Position Preview: Second Base — It’s Ozzie Albies’ Time

Last offseason, the Braves sought to fill their second base hole by signing Sean Rodriguez. He was intended to be the primary second baseman with his versatility allowing them to move him around the diamond when Ozzie Albies was ready. After his car accident and subsequent surgery, the Braves pivoted to Brandon Phillips. He was a similar player in the sense that the Braves would have no problem moving him off second to make room for Albies, but his lack of versatility made that more challenging. All told, between logging innings at second and third, Phillips contributed a mere 1.6 fWAR in 499 total PAs. While his .291 batting average stood out in the box score, he has little else to his game. His 3.8% walk rate was absymal, his isolated power was league average, he stole only 10 bases in 18 chances, and he played mediocre defense at best. In fact, Baseball Reference hated his defense so much that they rated his overall preference at 1 WAR, less than league average, largely due to his poor defense.

But Ozzie Albies was a different ballplayer. Ozzie does a little bit of everything. In 244 PAs, his walk rate was more than double that of Phillips’ (8.6% to 3.8%). He contributed some power (.171 ISO), controlled his strike outs (14.8%), stole 8 bases in 9 chances, and his defense was rated highly. In those 244 PAs, he was able to accumulate 1.9 fWAR. Over a full season, that would equate to a 4.6 fWAR season. The projection systems don’t like him to repeat that performance, predicting a sophomore slump by his rookie standards. Steamer has him a 2.1 fWAR, though Baseball Reference likes him a little more.

Regardless, the Braves have their second baseman of the future (assuming Dansby Swanson isn’t going anywhere) in Ozzie Albies. He’s also the first truly elite prospect to make his debut in Atlanta in several years. Perhaps it’s prospect fatigue, perhaps it’s our desire to dwell on the negative (Dansby’s rookie struggles), or our fixation on the transcendent prospect (Ronald Acuna) or our deep pitching prospects, Albies just simply doesn’t get as much attention as he deserves. He has been ranked as high as #11 on Baseball America’s prospect lists, and at his peak, his ceiling is a perennial All-Star. It wouldn’t be beyond the scope to expect a .300/.380/.450 line with strong defense and 30+ stolen bases once Albies hits his peak, though it would be unreasonable to expect that batting line from him this season. With that said, fans should expect the speed and defense to make an immediate impact.

As it sits, you should see Charlie Culberson serve as Albies’ primary backup. Culberson is 28, came over in the Matt Kemp trade, and has only produced a .231/.272/.324 career line in 443 PAs. He did hit one big home run in last year’s World Series, though:

Speaking of that, he did pull off a more impressive performance in the post season compared to his career numbers. In 25 PAs primarily off the bench, he hit .348/.333/.652 with that big home run, 2 doubles, and a triple. He’s probably no better than Jace Peterson, but he has options, and options are good.

43 thoughts on “Position Preview: Second Base — It’s Ozzie Albies’ Time”

  1. @65 from last thread, blazon, that’s strange. Not sure, I’ve been renewing for ten-plus years but through the mlb.com US site paying in USD. So, i’m not sure why I that would be different to your offer?

  2. Thanks for the second base preview. You’re right – Ozzie gets no or not enough love. He is actually exciting to watch.

  3. I’ve seen Moylan a fair amount over the past few years; great vs. righties, but lefties destroy him to an almost absurd level.

    I question whether Snitker has the chops/discipline to use him correctly.

  4. With a multitude of relief options, if Thoppy puts a guy on the roster that Snitker can’t manage, then that’s on Thoppy.

  5. What is happening with Corey Dickerson is really weird. Dickerson was a 2.6 fWAR player last year making around $6M. The Rays, because they’re the Rays, want to cut payroll even further and attempted to trade him. They were unsuccessful, so they DFA’ed him. The Rays’ Peanut explains below:

    So the outfield market is so crowded that they couldn’t trade a 2.6 fWAR player making $6M per. And we have Markakis at $11M per. Oooof.

  6. The Braves should do some kind of outreach to baseball fans in Florida.

    A message along the lines of “Don’t worry, we’re here for you.”

