As we are all looking forward to Opening Day of 2013, every team is currently making their best attempt to fill those final roster spots. Last season the Braves had a very reliable bench but this year is going to prove a tougher test.
The Braves will have to use some of the guys that they may have wanted to wait on bringing up to the majors for a few months for the few bench spots because guys are injured. After the starting pitching, relief pitchers and starting positional players, there are only five spots for these guys to fight for. Who can step up and be the go-to guy? Here is what I believe is going to happen as far as infield bench players will be.
We already know that the infield positions are taken except for third base. Don’t curse me but I believe that Juan Francisco is going to beat out Chris Johnson for the opening day third base spot. While coming off the bench, I believe Johnson will be a guy that comes in with 225+ ABs, playing both 3rd and giving Freddie some time off at 1st. I see him hitting a little better than his projected .261. I’d like that number closer to about .274 and his OBP to be around .315 though. I feel like he will be best suited as a guy to bring off the bench to pinch hit late in games.
Other than Johnson, I believe the Braves will carry one more true infielder: Tyler Pastornicky. Frankly, I don’t think Tyler is going to see any significant playing time unless an injury occurs. Pastornicky’s defense is limited and his bat never really showed up last season (He has been swinging the bat better this year in Spring Training). He only hit .243 with nearly no power and struck out 32 times with only 41 hits last season. If Tyler doesn’t show he can sustain his hitting this spring, I believe Paul Janish (DL time pushed back) will take the spot in mid to late May and work his way back into his near perfect defense that the Atlanta fans saw last year.
Figuring out the catcher position is going to be a tricky one, seeing that the opening day starter will be the back up catcher for the regular season. I don’t think he will be as productive as David Ross has been in the past, but I’m giving the spot to Gerald Laird until the All-Star Break. This is because Evan Gattis has yet to catch major league pitchers in a big league game yet. When McCann comes back, look to Gattis to move into the outfield, keep improving his game, and keep hitting. I think he will hit for a .270 average, 10+ home runs, and .340 OBP. He will be the biggest boost to the Braves infield bench to start the season.
If the Braves are looking to go back to the playoffs in 2013, they will need to have a strong bench. Evan Gattis will definitely be a bright spot for them and Chris Johnson and Gerald Laird should perform well in their roles. When everyone is healthy, the Braves will have decent bats and gloves to bring in late in games. Now that we have a grasp on who will be able to help in the infield, next we will see who will impact the team from the outfield.