The Atlanta Braves’ rebuilding process accelerated just a bit Saturday with the promotion of their two best position players on the farm, both shortstops. Ozzie Albies went from Double-A Mississippi to Triple-A Gwinnett, while Dansby Swanson leaves High Single-A Carolina to replace Albies in the Southern League.
They’ve been playing a little more than three weeks, but both proved the level they were at was not a challenge. Albies, who is just 19 years old, hit .369 in Mississippi, while Swanson, last year’s top overall pick from Vanderbilt, hit .331 in Carolina.
They got on base a lot, too. Albies’ on-base percentage was .442, with Swanson’s just a point lower at .441.
These two players are why there is hope for this Braves team. They are talented, and isn’t that what’s missing in Atlanta now? Talent. These two aren’t going to save this season if they are brought up later this year. But they might just give us a glimpse of why not all is lost in the Braves getting back on track.
It was somewhat of a surprise when the Braves placed Albies in Double-A to begin the season. He is only 19, and not many prospects skip the Carolina League. But Albies went to Mississippi and showed how special he is as a player.
Numbers don’t tell the whole story. Albies is a mature young man. He certainly doesn’t act like a 19-year-old. Unlike Rafael Furcal, Albies is really the age he claims to be. And he carries himself very well.
“I feel more mature because I played in spring training with the big guys, and I know how to deal with those guys,” Albies said Friday. “I’m young, and all those guys taught me how to act. So it’s going really great.”
Albies, who stands 5-foot-9, is compared to Jose Altuve and Jimmy Rollins, both small players who play the middle infield. Altuve is a 5-6 second baseman for the Houston Astros, while Rollins is a 5-9 shortstop for the Chicago White Sox. The Braves would likely be thrilled if Albies can be like either player.
But where will Albies play — second or short? For now, the Braves want to keep both players at shortstop. In a best-case scenario, where both players showed they needed to be in Atlanta, then a decision would be made as to which player would move to second base.
“I want to stay at shortstop. I don’t want to move,” Albies said. “If it takes me to the big leagues, to play second base, I’ll move there.”
Chances are Swanson would say the same thing. He has, however, played second base — at Vanderbilt in his sophomore season. That’s why you hear some Ryne Sandberg comparisons with Swanson, although Derek Jeter’s name has been thrown around, as well.
At the latest, you can expect Albies and Swanson to be the starting infielders when Sun Trust Park opens in April. And it’s good to know, with the focus of the Braves’ rebuilding process so focused on pitching that there are position players on the way.
“I love to hit. I love to swing the bat from both sides of the plate,” said Albies, and that’s what the Braves need – hitters.
But forget about Albies wanting to wait until next spring to make it to Atlanta.
“It would be great, no doubt, but my dream is to get to the bigs this year,” he said. “That’s my dream. That’s my goal for this year, to make my MLB debut as a teenager.”
He’s well on his way, and Braves’ fans can’t wait.
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