Braves Face Difficult 40-Man Roster Decisions

The Braves 40-man roster is due out Friday. BravesCenter's Bill Shanks takes a look at the important decisions facing the Braves.

Major League Baseball feels that one way to "fix" the competitive imbalance between its "haves" and "have nots" is the Rule V draft. The Players Association also feels the Rule V allows players "stuck" in an organization to get a chance to play. However, for a team like the Braves, with a bevy of solid talent in its minor league system, the Rule V draft is nothing more than punishment for having solid drafts and compensating the teams that have not.

With the 40-man rosters due out Friday, here's a look at the players the Braves have to place on the roster or risk losing in the Rule V.

CURRENTLY ON 40-MAN ROSTER

1. MIKE HAMPTON
2. JOHN THOMSON
3. JOHN SMOLTZ
4. CHRIS REITSMA
5. JUAN CRUZ
6. KEVIN GRYBOSKI
7. TOM MARTIN
8. ROMAN COLON
9. JOSE CAPELLAN
10. HORACIO RAMIREZ
11. BLAINE BOYER
12. DAN MEYER
13. JOHNNY ESTRADA
14. EDDIE PEREZ
15. ADAM LAROCHE
16. SCOTT THORMAN
17. MIKE HESSMAN
18. MARCUS GILES
19. NICK GREEN
20. RAFAEL FURCAL
21. WILSON BETEMIT
22. TONY PENA, JR.
23. CHIPPER JONES
24. MARK DEROSA
25. ANDRUW JONES
26. ELI MARRERO
27. CHARLES THOMAS
28. KELLY JOHNSON
29. RYAN LANGERHANS
30. ONIL JOSEPH

That's 12 pitchers, 2 catchers, 10 infielders, and 6 outfielders.

Now here are the players the Braves must place on the 40-man roster or risk losing through the Rule V draft.

1. KYLE DAVIES
2. ZACH MINER
3. ANTHONY LEREW
4. BRYAN DIGBY
5. GONZALO LOPEZ
6. MATT WRIGHT
7. MACAY MCBRIDE
8. DANIEL CURTIS
9. CHRIS WATERS
10. MATT COENEN
11. RAY AGUILAR
12. KEVIN BARRY
13. BUDDY HERNANDEZ
14. ALEC ZUMWALT
15. RALPH ROBERTS
16. MIGUEL BERNARD
17. BRAYAN PENA
18. J.C. BOSCAN
19. JAMES JURRIES
20. AARON HERR
21. PETE ORR
22. MARTIN PRADO
23. JON SCHUERHOLZ
24. LUIS HERNANDEZ
25. ANDY MARTE
26. WES TIMMONS
27. BILLY MCCARTHY
28. ADAM STERN
29. JOSH BURRUS
30. ARDLEY JANSEN
31. GREGOR BLANCO

Ok. Let's go ahead and get the automatics out of the way. Here are the ones who will most definitely be placed on the 40-man roster.

1. KYLE DAVIES
2. ANTHONY LEREW
3. ANDY MARTE
4. MACAY MCBRIDE

That puts the roster at 34. However, there are a couple currently on the 40-man roster that might be dropped off. Here are those personalities:

1. MIKE HESSMAN – With LaRoche now entrenched at first base, plus James Jurries and Scott Thorman right behind him in AAA and AA, Hessman might be in jeopardy of losing his spot.

2. ONIL JOSEPH – A year ago when Joseph was put on the 40-man, the Braves didn't have as many outfield prospects as they do now. Kelly Johnson moved to the outfield and did well to help the depth, plus Adam Stern and Billy McCarthy rebounded from injury-plagued 2003 seasons to become legit prospects. So now Joseph could be in danger of being pushed out by either Stern, McCarthy, and even Josh Burrus, a 2001 first round draft choice. However, if the Braves dropped Joseph off the 40-man, he would be available through waivers to all other teams, and if selected, he would only have to be kept on that team's 40-man and not just the major league 25-man roster. There is no way he would pass through waivers without being selected, so chances are he will remain on Atlanta's 40-man roster.

