Atlanta Braves Phantom Players (and Almost Phantom Players) Since 2013

Atlanta Braves v Baltimore Orioles
Atlanta Braves v Baltimore Orioles / Rob Carr/GettyImages
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Phantom Atlanta Braves players since 2013

Ronnier Mustelier (2016)

Ronnier Mustelier is one of three true phantom players on this list who never (or still haven't) made their major league debut despite being on a big league roster.

In 2009, he defected from Cuba and signed with the New York Yankees in 2011 as a 26-year-old. The 3B/OF reached AAA by 2012, and hit well (.815 OPS), but wasn't able to crack the big league squad. He'd regress in 2013 and would be released by the Yankees after playing just 13 games in 2014.

After not playing in 2015, the Braves signed him to a minor league contract for the 2016 season, and the righty hit decently in 469 PAs, slashing .291/.353/.394.

On July 3, 2016, the Braves took on the Marlins in the Fort Bragg Game and each team was allowed to add an additional player to the roster. The Braves opted to add Mustelier.

The team lost 5-2, and Brian Snitker opted to use Emilio Bonifacio and A.J. Pierzynski as pinch-hitters over Mustelier. After the game, the Cuban-born outfielder was sent back to Gwinnett. Two weeks later, he was outrighted off the 40-man roster, and when September call-ups came around, he was left in Gwinnett.

2016 was the last year Mustelier was with an MLB-affiliated organization, but he played in the Mexican League until 2022. He is now the interim manager of Tigres de Quintana Roo, taking over after former Braves, Jesse Garcia, was fired.

Chad Bell (2018)

On May 15, 2018, the Braves claimed Bell off waivers from the Detroit Tigers. Bell had pitched with the Tigers in the 2017 and 2018 seasons but had struggled in both seasons, allowing 55 runs in 69.2 innings.

The Braves optioned the lefty to Gwinnett immediately and he did not fare well, pitching 46.1 innings and allowing 32 runs (6.22 ERA). However, on August 10, the Braves called Bell and Chad Sobotka up from Gwinnett.

Anibal Sanchez had left the game the day before, requiring the Braves to use Wes Parsons for five innings. Adam McCreery also pitched one inning, but threw 30 pitches. Both rookies were sent down after the game.

Bell's stint on the active roster lasted one day. After the Braves series opener against the Brewers, where Kevin Gausman pitched eight innings and Chad Sobotka came in to finish out a 10-1 game, Bell was optioned and Kolby Allard was called up.

Bell actually never appeared in another MLB game after 2018. After the 2018 season, he pitched two seasons for the Hanwha Eagles in Korea and is now the Georgia State Panthers' pitching coach.

Jasseel De La Cruz (2020, 2021)

Jasseel De La Cruz not only has the distinction of being a true phantom player, like Mustelier, he also has the unfortunate distinction of getting called up in two separate seasons without making it to the bigs.

De La Cruz signed with the Braves as an international free agent in 2015 and slowly rose through the ranks. At the end of the 2019 season, the Braves added the right-handed reliever to the 40-man roster to protect him for the Rule 5 Draft, and on September 15, 2020, he was added to the major league roster.

The previous night, Touki Toussaint started, allowed eight runs (five earned) and didn't get out of the third. The Braves ended up using four relievers and Toussaint was optioned after the game.

De La Cruz's first stint in the bigs lasted one day, as he didn't get to the 5-1 victory over the Orioles, and was optioned after the game in place of Braves legend, Cole Hamels, whose jersey you can still buy on for full price at the low price of $359.99 (please do not buy this jersey).

De La Cruz would get a second chance in the bigs in 2021, after the Braves optioned Sean Kazmar Jr. and designated Carl Edwards Jr. for assignment. Once again, the team was in need of bullpen arms, after Charlie Morton couldn't get out of the first.

De La Cruz and Victor Arano (more on him in a second) were called up and both were sent down two days later without appearing in a game.

De la Cruz became a free agent after the 2022 season and is currently in the Oakland Athletics organization, so there's still a chance he gets his long awaited major league debut.