Braves prospect Albies shines with future stars

Ozzie Albies was the youngest and smallest player in the All-Star Futures game on Sunday at Great American Ballpark.

Yet the Braves’ farmhand was in the starting lineup for the World team against the U.S. in the annual showcase for prospects during All-Star week festivities. It was the latest sign that Albies, though just 18, is projected to do big things for the Braves in the future.

Soon after Albies was selected to play in the Futures game, Braves assistant general manager John Coppolella said Albies is a top-three prospect in the organization. Albies said he’s fine with the increased expectations.

“That’s a good thing,” he said. “I can keep moving up and (one day) get to the big leagues.”

Albies went 1-for-2 against the U.S. before he was replaced in the bottom of the fifth inning during the 10-1 loss for the World team. Albies hit a sharp single to left field with two outs in the third inning but had his potential RBI erased when Ketel Marte was thrown out at home plate while trying to score from second.

“It was fun seeing a big crowd,” Albies said. “I was trying to jump on the first fastball I see.”

Albies didn’t get any defensive chances in the infield, but he’s been compared favorably to Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons, a two-time Gold Glove winner. Both players are natives of Curacao.

Albies has gotten to know Simmons from conversations during the offseason and at Braves spring training. He said Simmons has schooled him on the finer points of playing shortstop.

“He’s a good guy,” Albies said. “I love him.”

In 80 games this year with Single-A Rome, Albies is hitting .331 with 15 doubles, eight triples, a .387 on-base percentage and 25 steals in 33 attempts. Last year in 57 rookie-league games, Albies hit .364 with a .446 on-base percentage and had 22 steals in 27 tries.

Albies is listed at 5 feet 9 and 150 pounds. Among players in the Futures game, only U.S. infielder Tony Kemp (5-6) was shorter but he’s got about 15 pounds on Albies.

“People tell me I’m short, but I’m not,” Albies said, smiling. “I don’t care about how tall I (am), I just play the game.”

The U.S. team had two players on the roster from the Atlanta area: catcher Kyle Farmer (Dodgers) and first baseman Matt Olson (Athletics). Farmer was 0-for-2 with two strikeouts and Olson was 1-for-2.

Farmer, 24, is a product of Marist and the University of Georgia. He hit .308 for UGA and holds the school record for highest fielding percentage by a shortstop at .968 in 1,045 total chances.

But the Dodgers decided to make Farmer a catcher after drafting him in the eighth round of the 2013 draft. The move is working out so far.

“It was a tough transition at first but there are some good coaches with the Dodgers,” Farmer said. “They are very patient.”

Olson, 21, was The Atlanta Journal-Constitution baseball athlete of the year in 2012 after he led Parkview to its second consecutive Class AAAAA championship while playing first base and pitching. He passed up a chance to play at Vanderbilt and signed for a bonus of about $1.08 million.

Olson is one of the top power-hitting prospects in the minors with 77 home runs in 406 games, including 37 for high Single-A Stockton in 2014. He’s played 21 games in right field this season for Double-A Midland.

“I feel pretty comfortable out there,” Olson said. “Anything that can get me in the lineup in different ways is good.”

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