Team Building Altered As Braves, MLB Miss Opening Day

Joe Patrick
March 26, 2020 - 9:53 am
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If you’re like me, you’re pouring one out today.

Thursday was supposed to be Atlanta Braves Opening Day. Today was supposed to be the day when Mike Soroka took the mound and showed why he’s a leading Cy Young contender. Today was supposed to be the day Ronnie and Ozzie made us laugh again. Today was supposed to be the day we scoffed at Brian Snitker opting to go to Luke Jackson instead of Chris Martin in the seventh.

While we don’t have baseball to watch today, we can’t help but think about the season ahead during the void.

There are still many unknowns about what the upcoming season will look like, but one thing we know for certain is that 2020 will be defined by its brevity. Baseball is a marathon—not a sprint—but that’s not necessarily the case this year. Every game will matter more, every at-bat becomes more valuable. And because of that, Braves manager Brian Snitker and general manager Alex Anthopoulos will need to adjust and be more aggressive with their roster composition.

Not only will the season be reduced to (likely) 100 games or fewer, but the first month or so will be more volatile than most. Players will be out of their typical spring training routines, which means the normal early season chaos we’re accustomed to will be magnified. Batters won’t be in the same rhythm of seeing pitches. Pitchers won’t be stretched out as far. Bullpens will be relied upon top throw more innings—and more important innings due to the increased value each game holds.

These factors should be changing the way the Braves approach building the roster that was supposed to be taking the field today in Arizona.

For example: Several weeks ago, Snitker told reporters at the team’s spring training facility in North Port, Florida that it’d be difficult to carry both Austin Riley and Johan Camargo on the Opening Day roster. Now, perhaps that was just a manager being coy with two young players battling it out for a place on the everyday lineup card. But there’s no time for mind games anymore. The Braves need the most talented roster they can assemble from Day 1, and that includes both of those young talents.

Part of assembling the best possible roster will include assessing how players can best benefit the team based on their roles. Sean Newcomb desperately wants to be a starting pitcher again, and the Braves probably do too. He was looking poised to grab one of the five starting spots this spring, checking just about every box the Braves would’ve wanted to see out of him in camp.

But at the moment, the Braves have a surplus of starting arms and a lack of lefties in the bullpen. With a former Cy Young winner in Felix Hernandez looking lively again, blue chipper Kyle Wright starting to show consistency and command, and Cole Hamels likely able to join the group earlier in the season schedule than was originally anticipated, Newcomb would help the Braves more from the bullpen. It’s a shame for Newk, because he’s a victim of the circumstance in this case, but these are the tough decisions the Braves will have to make.

In what is likely to be one of the most competitive division races in the league, there is no time to waste.