With Spring Training at full swing now, it is time to see how the players from the Kingdom of the Netherlands will do in the upcoming season. Of course there is no crystal ball and it is still up in the air, but in general you can make a decent prediction based on the performance of previous years.
Ozhaino Albies was signed by the Braves in 2013. In February 2014 he was assigned to the DSL Braves but at the end of May he was promoted to the Gulf Coast League. A bit more than a month later, he was sent up to Danville of the Appalachian League (A Short Season).
Last year Ozhaino was added to the Braves’ roster to give him the opportunity to attend Spring Training. After ST he was sent to the Rome Braves. (A Full Season South Atlantic League). Because of his slick fielding, Albies was named best shortstop of the Sally League.
For a long time Albies was considered the top prospect of the Braves but he has been taken over by shortsop Dansby Swanson. Nevertheless Ozhaino is still one of the Braves best prospects. According to manager Fredi Gonzalez, Swanson and Albies will play in today’s ST game vs the Orioles. It is expected that Albies will play as second bagger and Swanson will be the shortstop. It is rather exciting to see the future double play tandem of the Braves playing together.
Last season at A Full Season level, Albies hit a decent .310. He was caught stealing in eight of 37 attempts. Albies is not a slugger but because of his speed he can easily stretch a single into a double and a double into a triple. He hit 21 doubles and 8 triples last year. His fielding percentage of .959 may seem a bit low for a highly touted shortstop, but according to the manager of team Kingdom of the Netherlands, Hensley Meulens, the state of the playing surfaces in the minors will influence this for sure. But what we have seen in the past two years is that his batting average goes down the higher he gets on the ladder.
So what can we expect of Ozhaino?
Since his arm may not be strong enough for the position of shortstop, he may be moved to second base. With Swanson waiting to be promoted to the Bigs, this may be a logical step.
In an interview with Fox Sports, Albies stated that he his willing to play every position as long as he can make it to the Major League. With Andrelton Simmons traded to Anaheim, this promotion may come sooner than we all think. Of course the Braves still have Erick Aybar, acquired the Simmons trade with the Angels. Aybar will start the season as the every day shorstop for sure, but since he is in the final year of his contract, Albies and Swanson will get a shot near the end of the season. If some 25-man or 40-man roster players will get injured, perhaps Ozhaino may be called up sooner. As a switch hitter he can be very valuable for the Braves.
For now I expect Ozhaino to start the season at A Advanced, but don’t be surprised if he will skip that level and starts at AA Mississippi. Afterall AA is the level where the real talents are playing. It will not be the first time that a AA player is called up to the Bigs.
If Ozhaino will be called up he will need time to get adjusted. If he really is the stud that the Braves think he is, this should not be a problem. But instead of the future shortstop he will be considered the future second baseman now.