Ozzie Albies shouldn’t be overlooked in the young dynamic-player conversation

Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies tortured the Cardinals in Friday’s win, going 3-for-5 with three RBIs and three runs scored, falling a triple shy of the cycle.

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It continued what has been somewhat quietly another electric season for the 24-year-old Albies. He’s the only player in the majors with at least 20 doubles, 10 homers and five triples (which ties the major-league lead). His 36 extra-base hits rank second most in the National League and fourth in the majors, trailing three individuals with 37 such hits.

“I think you’re seeing a lot of what Ozzie does,” pitcher Max Fried said. “A couple years ago, he was at the most (hits) in the National League. So you know that he’s capable of putting together some really good at-bats over a long season. I think you’re seeing him stay within himself and really just playing the game of baseball. Ozzie is an unbelievable player. It’s nice to see him rolling.”

Albies is a strange case because while he leads NL second baseman in All-Star voting, and he’s been a key contributor on three playoff teams, he almost feels underrated on the national scale.

There’s a young talent boom in MLB right now. It’s becoming a golden age, with players like Ronald Acuna of the Braves, Fernando Tatis, Juan Soto, Vladimir Guerrero and others taking center stage so early in their careers.

Albies, who debuted in August 2017 before the aforementioned players, usually isn’t among the first named when discussing the dynamic young talent in baseball. In fact, MLB Network ran a “top 25 under 25” ranking earlier this month that listed Albies as the No. 17 such player in baseball, behind teammates Acuna (No. 1), Ian Anderson (10) and Austin Riley (13).

Those who have watched the Braves over the past few seasons might feel he belongs higher on that list.

“I think he’s been around for so long that his name doesn’t get tossed in there (with other young talents),” Fried said. “But he’s just as solid and just as good as all those guys. And he’s still so young. He’s already got an All-Star (selection) under his belt. He’s got a lot of accomplishments under his belt. He comes to the field, and he works hard every single day. Whether it’s outside working with Wash (third-base coach Ron Washington) or in the cage and batting practice, he puts in the work, and I’m glad to see that it’s paying off for him.”

Manager Brian Snitker added: “He’s another one of the game’s bright young players, for sure. He’s athletic. He runs. He’s a really good, above-average defensive player. The skill set allows him to play in this shift era, where you’re putting these guys where we do. The speed and the ability to go to his left is good. He’s just an all-around player. He’s an exciting player. And he’s solid. You look, he does it every year.”

More context to their points about what Albies has already accomplished: He’s on track to achieve his third season with 40 doubles, 20 homers and five triples. He’d be the 10th player in MLB history to have reached those marks in three different seasons.

The company: Stan Musial (six times), Lou Gehrig (6), Rogers Hornsby (6), Hank Greenberg (5), Chuck Klein (4), Mookie Betts (3), Joe Medwick (3), Ted Williams (3) and Al Simmons (3). Each of the retired players is in the Hall of Fame, and Betts is well on his way to joining them.

It bears repeating: Albies is only 24 years old.

“It’s amazing what he does,” Snitker said. “You get the track record. It just impresses me how consistent he stays. There’s no emotional ups and downs. It’s just an even keel, professional approach all the time. If it doesn’t go his way, you’d never know it. He flushes that at-bat and gets ready for the next one. It’s a really professional approach that the kid has.”

Albies was an All-Star in 2018, his first full season, when he had an incredible first half, hitting .281 with 20 homers, 29 doubles, 55 RBIs and 74 runs scored. But Albies cooled considerably in the second half, leading to more questions about his switch-hitting and overall approach.

He responded with a monstrous 2019. In 160 games, he hit .295/.352/.500 with 24 homers, 43 doubles, eight triples, 86 RBIs and 102 runs scored. Last year, he appeared in only 29 games during the shortened 60-game season because of injury, but he’s stuffing the stat sheet again this year.

“That (2019) was a fun season, and that’s what I’m looking forward to doing, or even better,” Albies said. “Just go out there, trust what I can do. Do certain plays for the team, and good things are going to happen.”

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Albies has a 1.9 fWAR this season, which ties him for best among regular NL second basemen with Pittsburgh’s Adam Frazier. He and Frazier are tied for third at their position behind only Toronto’s Marcus Semien (2.9) and Houston’s Jose Altuve (2.5). If the production continues, Albies might have two All-Star nods before turning 25.

“Oh, great, great,” Albies said when asked what another All-Star appearance would mean to him. “I don’t think anybody would say (anything different). It’s something fun. It’s enjoyable. It’s something you’re not going to forget in your life. … I always imagined, when I was way younger, (being like) Manny Ramirez and all these guys at the All-Star game. It’s just amazing.”