Atlanta Braves: Looking at Key Roster Competitions in Spring Training
By Colin James
We are almost a month away from the start of spring training for the 2023 MLB season. The Atlanta Braves still have time to make moves in free agency beforehand, but for now, we have a good idea of what the competition for a roster spot will look like going into spring training. With that in mind, here is what the roster competition for the Braves will look like in spring training next month.
Left field is without a doubt the biggest issue for the Braves this offseason. Left field is the only position the Braves have a negative fWAR in, so it is obvious the Braves have to be smart about who they put out there in that position. The names to look out for in regard to the Braves’ left field spot are Eddie Rosario, Marcell Ozuna, and the newly acquired Jordan Luplow and Eli White.
The depth is pretty mediocre so the Braves will be looking hard for a solid starter. It is entirely possible that the Braves stick with Rosario at left field, who has started for them there before, but Rosario posted a -1.6 WAR during the 2022 campaign. Ozuna isn’t much better, posting a -0.8 WAR in 2022. If both don’t pan out, the Braves will likely experiment with Luplow and White for more consistency. However, Luplow hasn’t looked like long term starter during his previous stop so the Braves will have to hope he bounces back. White has the potential to be a solid player due to his speed and defense but had an injured riddled season in 2022. For left field, the Braves will likely want to play it safe with their talent and stick to someone they are familiar with such as Rosario. However, they may delve into the depth chart for a better starter if things end up going bad for them
With Dansby Swanson walking in free agency, the Braves have a vacant shortstop position that also need to be addressed. The hot candidates for the shortstop position are Orlando Arcia and Vaughn Grissom.
For this one, the Braves probably won’t be in a rush to place Grissom as the starting shortstop on Opening Day. Grissom has had some solid play during his rookie year and the front office and third base coach Ron Washington has had nothing but praise for him. However, he probably needs a little more time to develop his play and baseball IQ before being thrown straight into the fire. With that being said, the Braves will probably stick with Arcia, who has had much experience at shortstop. However, the competition will be interesting to see play out if Grissom looks great during spring training.
Fifth Spot in Pitching Rotation
The Braves will have a top pitching rotation in the league with the like of Max Fried, Spencer Strider, and Kyle Wright. However, the pitcher who takes the fifth spot in the rotation has been an interesting competition that has recently arisen. Names to look out for are Ian Anderson, Bryce Elder, and Mike Soroka.
Anderson struggled in 2022, posting a 5.00 ERA that lead to him getting recalled to the minor leagues. If Anderson continues to struggle through spring training, the Braves will likely pass on him for another pitcher, with Elder likely being next in line. Elder looked solid during his debut season, posting a 3.17 ERA in 2022, along with 47 strike outs despite a 2-4 record as a starter. Expect the Braves to take a good look at Elder with spring training coming very soon. Another name rising within the Braves bullpen is Soroka. Despite being injury prone, Soroka is enthusiastic about the competition between him and his friend Ian Anderson, and assuming he returns to form, he could easily take the fifth spot in the Braves’ pitching rotation. He posted a 2.86 ERA in 2022, which is why the Braves need to keep him around and hope he gets healthy sooner rather than later.
Other Players to Look Out For
In addition to all of these positions, the Braves have a couple other players to look out for as we approach spring training.
Newly acquired pitcher Lucas Luetge has the potential to be a sleeper hit within the Braves bullpen. In 2022, he posted a 2.67 ERA and 60 strike outs in 57.1 innings pitched. Assuming Luetge keeps up this production, he could end up being a solid addition to the Braves’ bullpen, depending on how he looks in spring training.
The Braves have also recently signed Kevin Pillar to a minor league contract. While in 2022, he only had a -0.2 WAR, he has veteran experience at left field and could end up being a name to look out for if all else fails with the Braves at the left field position before Opening Day.