Braves must find role for a more confident Vaughn Grissom

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Vaughn Grissom is the latest young star to burst onto the scene, and he was critical in the Braves 6-4 victory over the Marlins, going 2-for-4 and coming through with the go-ahead RBI in the 8th inning. After the game, Grissom talked about the differences this year compared to last, when he was forced into major-league action much earlier than anticipated because of the injuries to Ozzie Albies and Orlando Arcia.

Vaughn Grissom began last season in High-A Rome before eventually being promoted to AA Mississippi, where he was only able to appear in 22 games before making his major-league debut. Despite that, he was actually a critical piece to the Braves turning things around. The Braves didn’t miss a beat with him at second base. If anything, he provided the team a boost, accruing 0.7 fWAR over 41 games.

Still, reaching the majors after just a few games in AA isn’t normal, and regression finally did smack Grissom in the face to end the season. By playoff time, he was replaced in the lineup altogether. Pitchers began to figure him out, and he was walking to the plate just hoping to make contact each at-bat.

It was fair to wonder how the organization viewed Vaughn Grissom long-term. He wouldn’t be the first 21-year-old to thrive in their initial stint in the majors before experiencing trouble, but the Braves made a statement when they decided not to bring in another shortstop and instead stick with Grissom and Orlando Arcia.

The expectation coming into camp was for the younger Grissom to win the job. On the surface, he looked like the better player during Spring Training, hitting nearly .400. However, the Braves had concerns about his defense and opted to roll with the better glove in Arcia.

It’s worked. Before suffering a micro-fracture in his hand, Arcia was playing Gold Glove defense at shortstop as well as hitting .333 with a couple of homers. The offense is probably not sustainable, but he’s proven he can be a starting MLB shortstop.

On the other hand, the concerns about Grissom’s defense have been proven legitimate. He’s looked like a fish out of water at shortstop in Arcia’s absence, but in the same breath, his offense is ready for the major-league level. Grissom projects as a player that can hit over .300. He doesn’t strike out much and will get on base at a high clip, even if he never blasts 25 homers.

There’s a lot of value in that, but the Braves still have to find out where Vaughn Grissom fits in defensively. Right now, he can’t be trusted as the starting shortstop. That’s Arcia’s job to lose, but a talented and confident Grissom belongs on the major-league roster. It’s up to the front office and coaching staff to figure out the best way to utilize him as the season continues.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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