The Braves made the decision to leave off starter Kyle Wright and fan-favorite reliever Jesse Chavez from the roster for the NLDS. Wright and Chavez were pitchers that I thought Atlanta would carry in the first round.
However, both pitchers just returned in the middle of September after healing from injury. That could have been a major contributing factor in the decision to leave them off of the roster, ultimately.
Instead of Wright and Chavez, the Braves opted to carry Daysbel Hernandez and AJ Smith-Shawver. Hernandez is just returning from an IL stint due to forearm inflammation. He did appear during the recent intrasquad games and apparently made a great impression.
Why leave Wright and Chavez off the roster?
Chavez had just returned from healing a hairline fracture in his shin after being hit by a pitch earlier in the season. Jesse, while being one of the best-dressed Braves, has also been one of their most dependable options out of the bullpen with the ability to cover multiple days. He hasn't been able to do that yet since returning from injury so that indicates why the Braves chose Hernandez instead.
Kyle Wright may be the biggest surprise left off of the roster since he was expected to be an option for game 3 of the NLDS or a long-relief option if an Atlanta starter ran into early trouble. However, Wright hasn't been the best since returning and that indicates he may not be 100% yet.
In fact, the Braves announced not too long after the roster release, Kyle Wright has been added to the 60-day IL to make room for Daysbel Hernandez on the roster. Wright was placed on the IL with a right shoulder strain. He is out for the remainder of the season and will not appear in the playoffs.
Another factor that may have led to the decision, despite the health of each pitcher, is their stats against the Phillies.
Chavez is more of a struggle against individual Phillies bats such as Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos. Harper batted .625 against Chavez through 8 at-bats and Castellanos carried a .300 average against him through 20 at-bats.
However, that is a very small sample size for 2023 and as mentioned above, Chavez not being able to go multiple days in a row really made the decision to leave him off.
Philadelphia has owned Kyle Wright during his career as he carries a 2-5 record with a 5.54 ERA through 37.1 innings pitched. Not to mention, they've really hit well against him in 2023 as they faced him twice in the month of September through 7 innings of work.
Wright's ERA against the Phillies sits at 12.86 across those two games. Chavez is more of a struggle against individual Phillies bats such as Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos. Harper batted .625 against Chavez through 8 at-bats and Castellanos carried a .300 average against him through 20 at-bats.
That right shoulder is what kept Wright out of the rotation for most of 2023 and it stinks to see him struggle to get back to form. He was so good for the Braves in 2022 but much like Michael Soroka, injury keeps getting in the way of repeating early success.
So... what now?
So, who does that leave Atlanta with as a long relief option? That role will fall to Michael Tonkin despite his struggles at the end of the 2023 season. Tonkin provided a lot of great innings early on for the Braves and hopefully, the rest during the layoff gives him a chance to repeat that in the NLDS.
AJ Smith-Shawver also gives the Braves a starter to lean on if things go sideways with Strider, Fried, or Elder. More than likely, he will be an option to start game 3 or come in the game should Elder's struggles continue. His ability to throw a high-velocity fastball doesn't hurt either and allows for him to get away with mistakes a bit more than Wright would have been able to, even if he was healthy.
Another important thing to note is that the Phillies have not faced Smith-Shawver or Hernandez yet. That could play very nicely into the Braves' hands when it comes to strategy.
One more noteworthy move was the Braves adding Vaughn Grissom to the roster. While Nicky Lopez has filled the utility role for Atlanta since the trade deadline, Grissom provides a great DH option and a great right-handed bat off the bench. Grissom had an incredible season with the Gwinnett Stripers as he batted .330 through 102 games played.
The Braves and Phillies will kick off their series tonight at Truist Park and things will get underway at 6:07 pm EST. 20-game winner Spencer Strider will take the ball first and prove to the Phillies that last year was simply a fluke.