired, he is the best option in the organization to fill the role.
It was revealed that Austin Riley earned a spot out of camp, which would have left Charlie Culberson, a non-roster invitee, as the odd man out. However, he seems like the most likely candidate to be carried as an additional bench bat now, especially considering his versatility.
Alonso was pretty bad in 2019 but offered some pop two seasons ago. He could be carried as an additional bat who could serve as a DH.