What if Vaughn Grissom doesn’t win the starting shortstop job?

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The Braves have a rock solid roster, but there are two areas of concern going into 2023 — shortstop and left field. As of now, the expectation is for Grissom to serve as the team’s starting shortstop, with Orlando Arcia waiting in the wings in case Grissom struggles. Offensively, there’s not much to worry about when it comes to the 22-year-old Florida native, but there are concerns regarding whether Grissom can handle the shortstop position defensively, even if Ron Washington has issued his vote of confidence in the young man.

Grissom was a below average defender for the Braves last season, and that was at second base. The task will be even more difficult at shortstop, especially with the shift leaving the game this year. The emphasis on defense at shortstop will be highlighted more than ever, and Grissom might not be the answer, but the Braves could still find a place for his bat in the lineup by allowing him to play some left field.

This is an idea I floated at the end of last year when Albies was set to return from the injured list. Grissom was playing too well to be benched, and the Braves were getting nothing from Eddie Rosario and Marcell Ozuna. Hopefully, that changes this year, but Alex Anthopoulos chose not to upgrade the position. There’s a chance the Braves are just as bad in left field as they were in 2022. If that’s the case, Grissom receiving some opportunities in the outfield could be imminent, even if Brian Snitker recently said at Braves Fest that it hadn’t been something the team has discussed.

While that may be true of his moment, I’m not sure what the Braves will do if Grissom doesn’t end up winning the starting shortstop job over Orlando Arcia. The team wouldn’t have a competent backup for Arcia, and there’s no way they can stick a 22-year-old on the bench full time. It would be devastating for his confidence and overall development. That’s not an option. Grissom is either playing at the major-league level or for the Stripers in AAA.

The Braves have transformed a number of infielders into corner outfielders over the years. Most notably, Chipper Jones made the switched and logged 356 games in left field after spending his entire career as a third baseman. Austin Riley has also been used in left field more recently in certain situations, as well as Orlando Arcia.

At 22 years old, there’s no reason to believe the Braves couldn’t coach Grissom up to play in the outfield. He’s very athletic, and what the team currently has defensively in Eddie Rosario and Marcell Ozuna is putrid. There’s a very good chance that, without any practice, Grissom is already better defensively in left field than both Rosario and Ozuna.

If that’s the case, using him out there makes a lot of sense. The Braves value Grissom for his bat. He projects to be an elite offensive player, and while they would love for him to start at shortstop every day, it might benefit the team more if he spends some time in left field. Regardless, the only thing the Braves shouldn’t do is let him waste away on the bench. Whether it is shortstop, left field, or even as a DH, Grissom needs to be receiving opportunities in Atlanta, or the organization is better off letting him continue to develop in the minors.

Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire 

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