The Braves have added five minor leaguers to their 40-man roster, including catching prospect Christian Bethancourt and right-handed pitchers Zeke Spruill, David Hale, Cory Rasmus and Aaron Northcraft.
Being added to the roster prevents them from being taken in the Rule 5 draft, which will be held Dec. 6 at the winter meetings. The Braves 40-man roster stands at 36.
Bethancourt, 21, is considered the Braves catcher of the future, with Brian McCann playing out the option year of his contract in 2013. Bethancourt hit .243 in 71 games for Double-A Mississippi before breaking a bone in his hand and missing the last month of the season. He has returned to form in the Dominican Winter League, where he is hitting .258 (8-for-31) in 12 games.
The Braves signed Gerald Laird as their backup catcher and replacement for David Ross but could turn to the strong-armed Bethancourt to help him fill in for McCann in early April. McCann is expected to miss at least the first couple of weeks of the season recovering from shoulder surgery.
Spruill, a former second round pick in 2008 from Marietta’s Kell High School, just completed the Arizona Fall League where he went 2-2 with a 3.63 ERA in seven games. He got 10 groundball outs in five strong innings his last time out. Spruill pitched for Double-A Mississippi last season going 9-11 with a 3.67 ERA in 27 starts.
Hale, 25, a native of Marietta, graduated from the Walker School and was drafted by the Braves in the third round in 2009 out of Princeton University. Hale went 8-4 with a 3.77 ERA in 27 starts for Double-A Mississippi last year.
Rasmus, the younger brother of Toronto outfielder Colby Rasmus, was the Braves second overall pick in 2006, taken 38th overall in the supplemental round. He has battled injuries much of his career but pitched 50 games in relief last year for Mississippi, going 3-5 with a 3.68 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings.
Northcraft, 22, a 10th round pick by the Braves in 2009, went 10-11 with a 3.98 ERA in 27 starts last year for Single-A Lynchburg. He struck out 160 batters in 151 2/3 innings while walking only 53 and holding opponents to a .247 batting average.