Braves potential 2016 roster looks better

Michael Bourn makes the 2016 lineup look a little bit better.

Here is a look at how next year's roster could be taking shape.

ROTATION

Will Julio Teheran return, or will the Braves look to trade him? That’s question number one. If he’s back, Teheran will join Shelby Miller at the top of the rotation. Matt Wisler, Mike Foltynewicz and Williams Perez are three rookies who could easily stick in the rotation for next season.

Don’t expect Mike Minor to be back. He’ll likely be non-tendered this winter. Manny Banuelos then becomes the best hope to have a southpaw in the 2016 rotation. The Braves loved what he showed in his tryout in Atlanta, and if healthy there is every reason to believe he could be in the rotation next season.

Of course, the Braves could target a veteran pitcher to lead the rotation. This is still a young group. All of these starters will be 25 or younger, so expect the Braves to at least look at the veteran free agents this winter. That could also lead of another trade involving one of the incumbent pitchers going for a bat.


BULLPEN

Arodys Vizcaino is getting the tryout now for next year’s closer’s job. If he does well in the final 50 games, he’ll be the favorite going into spring training next February. Jason Grilli is still under contract for next season, so if his Achilles’ heel is fixed and healed, he could be back and challenge Vizcaino or at the least be a great setup man.

The lefties could include Paco Rodriguez, Andrew McKirahan and Matt Marksberry. Chris Withrow, Shae Simmons and Danny Winkler are all coming off Tommy John surgery, and they could be important setup men. Peter Moylan is a name to keep in mind, as well.

Like they did last offseason with Grilli and Jim Johnson, expect the Braves to target a couple of veteran relievers to add to the mix. If the players coming back from injury rebound nicely, the bullpen could be solid next season.


CATCHER

Christian Bethancourt needs to be brought up now to answer this question. There is no point in him lingering in Triple-A. He’s done what they asked him to do. Bethancourt has improved his attitude and his defense. Plus, he’s hit well. So we need to see if Bethancourt is the answer behind the plate.

He needs the 50-game test. That should be enough time for Bethancourt to show us whether he’s ready or the full-time job next season. If not, the Braves are going to have to go get someone. So this is important. How can we know if he’s still in Gwinnett?

A.J. Pierzynski has been great. But he’s older than dirt. You can’t count on him doing what he’s done this season again next year. Pierzynski could be a great backup next season, but that’s about it.


INFIELD

Right now it looks like the infield will have Freddie Freeman at first, Jace Peterson at second, Andrelton Simmons at shortstop and Hector Olivera at third base.

Could the Braves be tempted with a trade involving Freeman or Simmons? Well, considering how aggressive the front office has been, don’t count it out.

Nick Swisher could take over for Freeman if he were traded, but with Jose Peraza being dealt to the Dodgers, the Braves really don’t have an immediate replacement for Simmons if he were dealt.

The Braves should consider bringing back Adonis Garcia for a bench role, considering the power he has shown the last few weeks. Pedro Ciriaco has been a very good reserve. Daniel Castro could also be in the mix for a reserve role.


OUTFIELD

Nick Markakis is locked in as the right fielder, and it’s likely safe to say that Michael Bourn will be either in center field or left field. The only question is whether the Braves will take advantage of Cameron Maybin’s high value and trade him either before August 31 or this offseason for more young talent. If not, the outfield is set with Markakis, Maybin and Bourn.

If Maybin is traded, the Braves could put Bourn in center and have Nick Swisher in left, but Swisher might first have to prove he can still play in the outfield. If he can’t, the Braves would likely have to go find a productive left fielder. That could be where another trade involving a starting pitcher comes into play.

The Braves will have to gauge how close Mallex Smith is to the big leagues. He likely needs more time in Triple-A. Eury Perez has done well in his tryout in Atlanta, but moving forward he is likely only a fourth outfield candidate. And don’t forget Dian Toscano, the Cuban outfielder who should be ready to compete for a job next spring.


LINEUP

How good is this lineup?

Michael Bourn
Jace Peterson
Nick Markakis
Freddie Freeman
Hector Olivera
Cameron Maybin
Andrelton Simmons
Christian Bethancourt

That could be the lineup in 2016 if no other big acquisitions are made. But considering how active and aggressive the front office has been, how can you count on that? There will likely be more changes. But as of now, that looks like an interesting team for the 2016 season.


Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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