Don’t be surprised if Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson and second baseman Ozzie Albies swap places during spring training, at least to take some grounders and possibly more.
New general manager Alex Anthopoulos knows that both former top prospects came up as shortstops before Albies was switched to second base in 2016 when Braves officials decided how their projected long-term middle infield would line up.
There’s no plan to change that arrangement, but Anthopoulos wants to at least know the option is there.
“What if someone gets hurt, what if someone’s performance dips and they need to get sent down?” Anthopoulos said Wednesday. “Can they both (play each position)? Is it something that we want to explore in spring training? Those are just questions that I ask because they’re both middle infielders. (Infielder Johan) Camargo, the same thing.
“Right now if we were to open the year, you’d have Dansby at short, Ozzie at second base. But I am trying to just educate myself. I didn’t see these guys in the minor leagues. There’s no plans to make any changes at all, but kind of throwing it out as, do we let both of them take ground balls at both spots at spring training, just to take a look? Haven’t decided anything, but those are just some of the questions that get asked, brainstorming things like that.”
Swanson reached the majors in August 2016 and Albies arrived last summer Aug. 1. Their much-anticipated first major league game together didn’t happen until Aug. 9, because when Albies arrived Swanson was at Triple-A, having been sent down July 26 after struggling mightily for most of four months.
His demotion would’ve lasted longer, but the Braves needed to recall Swanson when Camargo sustained a freak knee injury that sidelined him for a month.
Swanson, a former Marietta High School and Vanderbilt University star who was the No. 1 overall pick of the 2015 draft, was traded from Arizona to the Braves in December 2015 and had just 569 plate appearances in 127 minor league games before his big-league debut.
He made it look easy by hitting .302 with a .361 OBP and .803 OPS in 38 games in 2016, which only served to magnify his struggles in 2017 when Swanson hit .232 with six home runs, a .312 OBP and puny .636 OPS in 144 games (551 PAs).
Braves manager Brian Snitker was asked at the manager’s Winter Meetings news conference Wednesday about the perception of some that Swanson was called up too early and that was a reason for his struggles in his first full season.
“I don't think we brought him up too quick,” Snitker said. “I think he was ready, he proved that he was ready. ... He didn't surprise anybody this year. Pitching coaches, they see video and they know how to attack him more. You talk about making adjustments, that's part of it. That's what it is.
“You play these guys every year, you're going to (become familiar). And he's going to be more versed in facing the pitching. He's going to have seen them more. He was facing a lot of guys for the first time and I think last year (struggling) was good for him. It was a good experience, he's going to be more prepared this year when we go to spring training than he was last year with having what he went through behind him.”