The Atlanta Braves made some changes to their roster recently, acquiring Jack Wilson and Matt Diaz to solidify their bench and to get rid of Julio Lugo (thank God, huh?!).
The Braves starting lineup for the playoffs should look like: Brian McCann, C; Freddie Freeman, 1B; Dan Uggla, 2B; Alex Gonzalez, SS; Chipper Jones, 3B; Martin Prado, LF; Michael Bourn, CF; Jason Heyward, RF. The Braves bench should look like this for the postseason run: David Ross, C; Brooks Conrad, IF; Eric Hinske, OF; Wilson, IF; Diaz, OF; Jose Costanza, OF.
The starting rotation should include some combination of: Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor, and Tommy Hanson/Jair Jurrjens (if healthy). The bullpen will include the well-known faces of: Randall Delgado, Craig Kimbrel, Scott Linebrink, Cristhian Martinez, Eric O’Flaherty, Julio Teheran, Anthony Varvaro, and Jonny Venters.
That makes 28 players on the roster able to carry 40, so look for other minor league call-ups to fill in some more holes on the bench and in the bullpen for the playoff run.
Let’s take a look at the bench players who will likely have an impact on the remainder of the season and the playoffs. (For analysis on the Braves bullpen, check out the piece I wrote for Braves Banter here)
Ross: He’s been with Atlanta since the 2009 season as McCann’s backup. He has been a great catcher off the bench and has provided a ton of pinch-hit appearances that served as spark plugs throughout his time with Atlanta. This season, Ross has a .263/.336/.423/5HR/21RBI line. He is good enough to give McCann rest time down the stretch and to give great pinch hitting in the playoffs.
Conrad: Conrad doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence for me coming off the bench and swinging the bat. He’s hitting an average .237/.333/.419 in 93 AB this season. His fielding away from 3B leaves a lot to be desired, as I’m sure most of you remember from his ninth inning error against the Giants that allowed the winning run to score in last season’s NLDS.
Hinske: Hinske provides a lot of pop off the bench and is usually clutch when coming in to close ball games. In 217 AB this season, he’s hitting .249/.325/.433/10HR/28RBI. A lot of those hits have been clutch and I’m very comfortable with Hinske coming off the bench and filling in around the field when other guys need a rest day.
Wilson: Recently acquired from the Seattle Mariners for a player to be named later, through 174 AB, Wilson is hitting .247/.281/.293/0HR/11RBI. I would wager that the Braves didn’t bring Wilson in for his bat as much as for his defense in order to give Gonzalez a rest at SS occasionally. In 455 innings between 2B and SS, Wilson only has 3 errors this season. He’s a good defensive infielder and should allow Gonzalez and Uggla to rest for the playoffs.
Diaz: Recently acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates (also for a player to be named later), Diaz knows Atlanta well and should be comfortable in the dugout (he’s 3 for 5 so far). Diaz gives the Braves another option in the OF to go with Bourn, Heyward, Constanza, Hinske, and Prado. Because of that depth, Diaz also allows Prado to move to the infield in the event of an injury there. Diaz’s bat isn’t going to change a lot of games, but he gets productive hits (hitting .250) on the year.
Costanza: Costanza was called up from AAA and tore through the Majors for the first month or so he was there. He is currently hitting .330/.371/.429. The best part of Costanza’s game is his speed on the bases. The talk around the Braves was Heyward’s reduced role and the effect that a platoon in RF would have on the team. Costanza got injured and cooled off and Heyward is back in the lineup more often. Both players produce well and will probably split time in the playoffs as well.