Perhaps the longest-tenured player in the Atlanta Braves organization, the 36-year-old Sean Kazmar Jr. has been a noble member of the Gwinnett Stripers since the 2013 season, his fourth big league affiliate since being selected in the 5th round by the Padres in the 2004 MLB Draft (yah… that draft).
Entering his 17th professional season, incredibly Kazmar has logged just 46 PA in the majors, all of which came in San Diego over a decade ago (2008);. However, for a journeyman such as himself, Kazmar should have absolutely no shame in the career he has had thus far. And he should be especially proud of his current performance this spring.
Through the Braves first 13 Spring Training games, the all-time Stripers leader in games played (667), hits (620), runs (279), total bases (882), doubles (127), and RBI (270) is gaining some attention as one of the team’s leaders on offense. Playing in all but two of Atlanta’s exhibition games, Kazmar is slashing a video-game-like .545/.615/1.455 with 3 home runs and 8 RBI. Two of those three homers came this weekend — one on Friday in a 2 for 2 performance against the Twins and one Sunday in his lone plate appearance versus the Rays.
The minor league veteran is really seeing the ball, and though Kazmar doesn’t usually have 11-game stretches where he posts a 2.07 OPS (I mean, who does?), raking at the plate isn’t necessarily a new thing for the Georgia native. Currently participating in his ninth consecutive Spring Training with Atlanta, Kazmar has turned in a couple of impressive spring camps during his time in the organization.
Back in the spring of 2016, Kazmar played in 7 games for the Braves and hit .364. He followed that small sample up with a couple of rough showcases in 2017 and ’18 but bounced back during the spring of 2019 with a .414 AVG and 2 homers during a 20-game stint. Last season, in a shortened assignment in Florida, Kazmar played respectively by slashing .238/.273/.429 with a couple of XBH through 13 games. Add it all up, and you have a veteran infielder that still certainly knows how to hit… even nearing the age of 40.
Although it wasn’t a given that Kazmar was going to remain in the Braves organization this coming season. With the lasting impact of COVID still causing teams to slash payrolls and cut any excess, you can imagine the uncertainty for a career minor leaguer in his late-30s. However, after Kazmar reached out to the Braves following the team’s elimination from the 2020 postseason, in December, Atlanta signed him to another one-year minor league contract. And given the circumstances, Kazmar is completely aware of how lucky he truly is.
“I’m extremely fortunate. I tell everyone that I’ve spoken to since I’ve signed back just how thankful I am to the Braves organization for giving me this opportunity to continue to live my dream and play this game that we all love. I know of hundreds of guys who are still sitting there and waiting for a job and it’s really tough to see.” — Kazmar
Still, at 36-years-old, Kazmar’s goal to contribute at the big league level remains, and even with a rather shallow Braves bench this year, he’ll have his work cut out for him.
At the moment his biggest competition includes 31-year-old Ehire Adrianza, a switch-hitting infielder who, like Kazmar, is hitting just about everything he sees. Adrianza got everyone’s attention on Sunday when he belted a walk-off home run for the Braves, not to mention the fact that he carries a .385 AVG through his first 13 games this spring. The athletic Adrianza was signed to a minor league contract and assigned to Triple-A Gwinnett in late January, but with 27-year-old Johan Camargo again struggling against big league pitching, Atlanta’s infield depth chart could be shaken up a bit this coming season. Despite his first homer of spring coming this past Friday, Camargo is hitting just .167 in 7 games thus far, though his AVG perhaps appears worse than his actual play. Johan has struck out just twice in 18 at-bats, so he’s putting the ball in play.
But whether Kazmar winds up back with the Stripers or not, you can bet he’ll appreciate every second of this spring, especially considering where he’s at in his career. For a player who has seen as much as he has, Kazmar’s value is tremendous for all the young talent sure to come through Gwinnett in 2021. And as a leader and teacher, Kazmar will most definitely continue to contribute.
Kazmar’s quote above came from a previous article written by Dave Lezotte at MiLB.com.
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