We still have no idea what is going to happen this season with the MLB other than that players will receive service time if no games are played, which means right now there is at least a chance we never see Cole Hamels or Marcell Ozuna play a game in a Braves uniform. Hopefully, baseball will resume, but it will undoubtedly take some creativity from MLB to maximize what is left to salvage the season. According to Bob Nightengale, teams are expected to be able to carry 29 players instead of 26 (which was the new number of players on an active roster for the 2020 season) for the first month of the season if it resumes:
When #MLB is able to start their season, teams are expected to expand their rosters from 26 players to 29 players the first month they begin playing games.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) March 27, 2020
This suggests that we could be seeing a ton of doubleheaders, and it also allows players to battle things out for some roster spots as the tail end of Spring Training was cut short. So what does this mean for the Braves’ Opening Day roster if there are more spots available? Who makes the cut? What does a busier schedule entail as far as personnel goes?
The starting rotation
Mike Soroka will still get the nod as the Opening Day starter, whenever that date may be, after his incredible rookie performance. If there is any sort of silver lining in this delayed season, it is that the Braves should have Cole Hamels fully healthy and available when it does begin. Max Fried and Mike Foltynewicz’s statuses have not changed whatsoever, and they will be in the rotation. Hopefully, Sean Newcomb is actively throwing, and this extra time before the season begins allows him to be fully stretched out for a full starter’s workload. One man who we thought was the odd man out was Felix Herandez with the assumed return of Hamels by the time the season begins, but now with the extra roster spots and likely doubleheaders, the Braves could use his services. I am operating under the assumption that every team may come out of the gate with a six-man rotation.
With fewer off days and more doubleheaders, the Braves should also add at least one extra bullpen arm. While it seemed Kyle Wright was either going to beat out Felix Hernandez for a rotation spot or assume the same role in AAA, circumstances have now changed. The Braves may need a starter out of the bullpen for any sort of long relief, even with me assuming Josh Tomlin will be on the roster. I think Patrick Weigel, who has already been sent down to AAA, deserves to make the cut, but at the end of the day, this sort of compacted season will demand the Braves carry two lefties and some long relief options. Thus, Grant Dayton lands the last spot as a southpaw.
Not much changed here, other than that we may see Flowers a bit more to give d’Arnaud some additional rest. d’Arnaud’s injury history and the possibility of playing more games than usual over a span of time means the Braves will likely play things safe.
1B: Freddie Freeman
2B: Ozzie Albies
3B: Johan Camargo/Austin Riley
SS: Dansby Swanson
Res: Adeiny Hechavarria
Though it was clear it would be one or the other in the big leagues between Johan Camargo and Austin Riley; the situation has changed. If, in fact, the Braves are playing a ton of doubleheaders in the season’s first month, this should allow consistent at-bats for both players, especially since both Riley and Camargo have shown positional versatility. Thus, Austin Riley is the Braves’ extra bat off the bench and plays a significant role out of the gate in what should be considered an extended competition between the two. The rest of the starters are set in stone, and given Hechavarria signed a big-league deal, he is a lock as a defensive stalwart off the bench.
LF: Marcell Ozuna
CF: Ender Inciarte
RF: Ronald Acuna Jr.
Res: Adam Duvall
Res: Nick Markakis
Res: Charlie Culberson
The Braves’ outfield plans don’t change whatsoever with the delay in the start of the season. However, we could see a bit more of Adam Duvall and Nick Markakis to give the starters some rest. The promising news is that the two make a terrific platoon tandem if this proves to be the case.