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Braves bump prospects Albies, Swanson a step closer to big leagues

CHICAGO — Less than a month into the minor league season, the Braves have promoted elite shortstop prospects Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson, bumping Albies from Double-A Mississippi to Triple-A Gwinnett and Swanson from high Single-A Carolina to Double-A.

One or both likely will arrive in the majors at some point this season, with one eventually switching to second base.

By promoting them so soon, the Braves seemed to be sending a signal: If they’re going to keep losing as much as they have at the major league level, they’ll consider going with some prospects sooner than expected, rather than stick with veteran retreads all season.

When a reporter asked Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez if he had much say in when and where Albies and Swanson were assigned or promoted, Gonzalez smiled and joked, “If I did they would have come with me (to the majors opening day).”

Albies, who turned 19 and easily was the youngest player in Double-A, hit a sizzling .369 with eight extra-base hits (one home run), two stolen bases, a .442 on-base percentage and .512 slugging percentage in 95 plate appearances over 22 games at Mississippi.

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Swanson, 22, hit .333 with 12 doubles, one homer, seven stolen bases, a .441 OBP and a .526 slugging percentage in 93 PAs (21 games) at Carolina. The former Marietta High standout was the No. 1 pick in last year’s June draft out of Vanderbilt and came from Arizona in the December trade that sent Shelby Miller to the Diamondbacks.

“Both very good players, special players that don’t come around often,” said Dave Trembley, Braves player development director. “Athletes! Both of them did what we asked. They earned the move up with the way they played — very mature and consistent in their approach every day.” Like I said, special.”

The Braves were a majors-worst 5-18 through Friday and have gotten woeful production from veteran shortstop Erick Aybar, batting .169 with a .391 OPS that was the worst in the major leagues among 197 qualifying major league through Friday. The Braves have gotten little production at second base, where five players had a combined .289 OBP and National League-worst .286 slugging percentage at the position.

Albies and Swanson played exclusively shortstop during the minor league season, but Albies and Swanson rotated smoothly between shortstop and second base during major league spring training, when both impressed Braves coaches and players with their abilities and maturity.

“Both moved up a level and will play shortstop” at their respective new levels, Trembley said. “We saw them play second base in spring training.”

Gonzalez said he was somewhat surprised because the plan had been for Albies and Swanson to play 40 games before being promoted. On the other hand, he said, “That doesn’t surprise me, the way those guys are playing, that they would move them up. We always say that they will let you know when they’re ready. And the way they’ve been playing, I’ve been reading the reports and every time I look at the report it’s three hits, two hits, one hit, RBI, a great play in the hole….

“They’ve only played about 20, 23 games, right? But they’ve been doing well and I’m OK for pushing those guys. I mean, Swanson’s a college guy. Albies is only 19, but he’s played some ball.”

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