Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Position Battle: Braves Shortstop

Over the next couple of weeks I'm going to take a look at a few position battles on the field and how I think they will shake out at the end of spring training. The first one I'll start with is SS because I believe it's probably one of the more set positions worth writing about, but there's still an outside chance of a platoon later down the road. As opposed to say, 1B or RF were I think we have entrenched players like Freddie and Markakis.

Four different players have had some time at SS during spring training or claim it as their natural position. Those players are Eric Aybar, Daniel Castro, Ozzie Albies, and Dansby Swanson.

Dansby is nowhere near ready for prime-time yet, and he's only hitting .217 in spring with an OPS of less than .600. That's not good enough to even post a sheet no the board and say MAYBE. There's no maybe about Swanson since he's 22 and spent no real time in the minors. However, he is a college player so that does mean the #1 overall pick from 2015 does have a leg up on the rest of the younger competition in the minor leagues. Still, he's not going to be our SS this year. Maybe in 2017, but 2018 is more realistic.

Ozzie Albies is really young at just 19 years old, but he's already hitting better than most of the players at spring training. With a .320 average in 25 ABs, he's making a name for himself, but he's also never played above A-Ball and he's extremely young to put into a major league role. I think he's a 2018 prospect at best, and he's likely not even a SS candidate when he gets here. He might find himself at 2B given the turmoil we have at that slot.

Daniel Castro is an outlier that got some MLB experience last season with the Braves when crap hit the fan, but he's an average hitter at best right now, and maybe for all time. Nothing about Castro really wowed me when he got a chance in 2015 to see the show for almost 100 ABs, but he can hit for a decent .240 average and come off the bench as a utility player. He may make the club again in that role, but not as a starter.

That leaves Eric Aybar. As part of the trade for Andrelton Simmons trade to the Angels, Aybar is an older veteran at age 32, but he's also crushing it in spring with a .417 average and an OPS over 1.000. Barring any kind of injury, he's the Braves opening day SS, and likely the starter for the majority of the games this season. That is unless the Braves see another trade chance, and if he plays REALLY well he's going to be on the first thing smoking while the Braves will get back some more magic beans to plant in the minors.

This is your life now as a Braves fan in a rebuilding mode. Nothing is sacred until we get to Cobb County and start making some of that sweet sweet OTP money.


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