Next Tuesday ends the Grapefruit League schedule for the Atlanta Braves, but some difficult calls will need to be made by then.
Pitching depth. Infield depth. Those are the portions of the Atlanta Braves roster that need to be dealt with as we come to the end of Spring Training.
Surprises often happen during this last week… and indeed can happen all the way up through April 6th.
Let’s look at some of the recent history of last-week-before-opening-day transactions on that subject:
- 2016: Emilio Bonifacio was DFA’d. Michael Bourn was DFA’d. Both were eventually released. Drew Stubbs made the club.
- 2017: Anthony Recker and Eric O’Flaherty made the team. So did Emilio Bonifacio.
- 2018: Anibal Sanchez, Carlos Perez, and Luke Jackson (briefly) made the team. Akeel Morris was traded to the Angels. Chris Stewart and Miguel Socolovich were DFA’d.
- 2019: Josh Tomlin made the team (having been signed just over a week prior). The Giants and Braves hooked up on a cash trade to bring Matt Joyce to Atlanta… who then made the team.
- 2020: Charlie Culberson, Touki Toussaint, AJ Minter, Matt Adams, Alex Jackson and Tyler Matzek made the team. The Reds traded Scott Schebler to Atlanta just after Opening Day, dumping Yonder Alonso.
- 2021: Phillip Ervin was DFA’d. Jake Lamb was released. Jason Kipnis, Carl Edwards Jr., and Jeff Mathis were signed (Kipnis was released 2 days before; Edwards 6 days prior). Pablo Sandoval, Ehire Adrianza and Nate Jones made the team.
Some of these… more significant than others (and there were dozens more transactions not highlighted on this list), but it underscores just how busy a time it is while last-minute roster moves are happening.
2022 Moves to Come?
If you’d like some better depth about our thoughts on this subject, then check out this week’s upcoming podcast (likely to be posted Saturday afternoon), but here’s our collective thinking as of this moment:
- Barring a late trade, Phil Gosselin and Darren O’Day will make the 28-man O.D. roster.
- Neither is currently on the 40-man roster, which is currently full… requiring 2 names to be dropped to accommodate them.
- It is our belief that a few players now on the 40-man list are being shopped around to see if there’s any interest around the league for their services. This can be a difficult task at this time of year since most organizations also have roster-crunch issues.
- In the absence of any such deal, we expect that Sean Newcomb and Travis Demeritte are the odds-on favorites to be DFA’d and/or released by the organization.
Both of these players are former 1st round draft picks (1th and 30th, respectively), and you hate to put such talents at risk of being lost to the organization through waivers or the release process.
Unfortunately, neither has been able to show consistent progress at the major league level with Atlanta. Newcomb’s case is particularly frustrating (undoubtedly to himself as well) since he’s shown flashes of absolute brilliance at times.
This Spring, though? In 5.1 innings, Newcomb has posted a 6.75 ERA with 5 hits and 5 walks allowed… against 9 strikeouts, which illustrates the Jekyll/Hyde nature of his performances. He’s also had 2 wild pitches in that short amount of time.
Demeritte hasn’t fared much better: 3 hits in 16 official AB’s with a walk and 6 strikeouts… primarily against AAA-ish pitching.
Nonetheless, it’s this pair that appears from the outside to be the ones that the Braves can tolerate losing better than others.
UPDATE IN THE INTEREST OF ADDITIONAL OPINIONS: this, from Dave O’Brien in TheAthletic (subscription required):
- “It still seems likely [Newcomb will] make the Opening Day roster, in part — in large part, if we’re being honest — because he’s out of minor-league options and would have to clear waivers to be sent down.”
Yeah… but would you actually want to use Newcomb in a game?
The trade-off, of course, is the upside and depth protection that Gosselin and O’Day may provide.