Everything was going right for the Braves, so of course, something went wrong. They won their 12th game in a row Monday night, but second baseman Ozzie Albies suffered a fractured left foot. He’ll be out for at least two months after a left-handed swing somehow resulted in a broken foot. That’s lousy luck for Albies and the Braves.
But the Braves’ lineup won’t necessarily miss Albies much while he’s out. That seems unlikely on its face: Albies is an All-Star who’s good with the bat and glove. But Albies has hit below his standard this season. Fill-ins Phil Gosselin and Orlando Arcia are solid fielders who plausibly could give the Braves more pop at the plate than what Albies provided over the first 62 games.
Sample size clouds that sunny outlook. That Albies has yet to get going this season means there’s a good chance he eventually will. He’s 25 years old, so there’s no reason to believe he won’t. Arcia and Gosselin have never been good, everyday players, so it’s less certain what they’ll provide.
Still, Albies’ injury isn’t a fatal blow for the Braves’ lineup. The only thing that would be is losing Ronald Acuña for an extended period (and maybe not even that since we just saw the Braves win a World Series without him). Albies will have the final six weeks or so of the regular season to get on track. In the meantime, Arcia and Gosselin are credible substitutes.
Arcia has been a valuable backup infielder for the Braves. Gosselin was a good, veteran option for the Braves to stash at Triple-A Gwinnett. Ideally, one of them will hold the second base job until Albies is back. It’s more likely that manager Brian Snitker will end up platooning Arcia and Gosselin.
The Braves can’t rely on Arcia and Gosselin to be impactful bats in the lineup. That’s not their profile. The Braves don’t need that. Arcia and Gosselin just need to play solid defense while others provide the punch on offense. Pretty much everyone except Albies has been a catalyst during the 12-game win streak entering Tuesday night.
Seven Braves regulars have posted a .900 OPS or better during the streak. The list includes the hitters you expect: Acuña, Austin Riley and Travis d’Arnaud. But it also includes Dansby Swanson, who’s on a career-best pace at the plate. Adam Duvall is a big part of the surge after it seemed he may never get going. The Braves are getting unexpectedly strong production from young sluggers William Contreras and Michael Harris.
The current hitting surge won’t last for all those players. That’s especially true for the young guys. But you can see an outline for how the Braves can settle into consistent and sustainable offensive output even with Albies sidelined.
Acuña, Riley and d’Arnaud continue to produce like usual. Matt Olson breaks out of his slump. Swanson keeps slugging. Duvall and Marcell Ozuna reverse their terrible starts. Contreras and Harris continue to prove they belong at the big-league level. Eddie Rosario returns in July and hits better after surgery fixed his eyesight.
All those scenarios are conceivable. Good offensive production from Arcia and Gosselin would be a bonus. General manager Alex Anthopoulos can look to the trade market if those two aren’t up to the task and the other options in Triple-A aren’t the answer. The trade deadline is Aug. 2 this year, a little later than usual. Albies is expected back about two weeks after that, so it’s possible the Braves will just cycle through internal options until he returns.
The benefit of an Arcia-Gosselin platoon is that neither player would be expected to produce like a regular. The potential downside is both players bat right-handed. Another veteran infielder at Gwinnett, Ryan Goins, hits lefty, but the Braves decided Gosselin was a better choice.
Arcia is hitting .313 with a .393 on-base percentage, and five of his 15 hits have been for extra bases (all statistics before Tuesday’s game). That’s over just 56 plate appearances, and Arcia has been lucky with results on balls in play. When the Brewers asked Arcia to be more than a backup, he couldn’t do it.
Gosselin broke into the majors with the Braves in 2013 and has stuck around as a utility player. Last season he hit .226 with a .314 OBP for the Angels over 104 games (373 plate appearances). It’s a bonus that Gosselin also can play in the outfield, where the Braves need help.
Seeing Albies on the 60-day injured list will take some getting used to. He’s played 158 games or more in three of his four full seasons. Albies missed a month with a wrist injury during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and had played 236 of 242 games since.
“It’s weird when you look over, and he’s not there,” shortstop Swanson said during a Bally Sports interview following Monday’s victory. “But, at the end of the day, these things happen in sports. And I know we are going to be able to grow and continue to get better.”
Losing Albies is a setback for the Braves, but they’ll get by without him.