Braves 2024 Opening Day roster projection 1.0: Atlanta goes with All-Star in rotation

Division Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves - Game Three
Division Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves - Game Three / Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/GettyImages
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.The Atlanta Braves are set to begin their spring training schedule this weekend which means that our long nightmare is over and Braves baseball is officially back. While many teams have a lot of roster decisions to make this spring, the Braves are fortunate enough to enter spring training with few open questions given that Atlanta brings back most of the team that won 104 games last year.

There are some new faces with Chris Sale joining the rotation after a trade with the Red Sox, Jarred Kelenic taking over in left after the Braves moved on from Eddie Rosario, and the addition of a couple guys to the bullpen. However, even with the carryovers from 2023 and the new faces, the Braves do have to settle a couple of roster spots in the coming weeks including the last spot in their rotation, a couple bullpen slots, and the bench.

With that in mind, here is our first pass at projecting the Braves' Opening Day roster for 2024. As with anything, these picks are subject to change as spring training goes on and guys' progress in camp becomes more apparent.

Braves 2024 Opening Day roster projection 1.0: Atlanta goes with All-Star in rotation

Braves Opening Day Projected Starting Rotation

  • Spencer Strider
  • Max Fried
  • Charlie Morton
  • Chris Sale
  • Bryce Elder
  • Reynaldo Lopez (sorta)

This is a funny one because the Braves first four spots in their starting rotation are set unless an injury pops up. Spencer Strider and Max Fried are legitimate Cy Young contenders and are not going anywhere unless they get hurt. Charlie Morton is running it back at least one more time in 2024 and Chris Sale is hoping to have a career renaissance with the Braves after an injury-plagued stint in Boston.

The fifth spot, however, is very much up in the air. Mark Bowman recently projected Reynaldo Lopez to get the nod here given the Braves' plans to stretch him out and that using him early in the season as a starter makes the most sense if Atlanta is going to do it at all. He makes a valid point, but we split the difference here and have the Braves still keeping Bryce Elder in the rotation while having Lopez chip in as a sixth starter on occasion early in the season.

The logic here is straightforward. While Elder did struggle in the second half, he wasn't bad enough to completely abandon ship on. Having Lopez start early in the season in addition to keeping Elder around gives extra days of rest for the entire rotation and, hopefully, keeps them fresh enough to prevent any injury or fatigue issues down the line.

Braves Opening Day Projected Bullpen

  • Raisel Iglesias
  • AJ Minter
  • Joe Jimenez
  • Pierce Johnson
  • Dylan Lee
  • Aaron Bummer
  • Daysbel Hernandez
  • Huascar Ynoa
  • Reynaldo Lopez (sorta)

Before anyone gets mad, this bullpen projection is operating under the assumption that Tyler Matzek may need a short rehab stint to start the season to get his legs under him. Matzek himself mentioned that this is a possibility and that is the only reason he didn't make the cut here. Once he returns, you can just slot him in over Dylan Lee.

The Braves' bullpen again looks strong and deep with Raisel Iglesias anchoring things in the ninth inning. Lopez and Ynoa together would provide the Braves with a couple multi-inning options if needed (especially early on) and there is a nice balance of lefties and righties. One area of concern is the lack of guys with minor league options, but most of these guys are pretty well entrenched and Atlanta has enough flexibility to make things work unless the wheels really fall off.

Braves Opening Day Projected Infield

  • Sean Murphy/Travis d'Arnaud - C
  • Matt Olson - 1B
  • Ozzie Albies - 2B
  • Orlando Arcia - SS
  • Austin Riley - 3B

Probably the most boring part of these projections is the lineup because there is not much at stake with the offense down at Braves camp. The Braves have All-Stars at every position in the infield and barring a catastrophe, there won't be any changes to the group that Atlanta ran out there last season.

There are a couple areas to keep an eye on, though. Travis d'Arnaud's career is winding down and the Braves will need a new backup catcher before too long as a result. Drake Baldwin is probably the early favorite for the role there. Orlando Arcia has exceeded expectations at shortstop even with a tough second half, but he is only guaranteed to be under contract through 2025 (the Braves do hold a club option, though, for an additional year). We may begin to see the Braves' long-term plans start to take shape this spring especially if Arcia shows out and calls to extend him get louder.

Braves Opening Day Projected Outfield

  • Ronald Acuna Jr. - RF
  • Michael Harris II - CF
  • Jarred Kelenic - LF
  • Marcell Ozuna - DH

Again, no surprises here as the Braves' outfield is pretty locked in. Ronald Acuna Jr. is arguably the best player on the planet and is coming off a historic 40/70 season last year. Michael Harris II bounced back from a slow start in 2023 and could be primed for a breakout season this year that might include a Gold Glove.

Jarred Kelenic will certainly be the Braves' starting left fielder to start the season, but his status is worth monitoring over the course of the season. His ceiling is incredibly high, but his struggles in the big leagues previously make his roster spot somewhat precarious. Ozuna returns at the designated hitter spot and he, in theory, could see some time in left, although one hopes that is an option that is used very, very sparingly.

Braves Opening Day Projected Bench

One bench spot is reserved for whichever catcher isn't playing each day. A couple of new faces are early favorites for the backup infield spots in Luis Guillorme and David Fletcher. Both players are capable of playing multiple positions in the dirt and should protect against any short-term absences that come up over the course of the season.

Given the expected lack of playing time for bench guys, carrying just one backup outfielder makes the most sense with Forrest Wall getting the nod here. A right-handed bench outfielder may be ideal for this spot, but Wall is already on the 40-man roster, has three minor league options left, and is an excellent choice as a pinch-runner late in games.

Braves prospects who could make an impact later in 2024

Hurston Waldrep is the easiest name to mention here as he burst on to the scene after the Braves picked him in the first round last year. He has a slight chance of making the team right out of camp, but we are betting the Braves wait a bit longer to give him some more development time to work on his command before he gets the call.

The Braves have a slew of minor league pitchers that could be in play this season with AJ Smith-Shawver, Darius Vines, Dylan Dodd, Spencer Schwellenbach, Luis De Avila, and Allan Winans all being in the running.

The position player group is not nearly as deep, however, Drake Baldwin could easily see time at catcher if TdA needs time off or if there is an injury. Ignacio "Nacho" Alvarez is at Double-A for the moment and can play any position in the infield. If he starts hitting for some power, he is an option especially if there is an injury on the left side of the infield. As for outfielders, let's just hope none of those guys get hurt, but Cody Milligan and Jesse Franklin V could be in play if something were to happen.

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