Braves: What happens if Vaughn Grissom doesn’t work?

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In a stunning development this offseason, the Braves seem totally confident in the ability of Vaughn Grissom to fill the shoes of Dansby Swanson. Following Atlanta’s disappointing exit in the NLDS, I thought there was a very good chance we’d seen the last of Swanson in a Braves uniform. What I did not expect is for the organization to put their complete faith in Grissom, who has just 41 major-league games under his belt, no experience at AAA, and has yet to even play a game at shortstop at either level.

Grissom’s talent is undeniable. His contact bat is elite, his power seems to be developing, and the pressure of the majors never appeared to be an issue for him once he received the call. Eventually, I expect him to be a tremendous piece of what the Braves are building, but what the team is asking of him in 2023 is almost unfair.

Swanson was an All-Star who received Gold Glove honors in 2022. He was also a leader in the clubhouse. Grissom struggled mightily to end last season, hitting just .220 over his final 27 games in Atlanta, not including the playoffs. He also was a negative defensively, and that was at second base. Who knows how he will handle shortstop at the major-league level, and Swanson was the best in the business at his position. There will be a drop off in production, and the pressure could prove to be too much for Grissom to handle.

Potential is one thing, but highly touted prospects failing once they get to the majors is part of the game, especially when they are thrust into prominent roles too quickly. Look no further than Cristian Pache as an example recently for the Braves, who was asked to be the starting centerfielder to begin 2023 and didn’t even make it past May before he was demoted and eventually traded.

Thankfully, Alex Anthopoulos was able to work his magic at the trade deadline and fill the void left by Pache, eventually leading to a championship, but filling an opening in the outfield is much different than shortstop, so what happens if Vaughn Grissom stumbles out of the gate?

The simple answer is the Braves are screwed. They would likely turn to Orlando Arcia very quickly and hope the rest of the roster can carry the team, which is possible but not ideal. They would then need to start scrambling to find the answer for the future at the position.

The Braves don’t have any options in the minors that are close to being ready to contribute. Braden Shewmake is a former first round pick that can also play shortstop, but he’s closer to being out of the organization altogether than starting for the Braves. He’s really had a rough go in the upper levels of the minors. The only reason Shemake is still considered a top ten prospect is that Atlanta’s farm system is completely gutted.

The next logical option for the Braves would be to turn to the trade market. It won’t be easy to do until the trade deadline approaches, but by then, at least a couple of guys should be up for grabs that maybe aren’t right now. It wouldn’t be anything glamorous, and it likely wouldn’t be the long-term answer, but they could probably find an upgrade.┬áIf not, though, they’ll have to ride things out with Arcia until the following offseason, which isn’t exactly filled with glamorous options either.

I will give the Braves the benefit of the doubt. They’ve been incredibly successful at determining which of their players are ready to step in and be key contributors. Alex Anthopoulos and company are the best in the business at evaluating their internal talent. There’s reason to be hopeful that Vaughn Grissom could become the next Michael Harris II or Spencer Strider. But if he isn’t, the Braves will be in a pickle they may not be able to resolve before their 2023 postseason run and beyond.

Photo: Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire

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