How did Braves' shortstop situation unfold this spring?
NORTH PORT, Fla. -- So, just when I finally relented and conceded the Braves were going to go with Vaughn Grissom as their starting shortstop -- they pulled the plug on the gamble. On a related note, I have already lost three (Kansas, Purdue, and Arizona) of my four Final Four picks.
Lots of folks have seemingly been bewildered since Monday, when the Braves announced Grissom and Braden Shewmake would begin the season with Triple-A Gwinnett. Just three days earlier, manager Brian Snitker had said, “We're going to take one of the two (Shewmake or Grissom) more than likely. We'll see who we leave with in a couple of weeks."
So, yeah, the confusion was justified. I certainly didn’t help the situation with my Opening Day roster projections. My first projection on Feb. 8 had Orlando Arcia as the starting shortstop. I gave in on March 4, when I projected Grissom for this role. But the tide seemed to turn last week. So when I made my third and last projection on Saturday, I had Shewmake as the starting shortstop.
What happened? At the end of the day, the Braves decided neither Grissom nor Shewmake were ready for the everyday role. So, they decided to give them more Minor League seasoning and gave the job to Arcia.
History has shown Arcia is best utilized off the bench as a role player. His current role is to provide stability to the shortstop position while Shewmake enhances his development with more at-bats, and while Grissom continues to work on his defensive skills.
Shewmake came out of nowhere this spring and had the coaches buzzing about how he might have been the most improved player in camp. His glove is MLB-ready and he is at least showing more potential with his bat.
My bold prediction: Shewmake ends up as the Braves’ starting shortstop by the end of the year. In fact, I’ll say he’ll lead the team in starts at that position.
Grissom is going to be a solid MLB player for many years to come. I’m just not ready to buy into him being an everyday shortstop. He could become a utility player or possibly an everyday left fielder as he starts to gain more power via physical maturity. The kid is a fighter and a winner. This is just a detour that maybe should have been expected.
Remember a couple of months ago, when I wrote that Ron Washington was great with infielders, but he isn’t a miracle worker? If so, do you remember the first thing he said when he saw me last month? He said, “Bow, I ain’t no miracle worker.”
Well, there may have been a colorful word or two missing there. But you get the point.
Washington added, “I’m a product worker. I can get [guys] where they need to go.”
When most doubted Grissom’s ability to be a shortstop, Washington volunteered his time by working with the young infielder for three separate weeks this past winter. He desired to create another shortstop option for the Braves this year -- and he did.
Yeah, Grissom’s range is still limited and might always be an issue. But if needed to play the position, he can now and at a higher level than before Washington committed to helping him improve this winter.