Atlanta Braves: Here are the players who still have minor league options
By Eric Cole
While many Atlanta Braves fans would prefer it if the only thing that mattered when determining whether or not a player makes the Opening Day was which player was better, that not the only consideration. The Braves have made roster depth and flexibility a priority under general manager Alex Anthopoulos and one of the objectively best ways to do that is to leverage player options aggressively.
Where some would see a forced choice between players, the Braves often find ways to keep a similar player on the big league roster because they are out of options while sending those with options to the minors to stash away for later use. While we joke about the "Gwinnett Shuttle" as the team moves guys from between the big leagues and minors, it is a real consideration and one that the team is absolutely going to use to their advantage.
In that spirit, here is a look at the players the Braves have who still have minor league options. We will also be noting some key players who are out of options, too, to provide some context as to what could be a part of the Braves' decision-making this spring. We are using Fangraphs' Roster Resource page for the info regarding player options, but it is far from perfect so if you see anything that isn't right, let us know.
Atlanta Braves who still have minor league options
Position Players: Ronald Acuna Jr. (3), Michael Harris II (3), Austin Riley (3), Sean Murphy (3), Vaughn Grissom (3), Jordan Luplow (1)
Not a ton to really note about several of these players here. Sure, Austin Riley has three options left, but there is almost zero chance that becomes relevant the rest of his career because he is awesome and is a core piece of the Braves' lineup as an example. If any of those first four guys end up using a minor league option this season, something has gone very awry.
However, Vaughn Grissom and Jordan Luplow having options could be relevant. While most would agree that Vaughn has the most upside amongst the Braves' shortstop options, he also has limited playing time in the minor leagues and if he struggles in spring training, the Braves could send him down to work on some things while Orlando Arcia starts the season at shortstop as we have seen in predictions from Mark Bowman regarding the Opening Day roster.
As for Luplow, his last minor league option may be the most intriguing because while the Braves' choices for left field and the outfield bench spot aren't exactly exciting, the team could opt for a depth move and keep Luplow around if no one really separates themselves this spring. The Braves could keep veteran Kevin Pillar on the big league roster along with Sam Hilliard (who is out of options and who has at least some thinking he should be considered for the starting left field spot) while sending Luplow to the minors if need be.
Starting Pitchers: Max Fried (1), Kyle Wright (1), Spencer Strider (3), Michael Soroka (1), Ian Anderson (2), Bryce Elder (3), Kolby Allard (1), Darius Vines (3), Alan Rangel (2), Roddery Munoz (3)
Again, going to go ahead and say that it is extremely unlikely that Max Fried or Spencer Strider ends up using a minor league option this year, However, things get more interesting when we look at the competition for the fifth spot in the rotation.
One thing we haven't mentioned yet is that the consideration over minor options isn't strictly a binary one as the number of options a player has left is something to think about as well. Michael Soroka has just one minor league option left going into 2023 whereas his presumed chief competition for the last spot in rotation have several options left. Sure, if one of those other guys like Ian or Bryce pitch their brains out (or even a prospect who isn't on the 40 man like Jared Shuster or Dylan Dodd for that matter) and Soroka struggles, then the Braves are likely to go with them. However, if it is reasonably close, preserving Soroka's option and sending the other guys down makes some real sense.
Relief Pitchers: AJ Minter (1), Dylan Lee (2), Nick Anderson (2), Brooks Wilson (2), Danny Young (2), Brian Moran (3), Roel Ramirez (2)
The bullpen is arguably where we see the most leveraging of minor league options and this year is probably going to be no exception, although this is also where we see the most volatility so things can change quickly. AJ Minter's last minor league option isn't likely to matter, but when you have a bunch of guys that could be said to have similar value, guys like Lucas Luetge and Dennis Santana (who are both out of minor league options) may have some more roster stickiness than others.
In Bow's predictions we linked above, this consideration may have partially led to him not predicting Dylan Lee to make the Braves Opening Day roster. A lot is going to go into that decision including the health of a few of those bullpen arms in camp (in particular Nick Anderson) as well as how many lefties the Braves want to roll with, but Lee having a couple minor league options could lead to him getting sent down, although we would be very likely to see him play for the Braves at least some in 2023 because one always needs bullpen arms.