5 key questions the Braves face this spring


When the Braves opened their Grapefruit League season with a 9-7 loss to the Rays in Port Charlotte, Fla. On Sunday, they took another step in the always interesting process of building an opening roster. .

Here are the top five questions the Braves will face during the remainder of spring training:

Will Cristian Pache start the season as a starting center-back?
While researching reactions to Hank Aaron’s first homerun recently, I found a few newspaper articles that mentioned that Braves manager Charlie Grimm was still planning to put Aaron back on the bench when Bill Bruton returned from an injury in April 1954.

It never happened. But this story reminds us that players much taller than Pache had to prove themselves before taking refuge in a Major League formation.

Pache’s experience in the big league consisted of four home plate appearances before he was forced to become an everyday player in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series. This is a fairly small sample. But while 4-for-22 with a homerun and a brace during that tense week against the Dodgers, the 22-year-old Pache – baseball’s No.12, according to MLB Pipeline – created a reason to think he would be a better option than Ender Inciarte in central field.

Braves manager Brian Snitker has said he does not describe his situation on central pitch as a positional battle between Inciarte and Pache. It’s understandable. There is no reason to put too much pressure on Pache. There is also no reason to agitate Inciarte, who will earn $ 8 million in the final year of his contract.

Spring training is not the best environment for making decisions that could have long term repercussions. But if Pache’s performance over the next few weeks confirms what has been seen during the NLCS, then I think the club would be happy to see him serve as center-back on the opening day.

That being said, the Braves need to be prepared for the possibility that Pache needs more time in the minor leagues. Ronald Acuña Jr. will see some time at center this spring, and Inciarte will be prepared for the possibility of opening one more season as a starting center-back from Atlanta.

Nobody sees Inciarte as a central defender for an entire season. But if using her in that role for another month or two improves on what Pache could deliver over the next few years, wouldn’t that at least be a wise fallback option?

When will Mike Soroka join the Atlanta rotation?
The good news is that Snitker said Soroka was right on time with everything Atlanta was throwing at her. The bad news is that it really doesn’t tell us anything, considering the Braves haven’t revealed their schedule for their talented 23-year-old pitcher, who is returning from a torn right Achilles tendon.

Soroka hasn’t seen any setbacks since he started tossing a mound regularly just over a month ago. He also hasn’t had any problems performing running drills every other day for the past week. But there still shouldn’t be any reason to rush.

With the off-season additions of right-hander Charlie Morton and southpaw Drew Smyly, the Braves have plenty of pitching depth. At the same time, they will need to keep an eye on the workload of all of their starters as they attempt to go through a full 162-game season after a shortened 2020.

Yes, the NL East could be the strongest division in the game. But it would seemingly make sense for Soroka to skip four or five starts if that positions him to be much more durable and efficient in the final four or five months of the season.

So, I think Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson, or maybe even Huascar Ynoa could bridge that spin point while Soroka spends most or all of April making sure her legs and body are ready. for the long term of this year.

Who will start the season as a backup receiver?
William Contreras has been the organization’s most improved player over the past year. He made great strides training with his All-Star brother, Cubs wide receiver Willson Contreras, during last year’s shutdown. But William, 23, has only played 64 games above Class A Advanced.

If the Braves don’t add a veteran over the next few weeks, they could opt to have Contreras start at Triple-A Gwinnett and use Alex Jackson as a replacement. Jackson has improved defensively over the past couple of years and has enormous raw power. Its high odor rate could affect its long-term status as a big league. But he could be useful in the role for at least a few months, if needed.

Who will occupy the last places in the enclosures?
Will Smith, Chris Martin, Tyler Matzek, AJ Minter and Josh Tomlin can be penciled in five of the available spots. The exact number of vacancies depends on the Braves’ choice to start the season with just four starting pitchers. A few days off early gives them that option.

But for now, let’s assume that there will only be three places available for the pens. Luke Jackson and Grant Dayton are both running out of options. So unless there is a total collapse of one or the other, I project that they will fill two of those places. My favorite for the other spot would be Carl Edwards Jr., who, if in good health, could team up with Martin to give the team at least two options for righties for high leverage situations.

Who will occupy the last places of the bench?
Without the Designated Universal Hitter, the value of pinched hitters will once again increase for clubs in the NL. Johan Camargo, Jake Lamb, Inciarte and Jackson are the top candidates for four of the five spots available. If Camargo proves he can still play the shortstop, the Braves’ picks for that final spot would widen to the point where they could consider carrying Jason Kipnis, who can play second base or either. other field corners if necessary.

Over the past two weeks, the Braves have added a number of potential fourth or fifth outfielders to their camp. But for now, I think their last place on the bench will be taken by a player who is currently with another team.

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