It’s truly remarkable just how quickly some players “figure it out” once in the big leagues. There are Mike Trout and Bryce Harper from years ago and, more recently, Ronald Acuna Jr., Juan Soto, and Fernando Tatis. Well, you can go ahead and add Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies to that list as well.
The thing is, though, Giles logged 1,110 more PA than Albies, and Hubbard did so with 2,873 more. In essentially 2.5 seasons’ worth of actual games, the 24-year-old Albies has accomplished what two of the Braves’ greatest second baseman needed six and ten seasons to do. And from where I’m sitting, it doesn’t look like Albies will be slowing down any time soon.
Sticking with Baseball Reference’s flavor of WAR, Albies made his mark in the majors in 2017 by ending the season worth 1.3 WAR in just 57 games (or 244 PA), a nearly 4-WAR pace over a full season. At the time, we knew the 20-year-old was special, having hit .286 with 20 XBH during his first taste of the majors; but once put into proper context, the things Albies has managed to do so far is almost hard to believe.
Since 2017, Albies first full season in Atlanta, only one major league second baseman has been more productive in terms of WAR, and that’s Jose Altuve. Although, you must know that the last four years just so happened to be the prime years of Altuve’s career (age-wise), his age 27-30 seasons. And with just a 4.2-WAR difference between the two second baseman, coupled with the inevitable decline Altuve will likely experience going forward (while not even delving into Houston’s cheating scandal), it’s not outlandish at all to say Albies is The Best second baseman in baseball right now.
Going back to the aforementioned Braves’ all-time leaders regarding second basemen, Albies could very well come close to pacing the group by the end of this season. Hubbard and Giles lead Albies in WAR by just 5.2 and 5 WAR, respectively. Even if Albies doesn’t surpass those marks in 2021 and performs closer to his ZiPS projection of 4.1 WAR (barring an injury), by the All-Star break of 2022, he will have solidified his position as the franchise’s all-time best.
Think about that for a minute. In July or so of 2022, Albies will be only 25-years-old and already the greatest to ever play his position in Braves history. Imagine how much closer he’d already be if he hadn’t battled an injury in 2020, resulting in a career-worst season. Albies could’ve really taken hold of the top WAR spot this year.
But just like I wrote in my recent post on Acuna’s extraordinary career so far, and how he could potentially have the best age-23 season in Braves history in 2021, these types of career accomplishments are often at the back of a player’s mind, and rightfully so.
For Albies, bouncing back from a rough 2020 is more than likely his top priority, followed by doing whatever he can to help get the Braves to the World Series. But Braves Country should really appreciate what he’s done so far. And maybe by the time his incredible career is over, Albies will too.