Braves re­main con­fi­dent in Al­bies

Weak sec­ond half aside, sec­ond base­man’s fu­ture looks bright.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - SPORTS - By Gabriel Burns Gabriel.Burns@ajc.com

As the Braves surged in the sec­ond half, their sec­ond base­man was a bor­der­line of­fen­sive li­a­bil­ity.

Ozzie Al­bies was the MVP of April. He mus­tered a fran­chise-record 22 ex­tra-base hits that month, even­tu­ally knock­ing 20 homers be­fore the mid­sea­son break.

He just missed start­ing the All­Star Game, but made the ros­ter nonethe­less. The 21-year-old was among MLB’s more dy­namic tal- ents, even over­shad­ow­ing Ron­ald Acuna through the first few months.

Then came post-break, when Al­bies was a non-fac­tor for chunks of the sea­son. De­fense and speed don’t slump, they say, but the Braves won in spite of his bat.

First-half Al­bies: .281/.318/.516 with 29 dou­bles, 20 homers, and 55 RBIs (93 games).

Sec­ond-half Al­bies: .226.282/.342 with 11 dou­bles, four homers and 17 RBIs (64 games).

Al­bies hit sub-.200 across Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber. A switch-hit­ter, he was sig­nif­i­cantly more pro­duc­tive against left-han­ders than right­ies.

Man­ager Brian S nitker ac­knowl­edged Al­bies’ strug- gles dur­ing his post­sea­son me­dia meet­ing. He re­minded that most Al­bies’ age are still in col­lege, a fair as­sess­ment, sug­gest­ing Al­bies was slower ad­just­ing to the league than the league was to him.

“He’s go­ing to have to make some ad­just­ments,” man­ager said. “I think we saw it in spurts. ... This is his first full year. And he came out and burst on the scene and still ended up hav­ing a pretty solid year.”

Al­bies and Dansby Swan­son are sup­posed to com­prise an elec­tric mid­dle in­field, though both have been in­con­sis­tent at the plate. The good news for the Braves is their de­fen­sive

value, mak­ing their grow- ing pains with the bat eas­ier to man­age.

Snitker com­pared Al­bies with a pair of for­mer All- Star Braves sec­ond base- men, Mar­cus Giles and Dan Ug­gla. He re­mem­bers see- ing the game slow for each, rec­og­niz­ing that will eventu- ally be the case with Al­bies.

“I’ve seen Ozzie do it de­fen­sively,” Snitker said. “On of­fense, it’s hard. It’s tough to hit that ball, with what (the pitch­ers are) able to do and the qual­ity of com- pe­ti­tion you see night in and night out. But I don’t think there’s any­body, me in­cluded, that doesn’t think he’s ca­pa­ble of mak­ing the ad­just­ments.”

It’s easy to for­get Al­bies has just been in the Braves’ sys­tem since 2014. Snitker, an old-school base­ball mind, re­minded that of­ten times team ac­cel­er­ate play­ers through the mi­nors, leav- ing them less time to sea­son in the lower lev­els.

Nat­u­rally, that means an even length­ier de­vel­op­men- tal curve in the ma­jors. Al­bies knows what it takes to suc­ceed. His slump­ing pe­riod, in the team’s eyes, could lead to bet­ter days ahead.

“I have ev­ery con­fi­dence, and I think ev­ery­body does, in him as a player,” Snitker said. “He’s got the skill set. It’s some­times not a bad thing that you kind of get sobered up a lit­tle bit. That’s part of it. And it takes awhile. You just have to have pa­tience with these guys.”

CUR­TIS COMP­TON/CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Braves sec­ond base­man Ozzie Al­bies bat­ted .226 in the sec­ond half with four home runs af­ter a pro­duc­tive first half that in­cluded a .281 av­er­age and 20 homers.

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