Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves

Running down the rosters: Atlanta Braves

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Since finishing off one of the biggest collapses in NL history, the Braves have responded by doing absolutely nothing, at least when it comes to adding. They did trade away Derek Lowe and let shortstop Alex Gonzalez leave in free agency. But every member of the current 25-man projected roster below was in the organization last year.

Rotation
Jair Jurrjens – R
Tommy Hanson – R
Brandon Beachy – R
Mike Minor – L
Randall Delgado – R

Bullpen
Craig Kimbrel – R
Jonny Venters – L
Eric O’Flaherty – L
Arodys Vizcaino – R
Kris Medlen – R
Cristhian Martinez – R
Anthony Varvaro – R

Disabled list: Tim Hudson (R)
SP next in line: Julio Teheran (R), Medlen, Todd Redmond (R)
RP next in line: Robert Fish (L)(Rule 5), Peter Moylan (R), Adam Russell (R), Cody Gearrin (R)

It’s looking increasingly likely that Hudson, who is coming off back surgery, will miss at least the first couple of weeks of the season. The Braves can’t be too confident about the health of Jurrjens or Hanson, either. Of course, they have great depth with Delgado, Teheran and Medlen, but it’d be for the best if it’s not tested in early April.

The bullpen is also strong, with the game’s most untouchable one-two punch and Vizcaino seemingly ready to take on a big role in the sixth and seventh innings. The only spot that figures to be up for grabs is the last one, assuming Medlen isn’t needed in the rotation. Fish, who was taken from the Angels in the Rule 5 draft, could claim it over Varvaro with a strong spring.

I’m listing Moylan with the next in lines since he’s likely to spend the first month or two rehabbing following shoulder surgery. He’s back with the Braves on a minor league contract (and thus won’t be on the major league disabled list initially).

Lineup
CF Michael Bourn – L
LF Martin Prado – R
3B Chipper Jones – S
2B Dan Uggla – R
1B Freddie Freeman – L
C Brian McCann – L
RF Jason Heyward – L
SS Tyler Pastornicky – R

Bench
C David Ross – R
INF Jack Wilson – R
1B-OF Eric Hinske – L
OF Matt Diaz – R
OF Jose Constanza – L

Next in line: INF Drew Sutton (S), INF Brandon Hicks (R), INF Josh Wilson (R), OF Jordan Parraz (R), OF Luis Durango (S), OF Stefan Gartrell (R)

For the record, that’s not how I would arrange the lineup. Fredi Gonzalez, though, likes Uggla in that cleanup spot, no matter that it would make more sense to have him lower in the order breaking up the lefties. And while McCann spent much of the season hitting third and fourth, he was dropped down to sixth at the very end.

The roster here is probably set. I’d rather see them carry Sutton than Constanza, but that would leave them without a legitimate backup center fielder. Better yet, they could carry both and go with an 11-man pitching staff once Hudson is healthy. But figure the odds…

These Braves are still very much a threat in the NL East if things break right. However, I’d be more optimistic if I felt safe in projecting any of their starters to throw 200-220 innings. And if they had a different manager.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.