No Dansby Swanson, but Braves confident about filling shortstop and leadership voids – The Athletic


For Braves recreationrs, and for An excellent deal of followers who grew up watching Freddie Freeman play first base in Atlanta for 11 seasons, it was troublesome to think about the group with out him. That is, till he left as a free agent Initially of 2022 spring teaching, A pair of days after Atlanta balked at his agent’s contract calls for and pivoted to first baseman Matt Olson, acquired by way of commerce from Oakland.

All of the Braves did was win 101 video recreations — 13 extra common-season wins than their 2021 World Collection championship group — and seize a fifth consecutive NL East title, although this time tright here was no magical postseason run, Solely a disapleveling division-series loss to Philadelphia, which surged all The biggest Method to the Nationwide League pennant.

Now, after shortly adsimplying to a Freeman-much less actuality final spring, the Braves, Collectively with followers together with a good many Dansby Swanson admirers, have extra time To rearrange For all times with out the shortstop, who had the prolongedest tenure with Atlanta following Freeman’s dehalfure.

Swanson not only produced a profession-biggest season — worthwhile a Gold Glove, ending second amongst all primary leaguers in defensive runs above common (21.4) and second amongst MLB shortstops with 6.4 fWAR — However in addition stepped forward To assist fill A substantial management void after Freeman left.

Now, Handsome Dans has adopted Frifinishly Freddie out the door. Swanson signaled a seven-yr, $177 million contract with the Chicago Cubs.

So, what’s To Wind up to be of the Braves with out their stellar shortstop, who additionally had 54 house runs and 184 RBIs over the previous two seasons, a penchant for dramatic hits, and more and more embraced the position of chief, talking out when completely differents have beenn’t snug doing so?

Returning Braves say: Don’t fret. Wright hereas They will miss Swanson, they’ll be Okay Whether or not or not they substitute him with veteran Orlando Arcia, a former Brewers shortstop turned Braves utility participant, or — and this seems extra probably — with Vaughn Grissom, who simply turned 22 and has 41 video recreations of MLB expertise. All but two of these video recreations performed by Grissom have been at second base final yr when he was thrust into the lineup after accidents to Ozzie Albies and againup Arcia.

As for management, the Braves say It might emerge organinamey from completely differents, as after Freeman left. Their confidence is buoyed by group chemistry that’s been a precedence beneath Braves GM/president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos and supervisor Brian Snitker, 67, who acquired an extension Friday that runs by way of 2025.

“I really feel the Cubs acquired a good shortstop, a good chief,” said catcher Travis d’Arnaud, ancompletely different veteran who asserted extra management after Freeman left. “I really feel he’s going To vary the tradition in that group again to the worthwhile strategies thOn they have been earlier than. However On The identical time, I think about Inside The blokes We now have right here, And that i really feel we’re going to be simply nice. Alex has put together groups Yearly I’ve been right here That are championship-caliber groups, and that’s no completely different this yr.”

Some observers marvel if the Braves can pull off changing such An important contributor for the second yr in a row with out taking a step again Inside the standings and the proverbial group-chemistry barometer. And this time, do it with out buying a confirmed substitutemalest from outdoors the group.

The Braves have gained the division Yearly beneath the stewardship of Anthopoulos, who might nonethemuch less swing a commerce or signal a stopgap shortstop earlier than Opening Day. However Anthopoulos has sounded more and more assured in Grissom, after Braves inarea guru Ron Washington asconstructived the GM that he might have Grissom ready for shortstop by spring. That is, As prolonged As a Outcome of the group would sfinish Grissom to New Orleans, the coach’s housetown, 3 occasions Through the winter to work 7-10 days per stint In a single-on-one durations focused on turning Proper into a critical-league shortstop.

When requested early Inside the offseason about doing it, Grissom didn’t hesitate. “I used to be stoked. I mightn’t wait to do it for my first time,” he said. “And it’s been worth it.”

He left The warmth of his Orlando house to work with Washington in typinamey frigid climate in New Orleans, and Grissom said he gained a wealth Of information.

“The element,” he said. “(Washington) actually takes care of all The small print, and simply sprucing up. It’s good.”

Braves center areaer Michael Harris II, the 2022 NL Rookie of the Year and Grissom’s shutst frifinish on the group, said, “He informed me he found Tons, and he’s simply In a place to get Proper down to Florida so he can current everyone what he found And the method good he can actually be.”

Harris added, “He’s A strong worker, And that i really feel his particular personality — it simply Stands proud. He’s a humorous man. He’s On A daily basis goofy and he’s simply him. He doesn’t Try and differ for anyone. I really feel (that) simply makes him a match at shortstop for us.”

Grissom was clear on one factor: He’s not going To fear about what anyone else thinks. He listens to Washington and tries To incorporate The teachings he’s found, but isn’t involved about what completely differents Take into think aboutation him changing Swanson.

“The one factor I can do for you mans is simply play my recreation,” Grissom said. “And Do You’d like to (reporters) Choose it, I’m constructive I’ll hear about it. And Do You’d like to mans don’t, I’m constructive I’ll hear about it. So, to me, it doesn’t matter both method, because I’m simply gonna go play my recreation. And I’m not making an attempt to go fill Nobody’s footwear, or do somefactor completely different.”

Grissom, a rangy 6-foot-3, was an Eleventh-spherical draft decide by the Braves in 2019 out of Hagerty Highschool outdoors Orlando. He performed primarily shortstop all by way of 227 minor-league video recreations, And a few scouts althought he might outgrow shortstop and be transferd to the outarea or third base.

