Albies next Braves star to hail from Curacao?
No. 3 prospect is compared with former Atlanta shortstop Furcal
ATLANTA -- As Ozhaino Albies established himself as one of baseball's top overall prospects within his first two professional seasons, he has positioned himself to follow the path set by two of his native Curacao's favorite sons -- Andruw Jones and Andrelton Simmons, who have experienced stardom with the Braves.
"Andruw is still the man in Curacao," Albies said with a youthful smile as he stood in the Braves' clubhouse at Turner Field on Thursday afternoon, participating in the club's Winter Elite Development Camp.
When asked about his favorite memories of Jones, Albies quickly responded by saying, "The two home runs he hit in his first World Series game." But when asked what Albies could specifically remember about those two memorable homers the former Braves center fielder hit during the 1996 Fall Classic, Albies smiled again and conceded, "I wasn't even in the world yet."
Albies was born a little less than three months after Jones hit those memorable home runs at Yankee Stadium. Nearly two decades later, Albies savors the opportunity to become the latest Curacao native to star in Atlanta. In fact, he would certainly relish the opportunity to soon assume the former role of the recently traded Simmons, who spent the past four seasons establishing himself as the Braves' greatest defensive shortstop.
"That would be really cool," Albies said. "I'm ready for that."
It does not take long to realize why Albies has so quickly endeared himself to Braves officials and coaches with his talent and personality. The 5-foot-8, 160-pound shortstop has the ability to exude both confidence and humility.
"This year was an awesome year for me," Albies said. "I think I'm ready for Double-A. I'm just going to keep going forward."
Albies hit .301, recorded 29 stolen bases and compiled a .771 OPS while playing for Class A Rome this past season. The exciting 18-year-old infielder experienced the thrill of playing in the SiriusXM Futures Game and now ranks No. 30 on as MLB.com's overall prospect list and No. 3 in Atlanta's system.
One talent evaluator recently described Albies as a more physical version of Rafael Furcal or Astros second baseman Jose Altuve.
Whether Albies remains at the shortstop position will be influenced by the development of Dansby Swanson, another heralded prospect who the Braves acquired from the D-backs in the Shelby Miller trade on Dec. 9. Swanson, who had previous obligations that prevented him from attending this week's developmental camp, has similar range and a stronger arm.
But projections could change as Albies spends the next few years maturing from a physical standpoint and following his dream to follow that same path that Jones and Simmons took after they left Curacao.
"I just play ball," Albies said. "Wherever they put me in the big leagues, I will go there."