The Braves two most glaring needs are at shortstop and left field. Alex Anthopoulos talked the other day about filling Dansby Swanson‘s shoes internally with either Orlando Arcia or Vaughn Grissom. That would be a substantial downgrade, and the team should do everything in their power to make sure that doesn’t happen. However, left field is an entirely different situation. Beyond just Eddie Rosario and Marcell Ozuna, the Braves have several other players in the clubhouse currently that could potentially play left field.
With Manny Piña set to return this year, the Braves have three high-quality catchers. Atlanta might opt to move Piña in an attempt to save some money. He’s owed $4.5 million, and the Braves could need that money to re-sign someone like Dansby Swanson. But if Anthopoulos decides to hold onto Piña, there’s no reason Contreras shouldn’t be shagging fly balls all winter and into the spring. He has the athleticism to be an outfielder, and it’s not like he’s replacing a couple of Gold Glove defensive players. I think there’s a good chance we see a lot of Contreras in left field next season if the Braves don’t add to the position.
Grissom took the league by storm for about a month after he was called up, but by the end of the season, it was evident that he wasn’t quite ready for the majors. That’s not taking anything away from him. The young man began last season in High-A ball and skipped AA entirely. He was never supposed to make his debut last year. Eventually, Grissom is going to be a critical piece to the Braves; it’s just a matter of when. He won’t begin next season in Atlanta, but it shouldn’t take much to receive the call again, and I expect him to get a lot of reps in the outfield this offseason.
I’m against Orlando Arcia being an everyday player, but in a pinch, he has experience playing left field and has done so pretty well. Arcia also handled the bat well last year when filling in for Ozzie Albies.
If you follow the website, you know I’m extremely high on Justyn-Henry Malloy. I think he’s the top prospect in the Braves organization, and while not everybody is going to come up and have the same success as Michael Harris II, Malloy could impress enough next season to receive the call. Over three levels in 2022 (A+-AAA), Malloy had 17 homers and a whopping .408 on-base percentage. In 133 games, he accumulated 97 walks. That kind of plate discipline will play at every level. Expectations should be tempered, but we’ve seen the Braves have no hesitation in calling up their prospects, and Malloy could be the Braves long-term answer in left field.
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