What the Braves Roster Should Look Like in October
The Atlanta Braves have proven to be the beasts in the East in 2019. With Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr. playing like MVPs, Mike Soroka and Max Fried dazzling as youngsters and steady veteran hands in Dallas Keuchel and Nick Markakis, the Braves have been a well-rounded ball club all season long.
However, the injury bug hit the Braves particularly hard in August, and Atlanta was forced to make moves to keep the club afloat. Those moves for the most part have been golden, and as the typical starters have regained their health, there will be tough decisions to make to complete the 25-man playoff roster. Here is how the 25-man roster should play out and how the starting rotation will shake out for a playoff series.
Although Francisco Cervelli played well for Atlanta in limited opportunities when Brian McCann got injured, Tyler Flowers should be the No. 2 catcher at minimum because of his familiarity with the pitching staff. Expect McCann to get more starts than Flowers despite typically platooning in the regular season.
The starting infield is back intact with the return of Dansby Swanson from his heel injury. The lone change to the infielders will be Adeiny Hechavarria in place of Charlie Culberson who got hit in the face with a pitched ball against Washington. Culberson had been a reliable bench player all season long for the Braves and will be missed. However, as a Brave, Hechavarría has been much better than when he was a Met, hitting .273 in Atlanta after batting just .204 in New York.
Ronald Acuña Jr.
The toughest decision for the Braves will come in deciding on their outfield. Ronald Acuña Jr., Nick Markakis, and Matt Joyce are locks, while Billy Hamilton, Ender Inciarte, Austin Riley, and Adam Duvall all factor into the decision. Inciarte is interesting because of his injuries. He is expected back on the final week of the season, but how close to 100 percent will he be? Taking the bet that he is healthy, I will place him, as well as Billy Hamilton, on the roster. Hamilton’s speed is unmatched, and a pinch-running appearance late could prove pivotal.
I think ultimately Inciarte starts in the outfield, allowing the Braves to use their best pinch-hitter, Matt Joyce, late in games. The only thing missed in this situation is power off the bench. Joyce supplies some, but the second best pinch-hitter is probably Hechavarria, who isn’t traditionally a great hitter. Adam Duvall or Austin Riley would solve this problem, but neither is an adept fielder, which Billy Hamilton, who would be replaced, certainly is. In this situation, consistency must trump potential, and Hamilton’s running and defense is consistent. Riley or Duvall making contact is not.
Ronald Acuña Jr. LF
Ozzie Albies 2B
Freddie Freeman 1B
Josh Donaldson 3B
Nick Markakis RF
Brian McCann C
Dansby Swanson SS
Ender Inciarte CF
Dallas Keuchel (Starter 1)
Mike Soroka (Starter 2)
Julio Teheran (Starter 3)
Max Fried (Starter 4)
I believe the Braves should go to a four-man rotation in the postseason. The extra off days does not necessitate a fifth starter, so there is no reason to have it. However, Mike Foltynewicz has been very good since returning from AAA and could be valuable either in long relief or a niche situation. Dallas Keuchel is the experienced veteran who has been lights out as of late, so he should get the ball in Game 1, followed by Soroka who has been great all year. Teheran and Fried are interchangeable at three and four, but I’ll go Teheran three because of his experience. As for the bullpen, no real changes from the last month or two of the season with Greene and Melancon going off in the eighth and ninth, if all goes according to plan.
First Five Players Left Off:
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