FanGraphs expects Grissom to be good at the plate this year. Its main statistical forecast has Grissom producing offense at a rate that’s 10% over average over 110 games. That would be fantastic if Grissom also is competent at shortstop. The problem is Grissom was shaky at second base last season and shortstop is a much harder position to play.
The Braves can get by with suspect defense in left field. Doing that at shortstop comes with bad implications for the team’s pitchers. Few things are more deflating than bad defense from the shortstop.
The Braves are touting infield coach Ron Washington’s work with Grissom. Washington is good at his job, but Grissom has a long way to go. The Braves should give Grissom a try in left field, where Rosario is just OK and Marcell Ozuna is bad.
The Braves will miss Swanson’s fine glovework at shortstop. He also had a career-best season at the plate in 2022. Even the most optimistic statistic projections don’t have Grissom or Arcia producing close to Swanson’s 5.7 Wins Above Replacement (Baseball Reference). The worst-case scenario for the Braves: Grissom is bad at the plate and at shortstop while Michael Harris also slips at the plate after his production was 36% above average as a rookie, per FanGraphs.
Should that happen, Braves right fielder Ronald Acuna will make up the slack, if he’s healthy. Austin Riley and Matt Olson will do what they do. The Braves should get at least average offense from second baseman Ozzie Albies and the catcher duo of Sean Murphy and Travis d’Arnaud. Designated hitter shouldn’t be an issue so long as Ozuna doesn’t have to do it too often.
If all that goes as planned and the young hitters regress, it still would leave the Braves with less offensive production than last season. They ranked third in the majors with 4.9 runs scored per game. Just a bit of offensive slippage increases the chances that the Mets overtake them in the East.
Some bookmakers are giving slightly lower odds for the Mets to win the East after New York spent big this offseason. I know what you’re thinking. The Mets were favored to win the East before last season because they spent big that offseason. They ran out to a 10½-game lead through May, but were reeled in by the Braves in the final week.
Another Mets collapse makes it easy to dismiss them even after they committed to nearly $500 million in salaries since the end of last season. But the gap between the Mets and Braves wasn’t large. The Mets matched the Braves’ 101 victories in 2022, and they are better on paper now. That might mean less for the star-crossed Mets than any other franchise, but it’s silly to believe they aren’t a serious threat to the Braves.
Two Mets starters, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, would be at the top of the Braves’ staff. The Braves’ rotation and bullpen are deeper than New York’s. The teams are roughly even at the plate if Rosario returns to form, Grissom bounces back after fading late last season, Harris keeps raking and Ozuna isn’t terrible. The Braves will be fine in the field if the shortstop isn’t a sieve.
There’s a lot of “ifs” for Anthopoulos to consider. He could reduce the uncertainty by adding a bona fide shortstop and an outfielder to the roster. There’s a chance Anthopoulos never makes a move because Rosario returns to form and Grissom proves he can play shortstop.
The Braves can’t wait too long for that to happen, though. Two lineup holes is one too many, especially when one of them is at shortstop.