As the Braves surged in the second half, their second baseman was a borderline offensive liability.
Ozzie Albies was the MVP of April. He mustered a franchise-record 22 extra-base hits that month, eventually knocking 20 homers before the midseason break.
He just missed starting the All-Star Game, but made the roster nonetheless. The 21-year-old was among MLB’s more dynamic talents, even overshadowing Ronald Acuna through the first few months.
Then came post-break, when Albies was a non-factor for chunks of the season. Defense and speed don’t slump, they say, but the Braves won in spite of his bat.
First-half Albies: .281/.318/.516 with 29 doubles, 20 homers, and 55 RBIs (93 games).
Second-half Albies: .226.282/.342 with 11 doubles, four homers and 17 RBIs (64 games).
Albies hit sub-.200 across September and October. A switch-hitter, he was significantly more productive against left-handers than righties.
Manager Brian Snitker acknowledged Albies’ struggles during his postseason media meeting. He reminded that most Albies’ age are still in college, a fair assessment, suggesting Albies was slower adjusting to the league than the league was to him.
“He’s going to have to make some adjustments,” manager said. “I think we saw it in spurts. … This is his first full year. And he came out and burst on the scene and still ended up having a pretty solid year.”
Albies and Dansby Swanson are supposed to comprise an electric middle infield, though both have been inconsistent at the plate. The good news for the Braves is their defensive value, making their growing pains with the bat easier to manage.
Snitker compared Albies with a pair of former All-Star Braves second basemen, Marcus Giles and Dan Uggla. He remembers seeing the game slow for each, recognizing that’ll eventually be the case with Albies.
“I’ve seen Ozzie do it defensively,” Snitker said. “On offense, it’s hard. It’s tough to hit that ball, with what (the pitchers are) able to do and the quality of competition you see night in and night out. But I don’t think there’s anybody, me included, that doesn’t think he’s capable of making the adjustments.”
It’s easy to forget Albies has just been in the Braves’ system since 2014. Snitker, an old-school baseball mind, reminded that often times team accelerate players through the minors, leaving them less time to season in the lower levels.
Naturally, that means an even lengthier developmental curve in the majors. Albies knows what it takes to succeed. His slumping period, in the team’s eyes, could lead to better days ahead.
“I have every confidence, and I think everybody does, in him as a player,” Snitker said. “He’s got the skill set. It’s sometimes not a bad thing that you kind of get sobered up a little bit. That’s part of it. And it takes awhile. You just have to have patience with these guys.”
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