KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The news of Chipper Jones pending retirement gives the Atlanta Braves time to figure out what theyll do for third base next year. Sure, his surgery Monday might make that a more immediate need, but they do need to plan for 2013 when Jones will be gone for good.
Expect the team to look at all levels of baseball -- major leagues and minor leagues -- to identify potential candidates to replace Jones. Theyll look at the free agent list, the trade market and maybe even the draft to compile a list of options.
Of course, the man who will replace Jones temporarily this season, Martin Prado, will also be a candidate. Some believe Prado plays third base even better than he played second base, which is his natural position.
There will also be other internal candidates, candidates that are currently scheduled to play in Atlantas farm system this season. Unlike former prospects like Mike Hessman, Andy Marte and Wes Timmons, these players no longer will be blocked by a future Hall of Famer.
The strongest candidate is Joey Terdoslavich -- thats Ter-dah-sla-vich. Hes a switch-hitter, and hes headed to Triple-A Gwinnett. Terdoslavich was a sixth-round pick in 2010 out of Long Beach State, and he got on the map with a great season last year in High Single-A Lynchburg.
Terdoslavich broke a 65-year Carolina League record with 52 doubles last season. He also had 20 home runs, 82 RBI and a .286 batting average. Then he dazzled scouts in the Arizona Fall League. The Braves then brought him to big league camp, where he impressed major league coaches.
Terdoslavich has a lot of similarities to Jones. Both are switch-hitters who play third base. Both also credit their fathers with teaching them how to hit. Terdoslavich praises his father, Joe, for stressing the finer points of hitting.
Hes been my hitting coach my whole life, Terdoslavich said. Hes been huge. Even if hes not there, he knows whats going on, what Im doing wrong or the reason why something happens in a game. He doesnt even have to be there. He knows my swing better than I do.
Terdoslavich, or Terdo as his teammates call him, was so good in big league camp that the Braves are allowing him to skip Double-A and head to the International League. Thatll put him right up the road in Gwinnett, and it also will make all fans keep an eye on Terdoslavich as the potential new third baseman.
Well obviously, Id like it to be me, he said. But Im just trying to take it one day at a time -- one at bat at a time, one ground ball at a time. I figure if I get better every day, one day Im going to play in the big leagues.
Atlanta will also monitor Edward Salcedo, a high-priced international signee from two years ago who will head to Lynchburg. Joe Leonard, who was in Lynchburg last season, will see time in Double-A Mississippi this year.
The Braves also have Nick Ahmed, a shortstop drafted last year from Connecticut in the second round. Hell also be in Lynchburg, and while Ahmed is a shortstop, hes a big young player who many believe will have to eventually move to third base. Kyle Kubitza was the third round pick last June. Hes a left-handed hitter and is headed to Low-A Rome.
Plus, Brandon Drury will be a name to watch. The 19-year-old won the batting title in the Appalachian League last year with a .347 average. He might have to play a bit at first base so everyone will get at bats, but the Braves really like Drurys bat and he could be a good option in a couple of years.
So give the Braves credit. Theyve been planning for Jones inevitable retirement by stockpiling prospects. Maybe one will make it, and if not, theyll have others to choose from to find the next star for the hot corner.
Listen to The Bill Shanks Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com.