• Exclusives

    Braves 2015 roster takes shape

    With the pre-Christmas signings of RHP Jason Grili and catcher A.J. Pierzynski, the Atlanta Braves’ 2015 roster is, for better or for worse, taking shape.

    The Braves’ refashioned front office has made no secret of the fact that its top priority is to field a high end roster in 2017 when the team breaks a champaign bottle against the freshly stacked brick facing of Sun Trust Park. However, Braves GM (president of baseball operations, if we must be technical) John Hart has assured fans that no fire sale is in the works. And thus far, nothing Hart has done would suggest otherwise.

    Braves President of Baseball Operations (GM) John Hart

    Braves President of Baseball Operations (GM) John Hart

    Braves fans have debated in recent weeks whether or not the term “rebuilding” accurately applies to this team. The answer is “no”. And “yes”.

    In truth, it’s a partial rebuild.

    It is true that the Braves just auctioned off two of their three best position players to optimize the team’s talent pool for the future. However, the Braves got young established Major League talent back from the Cardinals for Jason Heyward in the person of RHP Shelby Miller (in addition to a quality minor league pitching prospect). And the Braves tried to find a similar Big League battle-tested young talent in a Justin Upton deal. They accepted a package of prospects from the Padres for Upton only when it became apparent that there simply wasn’t another Heyward/Miller-like deal to be had and San Diego’s offering provided the greatest overall value.

    It’s also worth noting that Craig Kimbrel and other mainstays who aren’t pending free agents are not on the trading block as they would be if the Braves were engaged in a bottom-up rebuild or a “fire sale”.

    Atlanta has also inked a few veteran free agents to help make a winning 2015 season a plausible objective.

    Bottom line: The Braves are looking chiefly at 2017, but the front office is taking steps to at least give the team a chance to win in 2015 and ’16 if certain factors go their way.

    The Braves will be looking for a bounceback year from LHP Mike Minor.

    The Braves will be looking for a bounceback year from LHP Mike Minor.

    STARING ROTATION:

    Julio Teheran
    Alex Wood
    Shelby Miller
    Mike Minor
    *David Hale or Manny Banuelos

    *The Braves could still add another starer via trade or free agency.

    BULLPEN:

    I predict that the Braves will have one of baseball’s top bullpens in 2015. How will they do it? Volume! Volume! Volume!!!

    Atlanta has at least 15 candidates for 7 bullpen slots. No joke. Five of those relievers are, in my estimation, assured positions in the ‘pen, which leaves 2 openings for roughly 10 candidates. Surely they’ll find a standout or two among all those arms to go along with the five relievers already penciled into the opening day bullpen.

    UPDATE: Shortly after this was posted, the Braves traded reliever David Carpenter and bullpen candidate Chasen Shreve to the Yankees for starting pitching prospect Manny Banuelos. There are now 4 bullpen spots locked down, with 9 strong candidates for 3 spots. The Braves still appear to be deep in the relief department, though not quite as deep as they were before their New Year’s Day deal with the Yanks.

    Here’s how the bullpen is shaping up:

    Craig Kimbrel (rhp)
    Jason Grili (rhp)
    Jim Johnson (rhp)
    James Russell (lhp)

    Plus 3 of the following candidates (in no particular order):

    Shae Simmons (rhp)
    Luis Avilan (lhp)
    Donnie Veal (lhp)
    Ian Thomas (lhp)
    Arodys Vizcaino (rhp)
    David Hale (rhp)
    Chien-Ming Wang (rhp)
    Michael Kohn (rhp)
    Juan Jaime (rhp)

     

    INFIELD:

    Braves 2B prospect Jose Peraza

    Braves 2B prospect Jose Peraza

    In the infield, newly acquired Jace Peterson figures to be in the mix for the starting 2B job, at least until the arrival of the Braves’ top prospect Jose Peraza. Odds favor a June call-up for Peraza.

    1B – Freddie Freeman
    2B – Alberto Collaspo
    SS – Andrelton Simmons
    3B – Chris Johnson
    IF – Phil Gosselin

    Plus two of the following candidates:
    2B – Jace Peterson
    IF – Tyler Pastornicky
    2B – Jose Peraza

    CATCHERS:

    Christian Bethancourt
    A.J. Pierzynski

    OUTFIELD: 

    Nick Markakis
    BJ Upton
    Evan Gattis
    Dian Toscano

    PROJECTED LINEUP:

    1 – Markakis RF
    2 – Simmons SS
    3 – Freeman 1B
    4 – Gattis LF
    5 – Johnson 3B
    6 – Upton CF
    7 – Collaspo/Peterson
    8 – Bethancourt
    9 – Teheran

    If Jace Peterson earns the 2B job out of spring training, I could easily see him hitting second to start the season. The lineup could begin to take shape if/when Jose Peraza arrives in Atlanta. Peraza is a natrual leadoff hitter, and his presence atop the lineup would allow the Braves to bat Nick Markakis second, which appears to be the best fit for the right fielder.

    Can the Braves win with their 2015 roster? Tell me what you think: @FriedbasballATL … We’ll tackle that question in the coming days.

    Kent Covington is a national radio news reporter and BravesWire Editor.