LAS VEGAS — On the first full day of the offseason, the Braves executed a trade, wasting no time as they look ahead to next season.
Atlanta acquired outfielder Sam Hilliard from the Rockies for minor-league righty Dylan Spain. Hilliard has played parts of four seasons in the major leagues.
Hilliard can play all three outfield positions. He also possesses three tools – speed, power and arm strength – that give him some upside.
Hilliard is out of minor-league options, which means he will compete to make the big-league roster as an extra outfielder in spring training.
Over 174 at-bats for the Rockies in 2022, Hilliard hit .184 with a .544 OPS. He hit two home runs, drove in 14 runs and stole five bases. He struck out 57 times, with 23 walks.
He features impressive tools, though.
According to Baseball Savant, Hilliard’s max exit velocity of 115.1 mph ranked in the 97th percentile in the sport. His arm strength was in the 90th percentile, while his sprint speed was in the 85th percentile.
Hilliard might come with some potential. The Braves, his new team, are known for developing players and deploying them in the correct spots. Perhaps Hilliard could be another victory in this category.
Colorado drafted the left-handed hitting and throwing Hilliard in the 15th round in 2015 from Wichita State. He debuted in 2019. In 2021, Hilliard posted career highs in home runs (14) and RBIs (34).
Spain, Atlanta’s 10th-round pick in 2021, finished the 2022 season in High-A. In 47 career games in the minors, he has a 4.03 ERA.
Ronald Acuña (right field) and Michael Harris (center field) will be starters in the Braves’ outfield in 2023. Left field seems like a question mark.
Eddie Rosario and Robbie Grossman (a free agent) split time in left field down the stretch in 2022. Marcell Ozuna is still on the roster.
The Braves could do something to address left field this offseason. Rosario underperformed in 2022, while Ozuna is a subpar defender who has not hit well through the first part of his contract with the Braves. Adam Duvall, who over the summer underwent wrist surgery that ended his season, is a free agent. Vaughn Grissom could play left field, but the Braves might have other answers for that position.
Hilliard could be an intriguing backup outfielder option for Atlanta, a club that understands the importance of depth as much as any in the sport.
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