2016 State Of The NL East: Atlanta Braves
Even though the Braves acquired Erick Aybar in the Andrelton Simmons deal, do you expect Dansby Swanson to make his Major League debut this season?
A: There’s actually two questions here: (a) How long does Erick Aybar last in Atlanta? and (b) Who exactly is going to be that shortstop of the future?
Curiously, GM Coppolella indicated there would be a high trade price for Aybar earlier this month, mentioning that he was a significant portion of the Andrelton Simmons deal.
Okay… but he is on the last year of his current contract, there is no way that the Braves would offer an extension to him, and he’s not a ‘Qualifying Offer’ kind of player. So: if not now, then a trade by the end of July is virtually certain.
That shouldn’t be a tough trade if he’s healthy: Aybar could be one of the better trade pieces available at the deadline, in fact. So let’s move to Part B: Swanson… or what?
The Braves got a first-hand look at both Dansby Swanson and Ozhaino Albies over the past month in Florida. The reviews have been excellent, with both players performing exactly as hoped – and often against major league competition – not the mop-up innings. Both can play shortstop well. So then the question is who gets the position?
The answer is yet to be determined, but one will be the second baseman of the future; the other will be the shortstop. Swanson might get first dibs when Aybar is traded… unless they hold off until September and let Daniel Castro keep the glove warm in the meantime. Albies is going to be right on his heels, though, as this 19-year-old Curaçao native (yes, we do pretty much own the island) showed clearly that he’ll make a very quick leap from A-ball to the majors.
So yes: Swanson by at least September, if not earlier; Albies will likely be promoted for either September or Opening Day 2017. And that leads straight into the next question:
What has been the main storyline of spring training so far?
A: The emergence of the prospects: Ozzy Albies, Dansby Swanson, and Mallex Smith in particular. They are showing that they will be successful once called up, and that this could happen sooner than later. Their play over just 3 weeks is validating the rebuild and showing that it won’t take that many more pieces to go with them to turn the Braves into a contender once they really hit their stride.
Sure: it’s a Small Sample Size thing right now, but it’s more than just their stats: the shortstops in particular are showing a high level of baseball acumen. They were excelling in situational hitting, base-running smarts, and use of all fields. Albies is going to be a basepath disruptor, Swanson is going to be a leader, and both are going to be defensively solid up the middle. Their play has allowed the Braves to experiment with current second-sacker Jace Peterson. He’s now clearly set up to be an uber-utility player, having had stints at every OF position and every infield position at one time or another.
This movie opens for business in April 2017, hopefully with a great supporting cast.
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