The Braves might try to trade Hessman before the deadline for setting the 40-man roster. If they did, they'd probably want to acquire a player that would not have to be placed on the 40-man this season.

So here are the "bubble guys," the ones who will be most difficult for the Braves to decide on when completing the roster. One of the biggest questions you must ask when examining these players is, "If left unprotected, would another team select them and possibly keep them on the 25-man roster next season?"

1. ZACH MINER – He is having a tremendous Arizona Fall League. If left unprotected, Miner would probably be one of the top players selected. His fastball reached 95 mph with 30 scouts watching him in the AFL. Plus, he's just finished a season in AA, so some teams will feel he may be ready for the big leagues.

2. BRYAN DIGBY – Some teams may have fallen in love with Digby's mid-high 90's fastball, but he just finished his first full season in A ball. He's a little farther away from the big leagues, so it's doubtful someone would put him on the roster. Right now, Miner has more value than Digby.

3. KEVIN BARRY – The feeling in the Braves organization is that Berry could be in the big leagues at some point in 2005, but with the ease to find relievers, it might be tough to protect him. If there were no crunch, Barry would be protected. The Braves will take their chances and hope he slides through.

4. JAMES JURRIES – He's hitting the heck out of the ball in winter ball so far, which is not a surprise. An American League team would be stupid to pass this guy. He's ready to hit in the majors right now. The question of course is his defense. That's what may make the Braves prefer to deal him, so he's still got value to the team.

5. BILLY MCCARTHY – Here's another hitter who could go to spring training and open some eyes. He would be taken in the Rule V if left exposed. McCarthy has a lot of value. He made a great impression in AAA this season.

6. ADAM STERN – The difference between Stern and McCarthy is the speed. Stern is just a faster player. If left exposed, a team might be tempted to put him on the end of their bench as a pinch runner and 4th or 5th outfielder.

7. JOSH BURRUS – Burrus might have more upside than Jurries, McCarthy, or Stern. However, he's just finished Low-A. A team would be taking a huge gamble to take him. Expect the Braves to take a gamble that nobody won't and leave him off the 40-man.

8. LUIS HERNANDEZ – The knock on Hernandez is his height – or lack of it. But there's no disputing his fielding ability. He's exceptional with the glove. A team might think Hernandez could be a defensive replacement in the big leagues. It would be tough to lose Hernandez and watch him eventually become a Gold Glover.

9. PETE ORR – This will perhaps be the most interesting decision. He's ready for the big leagues. Some in the organization think he is better than Nick Green. Other teams might overlook his hustle and go simply by stats in evaluating him. But if there were any scouts that watched him regularly, they'd recommend picking him.

10. MARTIN PRADO – He's the best infield prospect in the lower minors, and he might be three years away. So you can't expect a team to take a chance on him. If they did, he'll be offered back to the Braves in the spring. He's just too far away to make a major league roster.

So there are 30 currently on the 40-man, and you have to assume they'll leave the roster at 38, so they can have two spots open for possible additions. I'm going to predict that Mike Hessman will either be dropped off the 40-man or traded before Friday. If he remains on the 40-man, they'll probably have to put him on waivers if they add a player. They could keep him on the 40-man and just wait until they have to make a move with him.

After the four automatics are put on the 40-man, there'll be 5 spots open with 10 candidates. Burrus, Prado, and Digby, all coming off seasons in Low-A, will be left off the 40-man in hopes that no one will take them. They'll take a gamble with Barry and hope he slides through. If the last spot comes between Pete Orr and Adam Stern, I think the Braves will go with Orr, since he could easily make the major leagues next season. So I think they'll keep Miner, Jurries, McCarthy, Hernandez, and Orr.

The 40-man roster will be released Friday. We'll have complete coverage here at BravesCenter.

Bill Shanks can be reached at thebravesshow@email.com

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