USA TODAY International Edition
Braves seek new turn at short
Pity the ballclub that relies too heavily on spring training to evaluate its roster.
No, most teams have a strong idea what their regular- season club will look like when pitchers and catchers report to Florida and Arizona; getting loose and avoiding disaster doesn’t make for a great marketing pitch, but it’s at least a realistic one.
Still, there are a few nagging issues that could gain greater clarity under spring’s high skies, and many of those involve a few of Major League Baseball’s most prosperous clubs.
The Atlanta Braves are so good at turning over key positions, spending money wisely and making the right bets on young players and trade targets alike. With that track record in mind, they have earned the benefit of the doubt in setting free shortstop Dansby Swanson and targeting first- year player Vaughn Grissom to replace him.
Oh, one of these days general manager Alex Anthopoulos’ fearlessness in letting highpriced veterans leave – and setting Freddie Freeman and Swanson loose in consecutive years is bold – but you can’t argue with results.
And right now, Atlanta’s riding a wave of five consecutive National League East titles.
But Swanson was the quarterback for all of them, before signing a $ 177 million deal to join the Chicago Cubs. Grissom is an absolutely capable and potentially dynamic replacement who got his feet wet in 2022 when he started 40 games, 39 at second base for injured Ozzie Albies, and posted a .353 on- base percentage and 121 adjusted OPS.
He’ll also hit spring training after a winter at Camp Washington.
Grissom made several pilgrimages to the New Orleans home of coach Ron Washington, 70, who imparted his infield wizardry in concentrated doses. “That’s probably one of the most valuable pieces I have in my life right now, being able to bounce stuff off him,” Grissom said last month at a fan event.
If it pays off, the Braves will have a daunting middle of the diamond locked in for three upcoming seasons: catcher Sean Murphy, Grissom and Albies at short and second and reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Harris II patrolling center field.
This spring should tell us how close that is to reality.
Four other spring training questions that may be answered by opening day, 3B