Ozzie Albies finished a hair shy in the voting for the starting second base spot in the All-Star game. He wound up being edged out by a worthy competitor in Javier Baez. Still, Albies put together a historic first-half for a player just 21-years of age, recording 52 extra-base hits including 20 home runs. The success was no surprise for one of the Braves most highly touted prospects, but few could have foreseen the kind of power surge he displayed in his transition to the majors.
The Braves second-baseman is not particularly broad in stature. He stands at 5’8″ and weighs 170 pounds after a considerable breakfast. That’s why Albies came up through the farm system known more for his contact bat rather than his power. He was a consistent .300 hitter throughout all levels of the minor leagues, but rarely registered a home run, hitting just sixteen in 390 minor league games.
His first signs of power did not come until 2017. He managed to hit nine home-runs in AAA before being promoted to Atlanta, where it continued. In 57 games his rookie season, he slugged 9 doubles, 6 home runs and 5 triples.
It can take some time for a player as young as Albies to develop some home-run pop. But nobody projected Albies to be a 35 home-run guy, which is why his power numbers were bound for regression in the second half. Since the break, he has only managed to hit a single home-run. Albeit, it was a big one that gave the Braves a late lead in a critical rubber match versus the Brewers, but that was on August 12th and also happened to be his last extra base hit prior to last night.
That’s what makes this power struggle even more bizarre. Before yesterday’s double, his last double came on August 7th and he only has five of them since the break with no triples. It does not help that he is only batting .256 in the second half, clearly grinding through a rough patch. However, it is worth questioning what kind of power numbers we can expect out of him going forward.
Personally, this appears to be more of a minor power slump instead of a sign of things to come. Anyone around the Braves organization will tell you his power is no fluke. Albies is built like a ball of muscle and has showcased the ability to hit it well out of the park from both sides of the plate.
His inability to produce any extra-base hits indicates this is more of an adjustment period for a second-year player. There is simply no way a guy with his speed should be held to five doubles over a thirty-four game stretch. A lot of this has to do with his overaggressiveness at the plate. Albies is known for coming up hacking at the first pitch and opponents are beginning to take at advantage. In 561 plate appearances this season, Ozzie has only managed to walk twenty-seven times.
Ronald Acuña came to the majors with a similar overly aggressive approach. His success, however, started when he became willing to take a walk or wait for his pitch. The difference is Albies had so much success with his aggressive style that he never had to make such a change, until now.
Last night, Ozzie went three-for-three with a walk in a 9-5 win over the Rays, including his first extra-base hit since August 12th, and a lot of that can be attributed to a more patient plan of attack. He only swung at one first-pitch, a 94-mph fastball over the middle of the plate, and wound up taking a walk that at-bat. All of his other plate appearances began with a take for a ball and ended with a base hit.
The Braves look to be piecing it all together as the schedule creeps towards October. Acuña has burst on to the scene as a superstar and the pitching staff continues to improve. They have as good a chance as anyone to win the National League, but are going to need their All-Star second baseman to end this puzzling slump to reach that potential. Hopefully, last night was a sign of things to come.