Sandoval, Kipnis To Join Braves’ Spring Camp (www.mlb.com)

ATLANTA —

and Jason Kipnis will both be given a chance to extend their respective big league careers by attempting to earn a spot on the Braves’ bench.

The Braves announced Sandoval, Kipnis and right-handed reliever Carl Edwards Jr. are among the 25 non-roster players who have been invited to Spring Training. Outfielder Drew Waters and catcher Shea Langeliers are the top prospects included within this group.

Braves manager Brian Snitker will welcome pitchers and catchers to camp on Wednesday and the club’s first full-squad workout is scheduled for Feb. 23. This will be the second year the team has trained at its new facility in North Port, Fla.

Here is a breakdown of this year’s non-roster invitees:

OPENING DAY ROSTER CANDIDATES

Bench: INF Pablo Sandoval and INF Jason Kipnis

Sandoval was added to Atlanta’s active roster on the final day of last year’s regular season and then was carried throughout the postseason. The .539 OPS he produced over 98 plate appearances (postseason included) suggests he should be a longshot candidate. But the 2013 World Series MVP is an experienced switch-hitter who could find a spot on what currently sets up to be a weak bench.

Long past his days as an annual All-Star candidate, Kipnis produced a .744 OPS over 135 plate appearances for the Cubs last year. The former Cleveland second baseman’s ability to play outfield if necessary will aid him as he attempts to crack a 40-man roster that currently includes Johan Camargo as its only quality backup infielder.

Bullpen: RHP Carl Edwards Jr. and RHP Nate Jones

Edwards was a key rookie contributor while helping the Cubs win the World Series in 2016. He then posted a 2.81 ERA while totaling 131 appearances over the following two seasons. But the 29-year-old struggled with his mechanics during a frustration-filled 2019 season and ended up making just five appearances for the Mariners last year. If the right-hander appears healthy and capable of getting back to where he was just a couple years ago, he could easily find a spot in what is currently a lefty-heavy Atlanta bullpen.

Jones hasn’t found consistent success since posting a 2.29 ERA over 70 2/3 innings for the White Sox in 2016. Shoulder issues plagued him over the next couple seasons, and he hasn’t made more than 33 appearances in any of the past four years. Right-handers and left-handers both had success against him, as he posted a 6.27 ERA in 21 appearances for the Reds last year. He’s a longshot candidate. But so was Tyler Matzek at this point last year.

Waters (the Braves’ No. 2 prospect, per MLB Pipeline) will enter this upcoming season looking to prove himself at the Triple-A level. The talented young outfielder, who ranks as the game’s No. 35 prospect, struck out far too often while playing in Grapefruit League games last year. He’ll spend these next few weeks looking to show the strides he made while working out at the alternate training site last year. There’s a good chance he makes his big league debut at some point this year. But the young switch-hitter will likely need to spend a few more months refining his swing, especially from the right side.

Langeliers (No. 4) possesses one of the best arms you will currently find in the game. The 23-year-old catcher was taken in the first round of the 2019 Draft and currently ranks sixth among all of the game’s catching prospects. He showed some power potential while experiencing his first big league Spring Training last year. He’ll gain more experience over the next few weeks and provide a better idea of when he might be deemed big league ready. If the Braves need to use one of the catching prospects in Atlanta this year, they’ll go with William Contreras, who is already on the 40-man roster.

Braden Shewmake (No. 5) has also impressed the Brave since being taken in the first round of the 2019 MLB Draft. The lanky infielder showed a solid bat when introduced to the pro ranks with Class A Rome in 2019. He’ll be given a chance to resume his climb through the system this year.

Freddy Tarnok (No. 11) will be experiencing his first big league camp. The right-hander has been an intriguing prospect since the Braves took him as a pitcher with limited experience in the third round of the 2017 MLB Draft. The young right-hander’s rise this year will depend on his ability to command a fastball that has been clocked in the upper 90’s.

Michael Harris (No. 12) is an incredibly gifted prospect who was given the chance to work out at the team’s alternate training site last year. The 19-year-old outfielder has played just 53 games at the pro level. So, the suburban Atlanta native will need some time to develop. But he has the capability to rise quickly over the next couple years.

Trey Harris (No. 13) was named the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year after producing an .887 OPS while playing at the Class A, Class A Advanced and Double-A levels in 2019. The 25-year-old prospect’s defensive versatility will prove valuable as he attempts to get that much closer to the Major League level this year.

Bryce Ball (No. 19) will return to Spring Training after impressing the coaches with his raw power last year. The 6-foot-6 left-handed slugger has been nicknamed “Drago,” in reference to the intimidating antagonist in Rocky III. His value to the Braves’ organization will increase if the universal DH is indeed put back in place within the next couple years.

Pitchers (8): LHP Thomas Burrows, RHP Jason Creasy, RHP Daysbel Hernández, RHP Kurt Hoekstra, RHP Connor Johnstone, RHP Nolan Kingham, RHP Victor Vodnik, RHP William Woods

Catchers (2): Logan Brown, Jonathan Morales

Infielders (3): Ehire Adrianza, CJ Alexander, Sean Kazmar

Outfielders (1): Justin Dean

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