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Trout, Harper, Altuve: None was better than Albies in his first half-season


 

While many Braves fans and media anxiously await the arrival of wunderkind Ronald Acuna, the youngest player in the major leagues currently plays for the Braves and is having one of the greatest first half-seasons in a career that you or me or anyone else will ever see.

Yes, what Ozzie Albies is doing is not just really good, it’s shockingly good. In fact, the only negative, so to speak, is that when Acuna does arrive, there’s a very good chance that the No. 1 prospect in baseball won’t match what Albies (21 years, 100 days old) has done at the outset of his career.

Because almost no one else has.

Not Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, former Rookie of the Year award winners and arguably the best two hitters in the game. Not Jose Altuve, the 2017 AL MVP and a dynamic second baseman whom Albies is most often compared to because of his size, skill set and position.

Not even Chipper Jones, a first-ballot Hall of Famer and the greatest Braves hitter since Hank Aaron.

Don’t believe me? Check the stats through those players and a few other select stars’ first 72 games (nine games shy of a half-season). That’s how many games Albies has played since being called to the majors on Aug. 1.

Through player’s first 72 MLB games:

Ozzie Albies: .296 (84-for-284) with 17 doubles, six triples, 11 homers, 39 RBIs, 50 runs, nine stolen bases, .353 OBP, .514 slugging (.867 OPS)

Jose Altuve: .285 (79-for-277) with 14 doubles, three triples, two homers, 18 RBIs 33 runs, nine stolen bases, .315 OBP, .379 slugging (.694 OPS)

Kris Bryant: .278 (74-for-266) with 14 doubles, two triples, 12 homers, 49 RBIs, 44 runs, eight stolen bases, .381 OBP, .481 slugging (.862 OPS)

Mike Trout: .268 (67-for-250) with 14 doubles, three triples, 10 homers, 35 RBIs, 43 runs, 13 stolen bases, .329 OBP, .468 OPS (.797 OPS)

Bryce Harper: .268 (76-for-284) with 15 doubles, five triples, eight homers, 26 RBIs, 46 runs, 11 stolen bases, .339 OBP, .440 slugging (.779 OPS)

Freddie Freeman: .239 (48-for-201) with 11 doubles, zero triples, six homers, 16 RBIs, 25 runs, two stolen bases, .314 OBP, .383 slugging (.697 OPS)

Chipper Jones: .247 (61-for-247) with 15 doubles, zero triples, 12 homers, 45 RBIs, 43 runs, three stolen bases, .356 OBP, .453 slugging (.810 OPS)

It’s rather stunning, don’t ya think? What we’ve been watching is as about as good as it can possibly get from a young player at the start of a career, folks.

And keep in mind, Albies is the youngest player in the majors, only 11 months older than Acuna, who’ll be called up as soon as he shakes out of his early season slump at Triple-A and starts hitting like he did at spring training or last year when Acuna was Baseball America’s minor league Player of the Year.

Albies is batting .328, leads the majors with 14 extra-base hits in 15 games and ranks fourth in slugging percentage .701, one spot behind Harper and four spots ahead of Aaron Judge, who’s a foot taller and about 100 pounds heavier.

To repeat, Albies leads the majors in extra-base hits.

He’s tied for sixth in MLB with a team-high five homers and ranks 10th in with a 1.049 OPS. 

And have we mentioned he’s about the hottest hitter on the planet at the moment? Albies is 12-for-23 (.522) in his past five games with five doubles, two homers and a 1.000 slugging percentage, all multi-hit games.

He went 2-for-20 in his first 4 games this season. Since then he's hit .426 (20-for-47) with eight doubles, four homers, a .449 OBP, .851 slugging percentage and 1.300 OPS in 11 games with 13 runs and nine RBIs, including six go-ahead RBIs and three game-winning RBIs.

He homered in the first inning of the two coldest games of the season during the Braves’ recent road trip: 27 degrees in Colorado on April 6, and 38 degrees with a 28 wind chill and rain at the start Saturday at Chicago.

After Albies had a double, homer and two RBIs in the Braves’ 4-0 win at Colorado on April 8, Rockies manager Bud Black remarked, “For a littler fella, he’s got some sock.”

After Albies made the first of two terrific defensive plays Friday at Chicago, Giants (and former Pirates) outfielder Andrew McCutchen wrote on his Twitter page, “Don’t (sleep) on Ozzie Albies. Dude can ball.”

It bears repeating, Acuna could come up and be terrific and still fall short of what Albies has done in his first 72 games. He could fall well short of it, in fact. 

The odds of Acuna topping Albies’ first (nearly) half-season? Well, take a glance again at those names and stat lines above. Look at Trout, Harper, Altuve, Chipper.

Albies has been pretty astounding is what I’m saying. 

Also, I’ll admit I was completely wrong about him, because after he broke his elbow taking a normal swing during an 2016 Double-A playoff game, I thought Albies might just be too small to handle the unbelievable torque he puts on his wiry body. Or that the injury might take him a while to get over mentally as well as physically.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

He’s tough as nails, strong as hell and loves to play baseball. Many if not most teams don’t have a single legitimate five-tool player these days. The Braves should have two when Acuna arrives. Yes, despite Albies being about 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds, has got legit 25-homer power already.

And the other tools are not in question – he’s played Gold Glove caliber defense, has a plenty-strong and accurate arm for second base, is either the fastest player on the team or right there with Lane Adams, and hits for a high average.

If hustle was a tool, he’d get a scout’s 80 (top of the charts) grade in that. No dout. ‘Cause the Curacao Kid never slows down. That play Monday night when Philly’s Odubel Herrera failed to slide at second base and got thrown out by Nick Markakis? I dare say you will never, ever see Albies do that.

Not now, not ever.

Enjoy it, folks. Because while I’m quite convinced Acuna is going to be terrific, I’m also pretty sure he’s not going to be any better in his first half-season than Albies has been. Because almost no one in recent years has been.

* I’ll close with this classic from The Pretenders:

“TALK OF THE TOWN” by Chrissie Hynde

Such a drag to want something sometime
One thing leads to another I know
Was a time wanted you for mine
Nobody knew
You arrived like a day
And passed like a cloud
I made a wish, I said it out loud
Out loud in a crowd
Everybody heard
It was the talk of the town

It's not my place to know what you feel
I'd like to know but why should I?
Who were you then, who are you now?
Common laborer by night, by day highbrow
Back in my room I wonder, then I
Sit on the bed, look at the sky
Up in the sky
Clouds rearrange
Like the talk of the town

Maybe tomorrow, maybe someday
Maybe tomorrow, maybe someday
You've changed your place in this world
You've changed your place in this world

Oh but it's hard to live by the rules
I never could and still never do
The rules and such never bothered you
You call the shots and they follow
I watch you still from a distance then go
Back to my room, you never know
I want you, I want you but now
Who's the talk of the town?

Maybe tomorrow, maybe someday
Maybe tomorrow, maybe someday
You've changed your place in this world
You've changed your place in this world


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About the Author

David O'Brien has covered the Atlanta Braves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 2002.