Snitker said the Braves aren’t even discussing making an attempt him in left area at this level. They need Grissom at shortstop, wright here They are saying his athleticism and arm power give him the potential to be A minimal of A imply areaer. Washington think abouts he Could be Greater than That when he reduces errors.

“That’s all everyfactor is, is simply repetition,” Grissom said. “Getting Inside the groove, and simply doing it The biggest method over And a lot of occasions. I used To make the most of Barely Little bit of my, like, (pure) capability, people will name it, And Sort of Try to make good performs.”

Washington has taught him To not rush. “Everytime you make a good play, simply finish it — like with a good throw,” Grissom said.

Washington’s current updates to Anthopoulos and Snitker, and even to some recreationrs who inquired Through the current Braves Fest, have been all constructive relating to Grissom’s enchancmalest.

Kyle Wright, who led the primarys with 21 wins in 2022, has been shut with Swanson since they have been groupmates at Vanderbilt, wright here Swanson led the “VandyBoys” To A school World Collection championship earlier than Wright acquired tright here. He didn’t downplay The scarcity of Swanson but said he was assured of the decisions To commerce him.

“That’s An monumalestal deal, particularly this yr with no shift,” he said of dropping Swanson Inside The primary yr of MLB restrictions on defensive alignmalests. “So as that’s going to be An monumalestal elemalest. However I’ve performed with (Arcia) Tons, And that i do know he’s defensively he’s Almost as good as anyone. He can decide it. And I do know Vaughn is such a good athlete, he’s going to be good too.

“(Grissom) has been working with Wash, and Wash is Almost as good as anyone On the market as an inarea coach. However these mans are each actually good deffinishers. It’s large for pitchers to have mans On the market You will Have The power to notion. Fortunately, We now have (mans) who can decide it and make the performs. So it’s important, but I’ve A lot of confidence in our mans.”

It can’t be oversaid how a lot Braves officers and recreationrs think about in Washington’s capability to mould inareaers. He did in Oakland — a quantity of recreationrs tright here credited him for turning them into Gold Glovers — and he’s carried out it in Atlanta with second baseman Ozzie Albies. He’s additionally improved third baseman Austin Riley and Swanson, a sensational areaer who turned so astute at placeing and guiding completely different inareaers that Washington let him deal with that, making Swanson a coach on The sector.

The Braves say All of them think about Grissom and/or Arcia can play strong shortstop protection.

“Very assured,” d’Arnaud said. “They each work exhausting,  And clearly Wash is On A daily basis on them, Making sure they’re doing everyfactor right. I really feel we’re going to be good at shortstop.”

Snitker said at MLB’s Winter Conferences in early December, earlier than Swanson signaled with Chicago, thOn the place was undecided. He said Grissom and Arcia would compete if Swanson wasn’t re-signaled. A little over a month later, the supervisor sounded extra assured in Grissom than earlier than.

“Wash Might be A few of the constructive people I’ve ever been aspherical,” Snitker said. “We nonethemuch less Want to play the (spring) video recreations and everyfactor, Neverthemuch less it’s undoubtedly not going To harm that Vaughn went down tright here and acquired that one-on-one instruction. It’d be so useful. It’s good, and it was Wash’s cas quickly aspt, too. He was like, ‘Let me have That baby For 3 completely different occasions.’ So it was good that Vaughn took the Outing of his winter, went down tright here, noticed The worth in it. He’s undoubtedly gonna have a leg up, getting the spring teaching and having all that.”

Snitker added, “We have decisions. And that’s why we’re gonna go play all these video recreations in spring teaching, and we’ll Type of see wright here everyone matchs And the method they match. However I really feel very assured that, as earlier than, we’ll use the sum of our parts to make it happen.”

The Braves misplaced their undisputed chief in Freeman, but nonethemuch less overcame A ten.5-recreation deficit as quickly as extrast the Mets to wInside the NL East. Now, they’ll transfer forward with out Swanson, whom groupmates referred to as “The Sheriff,” an finishearing nod to his typinamey stern but expert reminders to do factors The biggest method.

“I really feel We now have such a good Combination of strong youthful mans,” Snitker said. “I used to be requested that final yr Once we misplaced Freddie. And Dansby’s grown in his profession, to be A type Of males. You hate to lose An elemalest of your group like that. It’s half of the enterprise, although. And I’m assured Inside the group that We now have and the maturity Of these mans and who They’re as experts, that we gained’t miss a beat.”

D’Arnaud said: “It’s Type of The identical boat that we have been in when Freddie left — tright here was a management position that was left open. I really feel it’s going to be An identical state of affairs Inside the spring And a fegainede will purely simply fill that. I don’t know who It is. It’d be somebody we don’t even anticipate. So it’s Type of a trial by hearth as quickly as extra, And also you only go into spring and Try to be a good particular person, good groupmate, and see who finishs up filling that management position.

“I actually like Dansby, he’s been An unimaginable frifinish of mine. He’s been An unimaginable affect On this group since he Got here to go to. He’s taught everyone Inside the clubhouse The tactic to respect The sport and The tactic To tug on The identical rope principally. All of us hope nofactor but Definitely one of the biggest for him. All of us Know it’s a enterprise. I imply, if we didn’t study with what occurred with Freddie how a lot of a enterprise That is, Then you undoubtedly found it from Dansby.”

(Photograph of Vaughn Grissom: Matt Slocum / Associated Press)


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