The last member of the Atlanta Braves for Opening Day is almost certainly not on the 40-man roster at this point.
Atlanta Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos has suggested that he’s pretty much finished his tinkering with the 2022 roster (take that for what it’s worth), but he still has some concerns about depth.
Of what depth does he speak, then? Pitching is always a concern, though after stout bullpen acquisitions, that’s certainly not the most pressing issue. The starting rotation, while stacked 3-deep at the top, still has 5-6 viable candidates to rotate through while the Braves conduct in-season auditions.
The outfield? Not a concern, though the off-season priority of a “true centerfielder” went unanswered. The names Acuna, Duvall, Rosario, Ozuna, Dickerson, and Heredia provides a 6-deep corp that can handle most all needs.
At catcher, the Braves have d’Arnaud and Pina as the heavy-lifters, with Contreras and Tromp ably standing by at Gwinnett. No problem there. So then it must be…
The infield. After starters Olson, Albies, Swanson, and Riley, there is but a single name on the 40-man roster who plays an infield position: Orlando Arcia. Barring injury, Arcia is a lock to make the team again.
So as you watch Spring games for the remaining week of the Grapefruit League season, book this: one more player that’s not currently on the 40-man roster will make the squad and become an Atlanta Brave for the April 7 opener.
Each one is getting vetted right now with plate appearances and game time (though admittedly, one is lagging). Frankly, though, none will necessarily be chosen for their skills at the plate… but it wouldn’t hurt.
So while they’re still here, let’s get to know each one:
He will turn 34 years old in mid-June. He carries a lefty bat and has 8+ years of major league service time, most notably with the Boston Red Sox.
For his career, he’s hit .262 and never played more than 129 games in a season (averages about 75).
Holt is a light hitter (get used to that statement) with 25 lifetime homers and a .694 OPS (88 OPS+). He has 41 stolen bases, but his hitting average has dipped below .212 since posting a robust .297 in 2019.
He is listed as a second baseman, third baseman, and outfielder. That meshes with the Braves’ need since Arcia can backup Swanson at short.
Goose also got older since we last saw him: he is now 33-1/2 as well. He has managed 5-1/2 years of ML service time split amongst 7 teams — the Braves being the first.
Gosselin’s career average is now .261. He has 17 career homers and a .675 OPS (82 OPS+). He’s been in 463 games… roughly 51 per season with a peak of 122 with Arizona in 2016.
He and Holt are eerily similar players, Holt’s greater experience notwithstanding. Gosselin plays second and third bases are well.
The most different of this trio is Valaika. He’s 29-1/2 years old and does not have third base listed on his resume… but both middle-infield positions do appear there. Of note, though: the Braves brought him in to replace Riley in yesterday’s game.
Valaika has accumulated 4 and a third years of service time with the Rockies and Orioles. He’s been in 373 games over 6 seasons. His peak season for appearances was 2017 (110 games) while averaging 62.
In this group of light hitters, Valaika is the lightest… kinda. He’s hit for a .221 career average, but busted 30 homers. 13 of those came during that 2017 season and 9 of those were belted at Coors Field.
Overall, his OPS averages .642 with an OPS+ damped to 64… again, thanks to Coors Field’s influence.
He did have a “career year” in 2020 with 111 OPS+ and a .277 average with the Orioles, but it’s hard to take that seriously despite the fact that he played in 52 of the birds’ 60 games.
- Valaika: .200/.733 OPS (one double in 5 AB). “Opponent Quality” 6.3.
- Holt: .400/1.571 OPS (2 hits, 1 HR in 6 AB with a walk). “Opponent Quality” 6.3.
- Gosselin: .000/.000 OPS in a AB. “Opponent Quality” 3.7.
A lot can be gleaned about how a player is used during Spring. This suggests that the battle is really between Holt and Valaika… and Holt has the early batting lead, adding to his lead in overall experience.
THURSDAY 3/31 UPDATE: OR MAYBE NOT…
Gosselin might be retained (if he wants to be) for AAA duties and emergency backup purposes.
There’s still some time, but barring a late-Spring waiver pickup (which can never be ruled out), one of these three is likely to be a member of the 28-man crew going North from North Port after the games a week from now.
That means someone will have to be booted from the 40-man list to make room for this newly-minted Brave… but that decision can wait for another week.