Examining Braves Short-Season Roster Construction

Will Palaszczuk
June 25, 2020 - 1:24 pm
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The new rules and nature of an abbreviated 2020 season gives the Atlanta Braves some interesting decisions to make in the three weeks from the start of Spring Training 2.0 until the games begin.

General Manager Alex Anthopoulos says they will utilize Truist Park and Gwinnett's Coolray Park as a dual camp model, with Atlanta containing mostly the 30 players they plan to utilize to start the season on July 23rd or 24th. Anthopoulos said they will try to utilize the Gwinnett "taxi squad" for players who can contribute if needed for the big club, but didn't rule out the possibility of having high-priority prospects getting seasoning there.

At this time, the Braves expect to have their full complement of players when they report on July 1st, as Anthopoulos told reporters Wednesday he does not have any reports of COVID-19 positive tests or injury concerns. The Braves GM also provided an encouraging update on Cole Hamels, who would have missed the original season opener with a shoulder injury, saying he's been throwing on flat ground. Hamels has a bullpen session scheduled for Friday.

One new wrinkle Atlanta will experience for the first time is the advent of a universal DH, which Anthopoulos says gives the team many options for players who might have had a hard time cracking the lineup otherwise.

"I'm very familiar with it, with a long time in Toronto. I like that if someone's a little banged up, we can still put them in the DH spot," Anthopoulos said. "I think we're in a very good spot with the DH with the way our current squad is set up."

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Anthopoulos, speaking with Dukes & Bell on 92-9 The Game, added that Austin Riley, Johan Camargo & Adam Duvall profile as prime candidates to handle that position on a daily basis.

The Braves bring a lot of depth from the pitching side of things as well, and with starters not being fully stretched out, having an expanded roster for the first four weeks of the season allows them to pacify the impact of a rushed beginning on their starting rotation.

"How much do we push our starters the first two times through? Do we limit our starters early on? Just to be overly cautious and make sure they hold up," Anthopoulos said. "We're not going to try to push our starters to do more than we think is safe, and I think because of our depth we're able to do that."

Anthopoulos said they've talked about pitchers going 2-to-4 innings to start, with another pitcher backing them up for 2-to-3 innings in the span of the first ten games. MLB rules state that the team can carry 30 players for the first two weeks, 28 players for the two weeks following, after which the roster settles back to a 26-player limit. The team can also travel with three "taxi squad" players on the road, provided that one of them is a catcher.

The Braves used 58 players last season, according to Anthopoulos, and he believes they have a fair idea how they want to organize their two squads. He cautions, however, that the best laid plans don't always work out.

"You can have all the set plans in the world, and you get to Spring Training and guys start getting hurt or sore and things can change,” Anthopoulos said. “I think our team is fairly set, I think the key like anything else is to stay healthy and hopefully our depth is as important as we expected it to be.”

Anthopoulos says that they expect no players to opt out and report on time by July 1st, with “thorough” testing to take place on a daily basis.