The Atlanta Braves are expected to carry an eight man bullpen early this season giving the bench less flexibility.
The Atlanta Braves are reportedly expected to at least start the season employing eight relievers out of the bullpen. Exactly which relievers will be in the pen and who will have the high leverage roles are yet to be decided this spring though Jim Johnson is expected to at least start the season as the closer.
Going with an eight man pen early in the year hurts and helps the Braves at the same time. When you consider the wear it will save on struggling starters it may seem well worth it but with the Braves having a back-up catcher that they will likely not use until late in games in case of injury that gives them three bench options that will severely limit their flexibility.
Jace Peterson and Emilio Bonifacio will offer the Braves some defensive flexibility off the bench, they are both expected to be a part of barring a trade. The Braves have made it known that they are not against dealing for another bench bat in which case Bonifacio is likely the odd man out.
Going with an eight man pen will help the starters early in the year as they continue to up pitch counts and stretch innings. The same could be said for the position players however, when you consider how difficult it could be to give certain players days off especially if the Braves trade for another bench bat and lose some positional flexibility.
Another positive note of going with an eight man pen is allowing a bit more competition within camp among the relief pitchers who are expected to be fighting for those last two spots. Overall the Braves pitching both starters in the bullpen have improved drastically and should translate into more win in the 2017 season.