Over the last six years, the Atlanta Braves have had stability at the shortstop position in Dansby Swanson. However, this year will be different. Swanson signed a seven-year, $177 million contract with the Chicago Cubs during the offseason leaving a hole up the middle in Atlanta.
Instead of pursuing other free agent options outside of Swanson, the Braves were comfortable staying within their organization to replace the former first-overall pick. Vaughn Grissom, who was once considered their top prospect, seemed like the clear choice to be the club’s new shortstop in 2023. However, as spring training progressed, the 22-year-old fell out of favor to be with Atlanta at the start of the year and was demoted to Triple-A on March 20th.
Outside of Grissom, Orlando Arcia, and Braden Shewmake were the other two candidates to be the everyday shortstop for the Braves come Opening Day. Shewmake, 25, is a former first-round pick. Arcia, 28, has been in a utility role for the Braves over the last season and a half.
Recent reports made it seem as though Shewmake could have been with Atlanta at the start of the year, but he was optioned alongside Grissom to Triple-A on March 20th.
That means Orlando Arcia will be Dansby Swanson’s replacement. For now.
With Grissom and Shewmake being sent to the minors and Arcia set to be the Braves’ new full-time shortstop when they open the season on March 30th against the Nationals, here’s a profile on all three players since they could each see time at shortstop for Atlanta in 2023.
After being selected in the eleventh round of the 2019 draft out of high school, Vaughn Grissom quickly became one of Atlanta’s better prospects. During his time in the minor leagues, Grissom posted low strikeout rates and solid walk totals. He also flashed some power with a strong ability to make contact.
Before making his big league debut last season, the right-handed hitting middle infielder played at High-A and Double-A. While in High-A, Grissom made 344 plate appearances. He slashed .312/.404/.487. In the field, he played second (54.0 innings) and third base (51.0 innings) but saw most of his time at shortstop (473.2 innings).
Grissom’s time in Double-A didn’t last long. He only made 98 plate appearances for the Mississippi Braves, hitting .363/.408/.516. He played 179.1 innings at short and just nine innings at second.
After dealing with injuries to their middle infielders, the Braves called the now 22-year-old up to the big leagues. He hit .291/.353/.440 with five home runs and six doubles in 156 major league plate appearances a year ago. Grissom saw most of his time in the field at second base (347.0 innings).
The young middle infielder continued his success at the plate this spring before being sent to Triple-A. In 12 games, Grissom hit .371/.400/.429 in 40 plate appearances.
While there are no questions regarding his offense, Grissom’s fielding ability has always been an issue – so much so that many feel he won’t last as a shortstop in the big leagues long-term. In his 347.0 innings at second base last season, Grissom struggled (-3 DRS, -4 OAA).
Grissom starting the year in Triple-A means the Braves don’t think he is ready, most likely because of his defense, to play shortstop regularly at the big league level. While he won’t spend the entire year playing for the Gwinnett Stripers, he’ll have to make improvements in order for Atlanta to trust him as one of their everyday middle infielders.
It is being reported Grissom will receive most of the playing time at shortstop for Gwinnett.
Like Grissom, Braden Shewmake was selected by Atlanta in the 2019 draft. He was taken in the first round out of Texas A&M. During his collegiate career, Shewmake hit .323/.381/.487 with 22 home runs, 40 doubles, and 10 triples in 860 plate appearances. As a freshman, Shewmake played second base for the Aggies. He moved to shortstop for his sophomore and junior seasons.
Shewmake quickly opened eyes after being drafted in 2019. He made 226 plate appearances in Single-A that year and hit .318/.389/.473. The Braves then promoted the left-handed hitter to Double-A, where he made 52 plate appearances. He only hit .217/.288/.217.
After continuing to struggle at the plate in Double-A in 2021, Shewmake played in Triple-A all of last season. He made 307 plate appearances and slashed .259/.316/.399. He played innings at both second base (75.2) and shortstop (534.0).
This spring, Shewmake was in major league camp with the Braves. The 25-year-old is slashed .323/.371/.452 in 35 Grapefruit League plate appearances before being demoted to the minors.
While his offense needs improvement, many feel that Shewmake’s ability in the field will keep him up the middle for the foreseeable future. He has been considered one of the better defenders in the minor leagues during his time there. If he improves at the plate, Shewmake could easily become an everyday shortstop in the majors one day.
With Grissom set to get most of the playing time at shortstop, Shewmake is going to play most of his defensive innings at second base while in Triple-A.
Once upon a time, Orlando Arcia was considered one of baseball’s top prospects while in the Brewers organization. Unfortunately, he never lived up to the high expectations. The Braves traded for the now-28-year-old during the 2021 season.
As a Brave two years ago, Arcia took on a utility role off the bench. He logged innings at second base, third base, shortstop, and left field. He hit .214/.282/.343 in limited plate appearances.
Last season, Arcia played innings at second base, third base, shortstop, and left field once again but saw most of his time in the field at second. He played 398.2 innings there (0 DRS, 1 OAA). At the plate, the right-handed hitting middle infielder made 234 appearances and slashed .244/.316/.416. Arcia’s 104 OPS+ was a career-high. He also had a career-best average launch angle (11.7 degrees) and average exit velocity (90.7 mph). It was a small sample size, however(160 batted balls).
The Braves’ new starting shortstop hasn’t been a full-time shortstop in a 162-game season since 2019. With the Brewers that year, Arcia logged 1,241.1 innings at short (-2 DRS, -6 OAA).
In his first 30 plate appearances this spring, Arcia hit .240/.367/.360.
Whether or not Arcia will be the Braves’ shortstop for the entire 2023 season is still unknown. He is coming off the best offensive season of his career, but it was barely above league-average production. It was also in a part-time role. His defense wasn’t all that great the last time he was an everyday shortstop, and it is hard to imagine he’ll be much better now.
With Vaughn Grissom and Braden Shewmake waiting in the wings, Orlando Arcia may be Atlanta’s shortstop for a short period of time. But if he can impress at the start of the year, maybe the Braves keep him there all season long.
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