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Flux Capacitor

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There's a ways to go before we get to our 40-man roster, let alone 25-man, but some parts of the team are in a bit more flux than others. The infield's completely set, and the starting rotation's all but done, but the outfield, bullpen, and bench are all very much up in the air. As we take a look at the 2009 Braves over the next few weeks, we'll try to figure out who's on the team -- and who should be.

There's still some flux in the 25-man. Let's break it down.

First, our out-of-options players:
Josh Anderson, Blaine Boyer, Mike Gonzalez, Derek Lowe, Anthony Lerew, Greg Norton, David Ross, Rafael Soriano, and Phil Stockman

Infield: no flux (5 spots, 5 filled)
Around the horn, we've got Chipper Jones, Yunel Escobar, Kelly Johnson, Casey Kotchman, and Brian McCann behind the plate. Kotchman's the weakest link, so if he provides any production, that's easily one of the top infields in the game, with two superstars, a budding star in Escobar, and a should-be near-star in Johnson. Excepting injury (and Chipper's inevitable 20-30 games out), this group of names won't change all year.

Starting rotation: negligible flux (5 spots, 5 mostly filled)
Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, Jair Jurrjens, Kenshin Kawakami, and Tom Glavine: that's the rotation, as far as we can tell, at least until someone gets hurt or Tom Glavine physically combusts. (As unlucky as this may be to say aloud, I'm worried that Jurrjens may miss a significant number of starts, just because he pitched so many more innings last year than he ever had before.) But injuries are inevitable, and Glavine's ineffectiveness is nearly inevitable, so we may be seeing a good bit of Jo-Jo Reyes, Charlie Morton, and Jorge Campillo. Buddy Carlyle and Jeff Bennett can both spot start, but they're pretty far down on the depth chart at this point. And by midsummer, everyone expects Tommy Hanson to be the #5/#6 starter -- probably displacing Glavine, but it's hard to know.

Outfield: some flux (3-4 spots, 1 filled, 2 sort of filled)
Right field's Jeff Francoeur for now, no matter how much I gripe. Center field will probably wind up being Josh Anderson, and left will probably be a Garret Anderson/Matt Diaz platoon, but Gregor Blanco (who held down a regular job all year in 2008) and Brandon Jones are still trying to find their way into that, and everyone expects Jordan Schafer to start logging serious minutes as a starter some time before the end of the year, possibly by midsummer. The trouble is, not one of the group of J. Anderson, G. Anderson, Diaz, Blanco, Jones or Francoeur hits like a starting corner outfielder should hit, so while we've got a lot of warm bodies we don't have anyone who demands -- or even particularly deserves -- to be played. I like Jones, because he's young, cheap, and hasn't really gotten enough of a chance to show he doesn't deserve to be here, and it's hard to argue with Diaz's 2006-2007 numbers, but there aren't a lot of good options here. Wren needed to get us a big outfield bat this offseason, and he whiffed.

Bench: some flux (5-6 spots, 4 filled)
Omar Infante, Greg Norton, Martin Prado, and David Ross, plus two of the backup outfielders, probably, which would mean two of Brandon Jones, Gregor Blanco, or Matt Diaz, unless someone else really impresses in spring training. Then again, none of the people who will end up starting in the outfield really deserve to start -- not one of our outfielders last year could have started on any of the playoff teams.

Bullpen: some flux (6-7 spots, 3-4 filled)
As we have the past two years, we'll try to get Peter Moylan, Mike Gonzalez, and Rafael Soriano (who hasn't pitched yet in spring training but is throwing side sessions) all healthy at the same time. Then we'll probably add Blaine Boyer, Manny Acosta, and a crappy lefty to get up to six relievers, with one of the Morton/Reyes/Campillo group as likely first alternate because Soriano probably won't be ready on opening day. This depends partly on injury and partly on spring performance, though the one spot that really seems up in the air to me is that of situational lefty. Anthony Lerew and Phil Stockman are both out of options, but Lerew cleared waivers, so he'll be in the minors again. Stockman has to hope he can stay healthy, harness that talent he's been flashing for years, and dazzle the Braves in spring training, or he'll have to go through waivers too.

So that's the way I see it -- what do you think?

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