Braves’ Playoff Roster, Rotation, and Lineup


Last Sunday in Chicago, the Braves mathematically confirmed what everyone has known since late July; the Braves are your National League Eastern Division Champs.

With September comes many things; slumps, injuries, fatigue, and the hope that call-ups will perform!  A combination of these factors always make the postseason roster for any team a little less than set.  The Braves are not exempt from this at all.  The Braves are currently carrying a 32 man active roster, and will essentially have to drop 7 players before the NLDS. From here, we have to pull a 25 man roster.

Among position players, Andrelton Simmons, Freddie Freeman, Brian McCann, Evan Gattis, Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, and Chris Johnson are all virtual locks.  I believe Jordan Schafer has earned a stay in manager Fredi Gonzalez’ eyes as well, as has Gerald Laird, no matter how little playing time he gets.

Jose Constanza will likely be dropped.  He has seen the plate just 29 times this season.  Reed Johnson‘s inability to run at full speed due to a nagging Achilles injury makes him a likely roster cut as well (before the publishing, Reed Johnson started the game on Friday, the 27th in left field and seemed to have little trouble getting around, so this is up in the air at this point.)

The biggest question mark of the roster predicament is the status of B.J. Upton.  We don’t need to dive into the lost season it has been for the eldest of the Upton’s, but can we justify putting B.J. on the roster?  With Heyward seemingly fit to man center, Gattis attempting to hold down left field, and Jordan Schafer ready to play at the drop of the hat, does B.J. have room to fit in this equation?  My feeling is that Fredi, never one to turn his back on veterans, will bring B.J. along in pinch running/late inning defensive sub role.

The next question is, do you start Dan Uggla?  Fredi seems to love Elliot Johnson, and although he will make the roster, I personally feel like Uggla should get the start.  I’d trade a potential Uggla bomb for a potential stolen base if Johnson somehow stumbles on base.  Although I feel Uggla should start, I think Fredi will play this one by ear and play the matchup game.

Kris Medlen is poised to start Game 1 of the NLDS for your Atlanta Braves. Medlen will be coming off of a start in which he threw 8 scoreless frames.

Perhaps the other big discussion is the 4th starter spot in the rotation.  We all know Medlen, Minor, and Tehran are locks, but Fredi Gonzalez has indicated that with the recent removal of Alex Wood from the starting rotation,  Freddy Garcia could potentially be in line to make this start.  Personally, I think this is a bad idea.  Garcia has been solid, but anyone can see it won’t last, and I’d rather the ticking time bomb of Garcia not explode in the playoffs.  I see no reason not to go with Wood, outside of the rookie argument, although Bowman has hinted that Wood looks tired.

In the end, I see the roster shaping up to be something like this:

Position Players

Brian McCann
Evan Gattis
Gerald Laird
Freddie Freeman
Chris Johnson
Dan Uggla
Andrelton Simmons
Elliot Johnson
Paul Janish
B.J. Upton
Justin Upton
Jason Heyward
Jordan Schafer
Joey Terdoslavich

 

Pitchers

Kris Medlen
Mike Minor
Julio Teheran
Freddy Garcia
Alex Wood
David Carpenter
Luis Avilan
Scott Downs
Jordan Walden
Anthony Varvaro
Craig Kimbrel

We’ve got to keep in mind that this is only a best of 5 series, so Maholm might not be included in the first round, due to Wood’s ability to pitch multiple innings if needed and previous pen experience.  Also, Jordan Walden is far from a sure thing at this point, but I expect Luis Ayala to take his place if he cannot prove his health.

Now that we’ve tackled the roster and rotation itself, let’s talk about the lineup. Jason Heyward has cemented himself in the leadoff spot, where he has hit a ridiculous .343/.408/.593/.1001 through the 120 plate appearances he has collected there coming into Friday night’s game (where he finished 0-3). This is a no brainer. From there, it gets kinda fuzzy for me to put up what I would think to be an optimal lineup. Based on Fredi’s recent patterns, I’d expect this lineup:

Playoff Lineup

Heyward CF
Upton RF
Freeman 1B
Gattis LF
McCann C
C. Johnson 3B
Simmons SS
Elliot Johnson/Dan Uggla 2B, depending on the pitcher.

In Conclusion:

There are many avenues Fredi Gonzalez could choose to take in the post season. The versatility of players like Gattis and Heyward make a lot of holes easier to plug-in on the fly, and a loaded bench make the Braves more deadly than most teams. The playoffs are coming fast, and I hope this column has gotten you prepared for what to expect.

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  • http://www.tomahawktake.com/ Chris Headrick

    I know that Wood’s arm might be experiencing some fatigue, but I have to say that the way Minor has pitched lately, giving up runs early almost as if it were automatic, he’s making somewhat of a case for Wood being considered a 3rd. I’m not saying that will happen,but in the playoffs, those couple of runs that Minor lately seems to be giving up like clock work, can make all the difference facing above average pitching.

    • fireboss

      Minor’s channeling the Tom Glavine years where his first inning was always an adventure. Someone needs to push his fast forward button.

  • P. Hayes

    I agree with your analysis with the exception of including Dan Uggla in anything related to baseball. If it were the Uggla of 2011 or even 2012 your argument makes sense, but this is the newer, even worse model of Uggla. According to the Braves website his BA is .179 on the season. Looking at the last 30 days, however, in 49 at bats Uggla has struck out an alarming 21 times. His batting average is .122 during that span. You point to home runs as justification for including him, but he’s homered only once in 49 at bats. Sorry, my wife or either of my sisters are better options.

    • fireboss

      The question is, what’s the alternative? The bench replacement for Johnson would be Janish who is needed as a defensive replacement at third and doesn’t hit any better than Uggla. Uggla may run into one by accident, he does it now and then but Janish isn’t going to. Uggla and BJ will be there.

  • Jules Wolf

    Well said, Hayes. Problem is, loyalty always trumps performance. If this weren’t so, Uggla would be off the roster. Same with B.J.

  • P. Hayes

    In follow up to my previous post regarding the 49 AB’s of Dan Uggla in the previous 30 days, Uggla was 6 for 49 with 21 strike outs. Of the 6 hits, there was but one home run. Of the remaining 5 hits, the were no triples, no doubles. Five singles, one of which was a nubber off of the end of the bat that didn’t make it out of the infield. He simply has no place in post season. This isn’t a time to justify carrying a position player by arguing that he walks a lot. You can bet he won’t walk as much with the quality of pitching he’ll see in post season.