Last year the Braves started the season with two old bench players (Eddie Perez and Julio Franco) and three rookies (Ryan Langerhans, Pete Orr, and Wilson Betemit). It’s an unusual combination, to say the least. Langerhans was a regular by the end of the season, and wound up leading Braves’ corner outfielders in plate appearances and games played, and yet he might be the fourth outfielder again next year. If it’s not him, it will probably be Kelly Johnson. Johnson doesn’t really have the skills of a fourth outfielder because he can’t play center, but the Braves have three genuine centerfielders in the starting lineup and should have at least two out there next year no matter what happens. I still feel that Johnson will outhit Langerhans going forward but if he doesn’t you go with the glove man.
The Furcal situation leaves Betemit in a bit of a limbo. If Furcal leaves — and right now, the odds are he will — Betemit might be the starter. Or he might be traded for a starter, if the Braves are that worried about his defense. It’s not really that bad. He’s functional. But he doesn’t have the range or the technique of your classic shortstop. If Betemit gets the job, the Braves pretty much have to import a Neifi-type to back him up.
Orr, presumably, will be back even though his utility is pretty limited. Infielders with no power who can’t play shortstop don’t normally have long careers, Lockhart notwithstanding.
The Braves aren’t going to sign Todd Pratt to back up McCann should Estrada be traded. If the Braves are going to get a decent hitter as their backup catcher, it’s going to be someone they already have, McCann or Pena or Estrada. If they sign a backup — just judging from fifteen years of watching this management team — they’ll sign someone with a good catch-and-throw reputation. My prediction that the Braves’ backup catcher in a few years will be a hamster stands, unless Pena can do something about his throwing and win the job.