It’s pretty wild that the Braves let an All-Star shortstop walk this offseason and, without making an external move, still had three legitimate candidates to replace him during spring training.
After Dansby Swanson signed with the Cubs, the Braves held a competition at the position between veteran Orlando Arcia and high-end prospect Vaughn Grissom. Another well-regarded prospect, Braden Shewmake, played well enough in camp to get consideration for the role too.
But in a somewhat surprising move, the Braves went with Arcia, sending Grissom and Shewmake down to Triple-A to begin the year. Arcia, a 28-year-old utilityman who made most of his appearances for Atlanta at second base last year, came up through the Brewers system as a shortstop but played just three innings there last season.
Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos thought Shewmake and Grissom made strong enough cases to make the roster, but told "The Steakhouse" that the team is bullish on Arcia.
“We like Orlando Arcia a lot,” Anthopoulos said. “And I think that’s the biggest key to this, it’s not because Grissom and Shewmake didn’t play well. And Shewmake wasn’t expected to be a contender because he ended the season on the IL and he missed time, so we weren’t even factoring him, but he worked his way into the conversation. …
“Our biggest issue was we weren’t prepared to put (Arcia) on the bench, because if a young guy was going to make the team, Arcia wasn’t going to play. We just weren’t prepared to pull the plug on the opportunity for him to get at-bats. So we want to give him a shot and see how it goes, hopefully he takes the opportunity and runs with it, Grissom and Shewmake play well, and then we have a good problem on our hands.”
The Braves have been lauded in recent years for how they’ve built their team. They draft and develop well, then sign their rising stars to long-term deals earlier in their careers. Ronald Acuña Jr., Michael Harris and Spencer Strider are among the examples of players who were rewarded after making an instant impact in the majors.
But Anthopoulos was quick to point out that those players technically are the anomalies.
“When you really consider it, there’s not that many Acuñas, Harris' and Striders, a lot of these guys are more like Dansby Swanson and (Austin) Riley where they take a little bit of time and there are growing pains. Max Fried, Kyle Wright (are other examples), a lot of guys don’t just hit the ground running and get up to the big leagues and don’t go back.
“So, we think Shewmake and Grissom are gonna be very good players, but Arcia really started swinging the bat well. He swung the bat well last year, some of our internal stuff on him is really strong, we like the defense quite a bit.”
It would be surprising if one or both youngsters sees big league time this season. But for now, the organization is comfortable with Arcia being Swanson’s replacement.
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