    Or “Cheer for a franchise that only gets in trouble for trying *too* hard, for a change.”

  7. And, yes, we absolutely should be in on Corey Dickerson at these prices.

    I hope to god that Eduardo Nunez just didn’t want to play in Atlanta. Otherwise, I’d be irritated.

  8. Free agents available next year, with their MLB.com Top 100 ranking.

    Bryce Harper (3)
    Charlie Blackmon (16)
    Andrew McCutchen (63)
    A.J. Pollock (NR)
    Marwin Gonzalez (NR)

    Josh Donaldson (9)

    SHORTSTOPS (in case the good hair faileth over)
    Manny Machado (20)
    Elvis Andrus (85)

    Daniel Murphy (34)
    Brian Dozier (36)
    DJ LaMahieu (81)

    Clayton Kershaw (6)
    David Price (NR)
    Gio Gonzalez (NR)

    2017-18 free agents (this year) as a point of comparison:

    JD Martinez (25)
    Yu Darvish (67)
    Jake Arrietta (72)

    Mike Moustakas slides in somewhere in the 150’s. Todd Frazier is well into the 200’s. Little Eddy Nunez is not to be found.

    Yes, the Braves should be in on Dickerson. I mean, dude was DFA’d to save 3 million or so. Go get him. But they should ABSOLUTELY save their money to spend next winter rather than committing long term to lesser options this winter, just to say they “did something.”

  9. Following up, the 2B list also provides cover for Dansbo failing again, in that Ozzie could swing back to SS if they signed one of those guys.

  10. Nunez at the player option of $4M with a $2M buyout is very tradeable should a better option emerge. Two year deals are very safe in that the player has to implode in the first year to make the second year untradeable. And someone would take an imploded Nunez at $1-2M, so you’re really only talking about a $2-3M max commitment for 2019 worst case.

    Some of the guys on that list will sign extensions and go off the board. Price has an opt-out, so unless he has a lights-out year, he won’t take it. We undoubtedly will not be able afford Kershaw, and if you take out the SS and 2B, then you really just have Bryce Harper and Manny Machado as players worth waiting for. If you lose those two, then you just punted an entire season for nothing.

  11. Nunez signed for $4 mil this year and a $4 mil player option next year with a $2 mil buyout.

    That’s not a long-term commitment. That is a 2 WAR player — more than just “doing something” — at a lot of positions who’d have been a cheaper insurance plan in case Dansby (or Albies) fails than what a lot of the players in @13 will sign for. Cheap enough, you’d think, not to prohibit also spending on a big-time FA. At “worst,” Dansby and Albies both pan out, we can still afford a FA 3B or LF, and you now have infield depth to match the best teams in baseball.

    When I look at the total potential price tag with the escalator/incentive, I guess I can tell myself that that pushes us right to the point where we can’t make any significant in-season moves if the opportunity arises. That feels better than telling myself Nunez just didn’t want to be in Atlanta.

  12. I’m confident a trade deadline deal is still on the table. If they’re competitive, they could justify a key acquisition at the deadline. They could potentially just take on salary, or another half-season of appreciation from our prospects will make it even easier to make a trade. If the Rockies aren’t in contention, they may want to dump the remaining of the $14M owed to Blackmon, and if we can’t take on that much payroll, we could make up the difference in prospects. But the Rockies won’t trade him now, and we don’t need him now, but both of those things could easily change. If the Giants are smart, they may finally decide to sell off, and both Longoria and McCutchen could be available. There’s a ton that still could be done without just waiving a white flag until 2019.

  13. The idea that Nunez is a better option than Donaldson is absurd.

    Assuming we could afford both, Nunez becomes the super-utility guy that he’ll be in Boston for most of this season. This is how competitive teams do things.

  14. I’m confident a trade deadline deal is still on the table.


    We undoubtedly will not be able afford Kershaw

    Hey, why not?

    EDIT: I can’t believe Kershaw will only be 30 next month.

  15. Ozzie Albies
    with a strong inclination to please
    makes all ST throws from deep in the shift
    the better to show he is conquering drift.

