He’s just 20 years old and already had two home runs and two triples in his first 18 major league games before Monday, but Braves prospect Ozzie Albies has plenty of work to do and the team’s not waiting until the offseason or spring training to have him do it.
The switch-hitting second baseman worked with Braves icon Chipper Jones on changes to his left-handed swing while Albies was at Triple-A, and work has continued in several areas with Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer since Albies was called up to the majors this month.
“I really like the tool package, the game that he brings,” Seitzer said. “But we’re working on simplifying that swing a little bit. There’s a lot going on, which we were all (concerned about). He’s had nothing but success all the way through the minors, so it’s hard to convince a kid that he needs to make adjustments when he’s done nothing but hit. And we’ve had that talk, too, where it was, ‘These are things going on in your swing that at this level, against this pitching – timing’s everything, and if you’re a tick late or early, the majority of the time you’re in trouble.’”
Albies tripled for the second consecutive game in Monday’s 6-5 loss to the Mariners, and has a .224 average, .274 OBP and .448 slugging percentage (.722 OPS) in his first 73 plate appearances over 19 games.
After hitting .170 (8-for-47) with one double, two home runs, a .261 OBP and .674 OPS in his first 14 games, he’s 7-for-20 (.350) with two doubles, three triples, a .381 OBP and 1.131 OPS in his past five games.
“He’s working really hard, he and Seitz, they’re making some adjustments,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s working hard down there, they’re watching a lot of video, they’re in that cage every day. This is his first crack at major league pitching and regardless of how you do there (in the minors) you get up here and you might find, well, I might need to do something a little different to succeed here, and he’s working hard to do that.
“The last few days I’ve seen good results. He’s an exciting little player. He’s got skills and can do a lot of things. Watch him run around them bases, man, he’s got skills.”
Albies had 20 fly balls and a ground-ball rate of just 31.7 percent in those first 18 games, and seven fly balls -- more of them line drives -- with a ground-ball rate of 40 percent in his past five. That’s what the Braves want to see from the diminutive speedster, line drives that should yield loads of extra-base hits instead of high flies.
“They’re addressing some issues, different things with video and batting practice,” Snitker said before Monday’s game. “Going into (Sunday) Seitz was real encouraged about some things. Oz has kind of bought in, so yeah, I like what I’m seeing. He’s playing very good defense. I told him the other day I wanted to see him hit one in the gap so I could watch him run, and he did (Albies had a double and a triple Sunday vs. Cincinnati). That was fun to see, his tools.
“I think he’s handling it well. He seems confident, he’s learning, experiencing the major leagues. Like I said, Seitz is real positive about some things that they’ve been doing in the cage. Obviously it’s a work in progress when you take different things into the game. It takes a while in the cage before it becomes kind of second nature.”
Albies is 3-for-12 (.250) with two homers, no strikeouts and a 1.107 OPS against left-handers and 12-for-55 (.218) with three doubles, three triples, 11 strikeouts and a .636 OPS against right-handers.
“I’m just working on staying through the ball, hitting line drives, low line drives,” Albies said before Monday’s game. “From the right side I can do everything. From the left side just trying to hit line drives.”
Jones and Gwinnett hitting coach John Moses worked with Albies on improving balance and reducing his front-leg lift, a timing mechanism. While it wasn’t a problem in the minor leagues, there is a consensus in the organization that he needs to tone it down to succeed in the major leagues.
“Yeah, (the leg lift) too high,” Seitzer said, “and he’s got too much going on with his hands, the bat tip, so it creates inconsistency with everything. But he’s all in (receptive to swing adjustments), we’re working on it.”
Jones and Moses had some success working with Albies at Gwinnett, where he had some inconsistent stretches this season while hitting .285 with a .330 OBP and .771 OPS in 97 games, with eight triples and nine home runs.
“Yeah, but the drastic change is going to take a while,” Seitzer said.
When asked if that was an offseason project, Seitzer replied, “Well, we’re working on it now, but we’ll see where it gets to.”