Braves insider makes surprising projections for Opening Day bench and bullpen

The Braves' roster choices will come down to need, but it doesn't hurt that their Triple-A affiliate is right down the road.

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves
Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages

This is roster projection season and for the Atlanta Braves, the decisions are pretty straightforward when it comes to the every day guys especially now that Ronald Acuna Jr.'s injury status has been cleared up. There is a bit of a competition for the fifth starter spot, but the rest of the opportunities for the big league roster are on the fringes of the bullpen and the bench. Everywhere else was pretty much settled from the day spring training started.

That brings us to Braves beat writer Mark Bowman who has admitted himself that his previous roster projections (both regular season and in the playoffs) have a mixed track record. That isn't a knock whatsoever. Bow is great at his job, but we are all operating with imperfect information and situations can change rapidly. Still, when he put out his latest round of Braves Opening Day roster projections, he brought up a fascinating point that requires further examination.

For the Braves, their roster really extends to Gwinnett

In Bowman's piece, one factor he really keyed in on is how the Braves use their bench. While some teams rotate players in and out to give guys days off on a regular basis, the Braves don't really do that and that factored into his decision-making. Specifically, his choices of Luis Guillorme and Luke Williams for the Braves' bench need to be view through the lens of how the Braves would ultimately use them.

Strictly speaking, the recently acquired David Fletcher as well as Forrest Wall are the better players for those bench slots. Their upsides are higher and if Atlanta needed replacements for more than a game or two, they should get the nod. However, it is precisely because of that that Bowman argues that they should start the season in Gwinnett to get lots of playing time to stay fresh in the event they are needed to play for an extended period of time. Guillorme and Williams would just be around to play in case of an emergency or for the odd day off once in a blue moon.

The philosophy is similar to how he is handling the fifth starter spot and the bullpen. The Braves don't have a ton of guys with minor league options, so putting Lopez in the fifth rotation spot allows the Braves to manage Bryce Elder's workload and call him up when they want to give Lopez or Chris Sale or Max Fried or whoever an extra day of rest. Bowman's bullpen projection already took a hit when Daysbel Hernandez got sent back to minor league camp, but again...that is a guy that has minor league options that Atlanta can stash close by in Gwinnett while giving veteran Ken Giles a shot.

At the end of the day, these decisions are all about depth and managing the roster over the course of a long season. With Gwinnett right down the road from the big league club, Atlanta is in the unique position of essentially having an extended bench down there they can draw from as needed while making sure that they get plenty of playing time while they wait for a chance which is more than they could say if they were just sitting around on the bench.

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