The Atlanta Braves’ next round of cuts may include some tough decisions if, as I expect, the club carries 14 pitchers. Questions about bench bats involve not only positions, they’ll also have to factor in handedness, and alternatives.
Who backs up Austin Riley?
It’s clear the third base job is Austin Riley’s to lose. Johan Camargo homered today, but it came off a middle-middle fastball from a pitcher that only wanted to get a pitch over the plate. Camargo crushed it but his other at-bats were weak.
Since 2018, he’s become a mistake hitter who struggles to hit his weight. We saw a lot of headlines about his homers in winter ball, but he posted a .212 average and .542 OPS in the Dominican Winter League and followed that with a .136 average and .481 OPS in the Caribbean Series. He’s currently hitting .200 in Spring Training.
Jake Lamb has a history of producing power from the third base position and batted .267/.327/.556/.882 for Oakland last September. This Spring his bat is limper than Camargo’s.
Sean Kazmar has better numbers than both and plays third-base well. I doubt he’s being considered, but there’s little to choose between them today. The struggles of these players make the Maikel Franco rumors more realistic.
Franco hit well for the Royals last year and seems a reasonable fallback plan, but he’ll want a Major League deal.
Ender Inciarte’s thumb injury means the fourth outfield spot is open to start the season. Of the three outfielders on the 40-man roster Ervin has the hottest bat against the best competition.
Ervin went 1-2 with a walk raising his average to .357. Abraham Almonte and Guillermo Heredia are both natural center fielders, but Ervin’s bat may be more important since Ronald Acuna can slide over and play center.
Alternatively, the Atlanta Braves could slide Riley into the outfield and play their backup third-baseman, but what if Riley isn’t hitting?
The bullpen looks set and it won’t include Sean Newcomb, at least not to start the year, unless something changes. The pen is already lefty-heavy with Minter, Will Smith, Tyler Matzek, and Grant Dayton, so there seems little need for Newcomb.
Chris Martin, Luke Jackson, Jacob Webb, and Josh Tomlin fill out the pen from the right side. All roles seem filled and backed up right now.
That’s a wrap
Other teams are making cuts as well, so the Atlanta Braves may find answers for the questions they face among those players.
Jason Kipnis and Pablo Sandoval had hits today as well, but there’s no room at the inn for them either, at least today.
Confused? You won’t be after this episode of Soap.