FOX Sports MLB Analyst
On August 17, 2016, a curly-haired freshman was named Dansby Swanson Jog to his shortstop MLB for the first time. From that moment on, Atlanta Braves 948 baseball games played. 911 in the regular season, 37 in the postseason. Swanson was the starting shortstop in nearly 90% of those games.
Swanson’s impressive run of 843 starts included All-Star appearances, a Gold Glove, five division titles and, of course, the 2021 World Series. The eight non-Dansbies who stumbled at the start of that stretch – Johan Camargo, Charlie Culberson, Adeni Hecavaria, Jess PetersonAnd Chase d’ArnoTim Beckham Orlando Arcia and Ehire Adrianza – they are substitution level heroes and “men to remember”.
Only one football player, ex Boston/Present San Diego shortstop Xander Bogaerts, has accumulated the most starts (850) at a single position for a single team since Swanson’s debut. For six years, Swanson has been the epitome of dependability. If you tune in to the Braves, the hometown glove maker is almost certainly the guy at shortstop.
But time passes and empires fade. Baseball is still a business. Thus, Swanson’s gritty days are behind him. Now, he is a cub. For the first time since before Cubs Braves won the world championship, and are faced with an alien mystery. They must fill an influential and unfamiliar void.
Nowhere on the Atlanta roster is there any obvious shortstop, no doubt, immediately capable of filling Swanson’s formidable shoes. nothing Jeremy Peña to Swanson Carlos Correa. And while there are a few eligible singles in free agency this winter, the Braves have kept their pockets shut as Swanson, Correa, Bogaerts, and Tria Turner occurred elsewhere.
A diverse group of healthy men between the ages of 20 and 40 will play the equivalent of 162 games for the Braves next season. this is the truth. Someone must do it. That person will not be me, or you, or Swanson, or Correa, or Rafael Furcal.
Here are the options, both internal and external, ranked with consideration and foresight, from most likely to least.
When 2022 began, Grissom was a promising prospect who had not yet played Above-A-Ball and was not old enough to buy himself a beer. By October, he was starting playoff games at second base.
It was an impressive climb, even by Braves potential standards. After joining the big league club in early August, Grissom recorded 121 OPS+ (21% better than the league average) in 156 trips to the plate.
While the 6-foot-3 freshman impressed offensively as a stalwart Ozzy Albies He was at IL, his glove at second base frustrated. Grissom’s value was less than four times higher than the mean — in a small sample size, which can be explained in two ways. Given how difficult it is for many to go from second to sixth, there is reason to doubt his ability to survive as a shortstop in the big league.
It’s still worth noting that Grissom spent most of his minor league stint on shortstop. Some professional evaluators think he made a short defensive move in 2022 and has a chance to be a middle linebacker in the big league there.
Besides, the Braves are not a stupid baseball team. They let Swanson walk for a reason. The organization, more specifically magician Ron Washington, must believe that Grissom has the skills and work ethic necessary to develop into a competent defensive presence. Time will tell, but expect it to be opening day.
The 28-year-old utility man saw time in the second and third season, shortstop and left while delivering average league value at the plate. He also delivered a scoreless turn, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Once upon a time, Arcia was very much in love with Milwaukee. Before breaking into the big leagues in 2016, Baseball America was ranked eighth, one place ahead of Turner and ten points ahead. Rafael Devers. MLB Pipeline finished sixth, two points behind Swanson.
Arcia’s successful pitcher never quite developed and he struggled to produce it in six seasons with the Brewers. Once he was sent to Atlanta in April of 2021, he turned into a flawed but useful player. Arcia became the “glass-breaking-in-an-emergency” shortstop, only Swanson never broke.
But with Swanson gone and Grissom’s defensive abilities still unproven, Arashia could see significant time in his old position. Just two seasons in, he’s shut out starting 86% of Milwaukee’s games at shortstop as a defenseman, 74 percent, in Baseball Savant. Add to that that with Arcia’s offensive improvements in 2022 — his swing rate is down 8%, the second-largest annual decline in baseball — and there’s a very real chance Arcia will finish the season with the most games in the soonest of any Brave game.
Adrianza is basically Arcia, except he’s a much worse hitter, never a top favorite and not very good defensively. He’ll start the year deep Triple-A, but if one or two bullies get injured, he can offer a temporary and tolerable gap.
Drafted 21st overall in 2019, the Texas A&M No. 1 spot is the epitome of replacement level. The skinny 25-year-old did decent performances on both sides of the ball (. 715 OPS) with Triple-A Gwinnett in 2022, but scouts unanimously agree that Shewmake will not be an impact player at the big-league level.
He’ll get a call-up sometime in 2023, but barring a huge jump in performance, Shewmake doesn’t look like a regular starter for Atlanta.
Jose Iglesias / Elvis Andrus
As our world becomes more complex and intimidating than ever before, Iglesias is a comforting friend we can all count on. The 33-year-old free agent can be counted on for three things: (1) hitting a high average, (2) playing enough defense that looks great, and (3) not hitting any power. He did all three last year in 118 games Colorado He remains the best defensive shortstop available in free agency.
Andros, who played two and a half seasons as the Braves’ junior over 15 years ago before being dealt to the Texans as part of Marc Teixeira’s blockbuster blockbuster, had an unexpected offensive resurgence over the last six weeks of last season. . After, after Oakland Released in August, Andros joined the band white stockings and inexplicably cut .271/.309/.464 (116 OPS+) in 191 plate appearances. How real was this stretch? It’s probably not sustainable, but the 34-year-old Andrus seems to have left enough in the tank to be a starting shortstop.
Will Atlanta pounce on any of these guys? That’s questionable, unless someone got hurt.
As a prospect coming through Atlanta’s minor league system, Alpes played 319 more innings shorter than he played at second base. Because of Swanson, the Albies never pitched a single shortstop in his six-year MLB career; In fact, his last match there at Triple-A was in July of 2017.
Since then, Albies has (1) gotten a lot slower, and (2) dealt with a number of lower-body injuries, both of which make him less likely to move to his original position. But Ozzie is still (somehow) only 26 and probably has enough athleticism to get the transition going again. Lord knows his friend Ron Washington would love a challenge.
Jake Mintz, Louder Half @tweet He is a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He is an Orioles fan and lives in New York City, and thus leads a reclusive life in most Octobers. If he’s not watching baseball, he’s almost certainly riding his bike. Follow him on Twitter at @tweet.
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