With a little more than three weeks before Braves pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, I have a feeling general manager Alex Anthopoulos may still make a move to lessen concerns about who will serve as his primary left fielder and shortstop this year.
But with options limited, there is certainly a possibility the Braves will open the season with Eddie Rosario as their primary left fielder and either Orlando Arcia or Vaughn Grissom as their shortstop. They can win with this arrangement. But they also could improve at both positions.
Arcia can certainly handle the everyday shortstop role he filled for the Brewers from 2017-20, but he has been more productive in a backup role. As for Grissom, it’s encouraging that he has continued to show his work ethic and dedication by spending time with third-base coach and infield guru Ron Washington last summer.
But while I have the utmost respect for how Washington has positively impacted the careers of many infielders, I don’t know if he’s a miracle worker. Could he prepare Grissom over the course of another full year? Maybe. But I don’t know if a few weeks during the offseason and Spring Training is enough to get the infielder to where he needs to be.
When I first saw Grissom during Minor League Spring Training last year, I asked about him and was told he might eventually become a second baseman or third baseman. As the next couple of months unfolded, other scouts expressed doubt about his ability to be an everyday shortstop at the big league level.
So, I have my doubts about Grissom’s ability to replace Dansby Swanson. Let’s not forget this young infielder began last year at High-A and arrived in the Majors by early August. The Braves don’t win the NL East without him producing a .956 OPS through his first 26 games. But he didn’t look comfortable at second base, and he tallied a .460 OPS over the 53 plate appearances that followed.
Grissom is a great kid who seems destined to have a long, successful career. But I just don’t know if he’s ready to be the everyday shortstop for a World Series contender. Whoever is placed at that position will significantly impact the value received from Max Fried, Kyle Wright, Spencer Strider and the rest of the pitching staff.
The external options are limited. Elvis Andrus stands as the best option on the free agent market. Andrus had some offensive success after moving from the A’s to the White Sox late last season. And we know he has a strong relationship with Washington, who was his former manager in Texas.
Still, Arcia or Grissom start to look more attractive if Andrus’ potential one-year cost goes too far above the $6 million mark. Or maybe there’s a trade that could bring a shortstop to Atlanta. I just don’t see the Braves beginning the season without upgrading at this position.
As for left field, the best hope is that Rosario becomes the latest to shine in a walk year. The veteran outfielder showed reduced power after his vision issues were fixed last season, and he is an average defender at best in left field. Jordan Luplow, Eli White and Sam Hilliard only provide value in a platoon role or as a late-inning defensive replacement.
Quite honestly, I’d put Grissom in left field during Spring Training just to see if he could handle that position on an everyday basis. He’s certainly athletic enough to handle the position defensively. If there’s a desire to put his bat in the lineup every day, this should at least be an option.