Get To Know a Call-Up: Ozzie Albies

Victory: infielder Ozzie Albies has been promoted to the Atlanta Braves. (Photo: Curtis Compton/AJC)

The Player

Ozzie Albies, 2B/SS
Age: 20
Bats: S
OFR Rank: 2
2017 Level: AAA Gwinnett Braves

The Results

111 wRC+
9 HR, 21 SB
6.3 BB%
20.1 K%

The History

Ozzie Albies was a $350,000 international amateur free agent signing out of Curacao in the 2013/14 signing period. The diminutive infielder didn’t get a lot of press at the time of his signing (the big Braves signing that period was third baseman Juan Yepez, who has since been traded for Matt Adams).  That started to change when he took the rookie leagues by storm, hitting a combined .364/.446/.444 in stops with the GCL Braves and Danville while stealing 22 bases. That offseason he got firmly on the radar of Braves fans when Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs placed him as the #1 prospect in the organization.

Albies did nothing to make that seem like an overestimation by easily conquering the South Atlantic League in 2015, hitting .310/.368/.404 while stealing 29 bases. He also had three long hitting streaks and was only slowed when he had to miss most of the final month of the season with a thumb injury.

Starting what has become a trend of aggressive promotion of their top prospects, Albies skipped high-A Carolina and was assigned to AA Mississippi at the start of 2016. After hitting .356/.429/.494 over the first month of the season, Albies was again promoted, this time to AAA Gwinnett where he experienced his first real challenge. Albies looked overmatched against pitchers on average 8 years older than he was, and struggled to a .246/.283/.377 line through the end of May. He started to come around in June, lowering his strikeouts and increasing his batting line to .257/.339/.333, but the Braves nevertheless decided to send him back down to AA, ostensibly to get comfortable playing second base while new top prospect Dansby Swanson was installed at shortstop. Albies would hit well in AA through the rest of the year, only slowed by a fractured olecranon (the bone in the tip of the elbow) suffered during a swing in the Southern League playoffs. He would win the Southern League batting title with a .321/.391/.467 AA batting line.

With Albies rehabbing the elbow, the Braves couldn’t count on the 20 year old to be ready to begin the season and signed the veteran Sean Rodriguez in the offseason. When Rodriguez himself was hurt in a terrible car accident in December, the Braves quickly moved to bring in Reds star Brandon Phillips. Delayed in his spring training debut due to his elbow rehab, Albies was assigned to AAA Gwinnett. After a slow start, attributed to a slow bat that particularly affected his left-handed swing, Albies has hit .312/.353/.500 since coming off a short DL stint on June 13. In particular, his troubles with his left-handed swing seem to have been at least somewhat corrected after working with Gwinnett hitting coach John Moses and Braves switch-hitting great Chipper Jones.

OFR colleague Micah Smith made the case that Ozzie Albies was ready for a major league call-up a month ago.

Ozzie Albies 2017 vs Right-Handed Pitchers

Total v. RHP341.256.310.38621.17.3.306.3161.30

Ozzie Albies 2017 vs Left-Handed Pitchers

Total v LHP107.369.383.60216.82.8.420.415.233
Data compiled by Micah Smith

The Report

Albies stands at around 5′-9″ and likely weighs around 190 pounds. Despite his size, Albies is the best pure hitter in the Braves farm system. Albies operates out of an open stance that allows him to get a good look at the pitch, then closes up as the ball is delivered with a high leg-kick, somewhat reminiscent of Toronto slugger Jose Bautista. Albies uses his legs and strong wrists to drive the ball into gaps where he can use his plus-plus speed to push for extra base hits. Albies has also exhibited some over-the-fence pop this year, and his 9 home runs are tied atop the Gwinnett leaderboard. Albies has good feel for the bat and is an excellent situational hitter as well, enabling him to create runs from the top of the order in almost any situation.

Defensively, Albies exhibits good range at both second base and shortstop, with a strong arm to go with it. He has naturally long arm action that is likely what prompted the Braves to choose Swanson over Albies as the presumed Shortstop Of the Future, but by all accounts that decision wasn’t unanimous even within the Braves organization. At second base he has a flair for making the dramatic play, but he’s still a work in progress on the finer points of the position, particularly on the pivot.

On the bases, Albies is one of the most dynamic players in the minor leagues, creating havoc with opposing pitchers. Albies has become very selective in his stolen base attempts, now fully aware of the damage that being caught stealing can do to rallies. As such he has “only” stolen 21 bases for Gwinnett this season, but has only been caught twice.

What’s Next

Albies is the highest rated homegrown Braves prospect to make his debut in Atlanta since Freddie Freeman on September 1, 2010 and will be the youngest player in the major leagues. Combined with the promotion of longtime pitching prospect Lucas Sims, this would seem to be a landmark day in the middle of the Braves rebuild.

The question will be how much playing time he will receive in Atlanta. It seems doubtful the Braves would promote him and add him to the 40-man roster only to option him back to the minors later this month. At least for the time being however, Brandon Phillips, Sean Rodriguez, and Johan Camargo are all still on the active roster and manager Brian Snitker has shown a preference to his veteran players. For tonight at least, Albies is in the line-up, batting 7th, and wearing #1.

About Andy Harris 131 Articles

Andy Harris has been a baseball fan since seeing the Big Red Machine in 1978 and hardcore baseball fan since reading Bill James’s Historical Baseball Abstract in 1990. Andy moved to the Atlanta area in 1991, which turned out to be a pretty good year for the local team.

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