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2022 Braves position evaluations: Second base

2022 Braves position evaluations: Second base
ATLANTA, GA – MAY 22: Ozzie Albies #1 of the Atlanta Braves reacts after homering in the seventh inning of an MLB game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Truist Park on May 22, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

-Clint Manry

The series continues as we move on to the Braves second base position. Here’s what has been covered so far…

Second base

Last season’s results

Like the most-recent position covered in this series so far, first base, the Braves keystone spot last season was comprised of two players — Ozzie Albies and Johan Camargo. Fortunately, it was the former that manned second the majority of the season, helping Atlanta go on to finish the 2021 regular season tied as the ninth-best team at the position, in terms of FanGraphs WAR.

Braves second baseman in 2021: .253 AVG / 30 HR / 106 RBI / 103 wRC+ / 4.3 Def / 3.8 WAR

As you probably guessed, it was Albies that provided all of the positive contributions, hitting .259 with all 30 long balls and 106 RBI, to go with 20 stolen bases in 2021. For the second consecutive full season, Ozzie was worth at least 4 WAR for the Braves, as his offense has really turned the corner. In fact, Albies posted a career-high in not just dingers, but also barrel rate and hard hit rate (9.3% / 36.8%), solidifying his place as one of the top second basemen in the sport.

With at the very least, four more years of Ozzie, the second base spot should be an easy position to fill-in every season for Alex Anthopoulos and the Braves.

Changes & outlook for 2022

In terms of changes impacting the Braves second base position, there really hasn’t been any this offseason, other than Camargo being non tendered this past December (he’s now with the Phillies). A few recent additions should help for when Albies needs a day or two off, as Atlanta acquired both Brock Holt and Phil Gosselin, who each have a solid shot at cracking the opening day roster as bench players. Holt and Gosselin are pretty average with the bat as both have managed around an 80 wRC+ in roughly 600 PA since 2019. Defensively, the former hasn’t manned the keystone since ’19, but his 4 DRS in 60 games that year with the Red Sox is much better than the latter’s tiny bit of time at second over the last several seasons.

Braves 2022 Second Base Projections

Table comes from FanGraphs second base MLB positional rankings

The outlook at second base keeps on improving because Albies himself continues to get better. Once again, ZiPS projects Ozzie to surpass 4 WAR at the keystone, and as a result, the Braves rank fourth in the majors in FanGraphs second base power rankings, just behind the Red Sox and its shortstop-turned-second baseman Trevor Story. There’s reason to feel even more optimistic about Albies heading into 2022. Following a career-worst in 2020, in terms of his walk rate (4%), the 25-year-old nearly doubled his percentage (7.9%) in 2021. And if you throw in the strides in the power department, and a career-high in steals from last season, there’s reason to believe that Albies is still trending upward.

Arcia and Holt should contribute as viable fill-in options, though I wouldn’t count on either one surpassing the above projection in PA at second. The former played one game last year at second base (his only game ever as a big leaguer at the position), and with his punch-less bat, his main role should be as the backup shortstop (if he makes the 28-man roster). To me, the latter is the likeliest candidate to back up Albies in 2022, though he’ll also probably serve as Austin Riley’s as well, to go with any emergencies in the outfield.

Here’s what FanGraphs had to say about the Braves second base situation this season…

Albies is a mainstay atop lists of contract-inclusive value, but he’s also just great. After a forgettable, injury-shortened 2020, he’s back to his old tricks, swinging early and often and making frequent, loud contact. It’s a strange profile – he swings so much and stands only 5-foot-8, so the power is hard to comprehend – but he hits home runs at a 22-per-600 PA pace, so swinging a lot sure seems to work for him. Combine that with excellent baserunning and solid defense, and you get a perennial All-Star. 2020 aside, Albies has also been extremely durable – he averaged 158 games per year in ’18, ’19, and ’21 combined. The Braves will need that health to continue, because their roster behind Albies is shockingly thin at the moment. Arcia is a competent backup, but he’d be stretched as an everyday player. He’s also the backup at shortstop, and the team doesn’t yet have anyone else on the roster to handle the position; Holt, a minor league free agent signing, is the next best option. If Albies is healthy, though, that won’t matter – Atlanta will have one of the best second base situations in the game, just like always.

My Braves second base grade: A+

Any position-group ranked within the top five of the sport is likely going to receive an A+ from me, as that suggests it has an opportunity to even be the best. With how much Albies has grown as a major leaguer these last several seasons, and the fact that he’s still a young player in his prime, means there should be plenty more A+ seasons at second base for the Braves. Repeating as World Series champs will be really difficult, but failing to do so definitely won’t be because of poor play at the second base position.

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