  16. Again, I see no point in speculating about Machado a year and multi millions ahead and not trying to get Senzel for a capful/hatful of young pitching. Now. Explain.

  17. Chief, are we doing daily roster changes? I’d really prefer that not to be in there. I know I don’t have time keep up with people who tinker that much.

  18. @26, I’m with Rob. Strongly. A weekly line-up change would be delightful, and a daily change would be hell.

    @Rob Cope: “If the Giants are smart…” The Giants are smart, big picture-wise. That’s why they’re taking a team that seriously underperformed its talent level last year, shoring up some of the bigger holes, and going for it again. Just like the Red Sox after 2012.

    Whether Longoria and McCutchen are the right players to help them, we’ll see. That’s where they stand a chance of not being so smart.

  19. Hello fellow Braves fans. Long time Braves Journal follower (2006). First off, thank you to everyone here, present and past for this awesome site.
    I hope y’all don’t mind, but I joined your fantasy baseball league.

  20. So I just took a quick look and 23 year old Johan Camargo basically matched 30 year old Eduardo Nunez’ production. I see little to no reason to spend even marginal money there. If you want a super sub Infante type guy, you already have him in Camargo.

  21. But Johan Camargo heavily out-matched Charlie Culberson’s production, so because Nunez is not your 3B, Camargo is, and therefore the back-up at all 3 positions and Dansby and Ozzie insurance is Culberson, not Camargo. Not a move you make if you’re trying to win baseball games.

  22. Nunez is not a hill to die on. There will be other opportunities. But I can’t say that I want Camargo on our bench if we were headed to the playoffs.

    Camargo actually has never reached the 2 WAR plateau, whereas Nunez has; Camargo got as far as he did last season on the back of a .364 BABIP. I’d want to see another 250 PAs.

    If we were expecting to go to the playoffs in 2018, I’d be pretty pissed that we didn’t add another 1 WAR at $7 mil.

  23. If you’re not willing to change your roster daily, its fantasy football. Sorry but that’s what fantasy baseball IS. Games are played every day.

    Sorry but not a hill I’m willing to budge on. There’s a button on both the app AND the site that says, ‘start active players’. You click one button and it starts all your players playing that day. Not to be a jerk, but if that’s too much work, fantasy baseball isn’t for you.

  24. Considering the likelihood that the backup infielder may very well get 300+ PAs and we currently have a gaggle of replacement level players to fill that hole, it’s probably a legitimate 2 fWAR upgrade with another button for the manager to push, but you’re right that it’s not a hill to die on.

  25. Chief, I would gladly take a spot if you have any remaining.

    Also, daily categories is my favorite format. What else are you supposed to do on the toilet if you don’t have a couple of lineups to take care of..?

  26. We’re signing none of the players mentioned @14. Zero, zilch, nada. I’m not sure what team you guys are rooting for but it’s not the same one I’m watching.

    I’ll caveat that snark by saying I don’t think we *should* sign any, except for Harper. Especially not Machado. Hard pass.

  27. I think I’m good with the daily now that I think about it more. Just set your lineups once a day, and if you forget one day, that’s not the end of the world.

  28. Are we still not convinced that this team has no particular interest in being competitive this year, or do we need more evidence? How about another month of the front office sitting on their ass and claiming that 1) a utility infielder “deserves a chance to start,” 2) a Double-A prospect must have his slot left open for years on end because the worst possible thing that could ever happen would be that we have a starting caliber player at his position when he’s ready to be called up, and 3) our new and highly experienced GM can’t be expected to do anything for the first six months of his job because he just has no idea about anybody in his organization, despite having been a major league GM for a number of years now? “Which organization do I work for again? And who is this Freeman guy? Is he good?”

    I think they need to come up with a couple more lame excuses to throw into the mix, just in case people start souring on those.

  29. @41 – Give me a break. The free agent market is limited this year, we have limited money (like most teams), and we don’t want to sacrifice our future for a 1 year gamble. Our pitchers are at least 1 year away, but if they mature more quickly than expected, we could make a wild card run. It has nothing to do with not wanting to compete, just reality.

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