The Athletic identifies Braves biggest question going into Spring Training

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The Braves are attempting to replace a team captain who is a Gold Glove winner and All-Star with a 22-year-old who has 41 games under his belt at one of the most challenging positions to play in baseball, which is a bold move for a club with World Series aspirations. Vaughn Grissom shouldn’t be expected to fill Dansby Swanson’s shoes, but it is the biggest question going to Spring Training.

The Athletic:

Dansby Swanson was Atlanta’s shortstop for five straight NL East titles and a World Series championship. But he went to the Cubs as a free agent, and now set to compete for the shortstop job are utility infielder (former Brewers shortstop) Orlando Arcia, and likely favorite Vaughn Grissom, 22, who’s played 41 MLB games including just one start at shortstop. Swanson had 52 homers and 184 RBIs over the past two seasons, and last year won a Gold Glove, finished second among MLB shortstops with 6.4 fWAR, and filled much of the leadership void after Freddie Freeman’s spring free-agent exit. — David O’Brien

Following the best season of his career, Dansby Swanson cashed in and signed a seven-year, $177 million deal with the Cubs. He was arguably the best shortstop in baseball. He slashed .277/.329/.447 with 25 bombs, good for a .776 OPS, adding 17 stolen bags. Swanson turned in a season worth the 12th-most WAR in baseball, and he’ll be replaced by a kid.

In his major league debut, Grissom came out of the gate on fire, mashing his first career home run over the iconic Green Monster. In his first 26 games and 103 plate appearances, Grissom slashed .347/.398/.558 with five home runs and a .956 OPS. It was honestly unbelievable. However, over his final 15 games and 53 plate appearances, Grissom posted an unsightly .174/.264/.196 slash line. Regression smacked him right in the face.

The plan is simple: hope Grissom takes the reins with Orlando Arcia as a safety net. The veteran’s production is a high enough floor that the club wouldn’t take a massive hit at shortstop. Grissom will have a long leash as he acclimates to his new role as the starting shortstop of the Atlanta Braves, but this could be a decision that really bites Alex Anthopoulos and the club in the ass if he doesn’t pan out. Ron Washington seems to think he will, though. 

The infield specialist is adamant that Vaughn Grissom will work out. The concern from Braves Country is warranted. Grissom will be expected to play shortstop without the benefit of the shift after somewhat struggling at second base in 2022. Nobody should expect him to perform at the level of a veteran Gold Glove winner. Learning the nuances of a premium position like shortstop takes time; development won’t happen overnight. And Wash reminded everyone of that:

“Growth. I see things that I didn’t see earlier,” Washington said on Grant McAuley’s podcast, via Fansided. “He really, really, really wants it, and he’s been putting in the time to deserve it. I think the fans have to just be patient.”

Having someone like Ron Washington vouching for you should build a ton of confidence in Vaughn Grissom; it does for me.

“He’s got a skillset, that I feel, he can be a major-league shortstop. Now, will that happen overnight? It didn’t happen overnight with Dansby. It didn’t happen overnight with Marcus Semien. It didn’t happen overnight with Miguel Tejada…and all those names I just named are pretty good players,” Washington continued. “But I like the growth and I like the attitude. I like the commitment to the work ethic. He will be a different looking guy.”

I’m cautiously optimistic about Vaughn Grissom. Hopefully, he can hold his own defensively because his bat is what’s really exciting. Still, it’s undoubtedly the biggest question entering Spring Training.

Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire

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