ATLANTA -- As Ozzie Albies prepares for what should be his first full season in the Majors, he has seemingly erased concerns that he spent the past couple of years regularly tinkering with what was an aggressive swing from the left-hand side.Albies significantly modified his big leg kick, placing more
ATLANTA -- As Ozzie Albies prepares for what should be his first full season in the Majors, he has seemingly erased concerns that he spent the past couple of years regularly tinkering with what was an aggressive swing from the left-hand side.
Albies significantly modified his big leg kick, placing more weight on his back leg, and the switch-hitter started to reap the benefits shortly after making his Major League debut last year. The Braves' second baseman enjoyed a productive Spring Training and extended his success from the left side when he doubled and scored in the fourth inning of Monday night's 5-1 loss to the Yankees at SunTrust Park.
"He's one of those guys who you can't wait to get to the ballpark every day to be around him," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He's infectious. He's a talented kid. He's fun to watch and be around. He's an exciting little player."
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Albies hit .286/.354/.456 with six home runs in the 57 games he played in the Majors last year. He produced 112 Weighted Runs Created Plus over 244 plate appearances. The only other players 20 years old or younger to produce this total with at least 200 plate appearances within the past 30 years were Michael Trout, Bryce Harper (twice), Carlos Correa, Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Jason Heyward and Rafael Devers.
After recording just six hits in his first 38 at-bats against big league right-handers last year, Albies hit .307 with four homers and an .889 OPS over his final 143 plate appearances from the left side of the plate.
Albies has hit .267 (12-for-45) with two homers against right-handers during the exhibition season.
"Everybody said [he'd struggle hitting left-handed], but all he ever did was lead the leagues in hits, make All-Star teams and hit .300 all the time," Snitker said. "Sometimes it takes getting to that level where everybody says they can't do it. He saw what he had to do and did it."
The Braves are leaning toward carrying three catchers to begin the season. This would create an Opening Day roster spot for Chris Stewart and quite possibly lead the Braves to designate Lane Adams for assignment.
Stewart's presence would provide Snitker the opportunity to more comfortably utilize one of his top two catchers -- Tyler Flowers or Kurt Suzuki -- as a pinch-hitter.
When infielder Ryan Flaherty and outfielder Peter Bourjos joined the Braves on Monday, non-roster invitees Ezequiel Carrera and Danny Santana became the likely odd men out for the Opening Day roster. If Stewart starts the season with Atlanta, Adams becomes the next most likely squeezed out. The outfielder earned a spot on Atlanta's 40-man roster last year, but his struggles this spring have put him in jeopardy.
Even without Adams, Santana and Carrera, the Braves could still carry four outfielders -- Ender Inciarte, Nick Markakis, Preston Tucker and Bourjos. Flaherty could be utilized as an outfielder if necessary.
Brandon McCarthy certainly isn't among those pitchers who might react to a rough exhibition outing by saying something like, "I was just getting my work in." The right-hander didn't mince words as he assessed the start he made Monday night against the Yankees.
"Taking the day off the calendar, that was really the only [positive]," McCarthy said. "Everything else just [stunk]."
McCarthy issued three walks and surrendered two home runs as the Yankees tagged him for four runs over three innings. Didi Gregorius snuck a two-run homer over the right-center-field wall in the first inning and Giancarlo Stanton tattooed a hanging curveball that landed in the second level beyond the left-field wall in the third. Stanton's two-run shot traveled a projected 434 feet and had a 114-mph exit velocity per Statcast™.
What bothered McCarthy most about his outing?
"All the pitches I threw, the way I felt, my mechanics, how far some of the balls went, basically all the things that could upset you about a start were present today," he said.
McCarthy will make his regular-season debut against the Phillies on Saturday.
Top prospects Ronald Acuna Jr. and Mike Soroka will be part of Atlanta's Futures Stars team that will play the Braves on Tuesday night at SunTrust Park. Soroka will match up against Sean Newcomb, who will open the season as Atlanta's fourth starter. First pitch is scheduled for 7:35 ET.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.