Tuesday night we saw the Rome Braves play at State Mutual Stadium. Two players obviously stand out on this team – shortstop Ozhaino “Ozzy” Albies and right fielder Braxton Davidson.
Both are 18. Both are mature. Both are very talented. Both have tremendous potential.
Albies, who is hitting .313 and has an on base percentage of .379, is not very big. He’s a tad over 5-7 but he is built. Albies perhaps looks bigger than Jose Altuve because he is in tremendous shape. He’ solid, and that explains why he hits the ball the way he does. When he makes contact, there is no mistake about it, as you can hear the ball coming off the bat in a way that makes you know this kid will be a big leaguer one day.
Albies admitted in our interview, which you can hear on the website, that the main part of his game he wishes could improve is his power. He’ll likely be like Altuve and still muscle a few pitches out of the park during the year. But Albies doesn’t seem to be the type of player that would alter his swing to try and hit home runs. He knows what he is capable of, what his strengths are and that those attributes will help his team win.
His play at shortstop seems effortless. Watching Albies even in batting practice, you can see how Albies loves being on the field and maybe even likes to show off a bit with the ease in which he plays the position. But it wasn’t on purpose. He was just enjoying playing baseball. His arm is very, very good, and you can tell Albies has good range. The only negative we saw was he wasn’t quite tall enough to get to one line drive that someone 5-10 or taller might have been able to catch.
Some of his teammates raved about how Albies is in the clubhouse. “He’s a leader, a player who is very funny, likes to have a good time in the clubhouse but knows what to do when it’s time to play.” That was great to hear. It’s hard to believe Albies is only 18. For Albies to be doing this well at the plate in the Sally League is amazing, and it makes you wonder how great this kid could be in two years – when he’s 20!
Davidson is equally as impressive. He’s mature beyond his years. He doesn’t talk like an 18-year-old kid. Most players that age, particularly the ones that are doing well like he is, have stars in their eyes. They already think they are going to be millionaires and have an air about them that can sometimes turn people off. Not Davidson. He seems very grounded for such a young kid and knows he has work to do.
That maturity makes you practically understand why he’s a player that has a high on base percentage so far. Davidson’s OBP is .386, which is incredible for a young player only 18 years old. He knows his average (now at .245) needs to get better, and it’s not like he believes he can simply get by on his OBP. Davidson sounds like a player that wants to be a good all-around player. He knows he’s young. He knows this is a process, and he knows he is going to get better.
Watching Davidson hit is fun, as he doesn’t try to pull every pitch. That also makes you know why he’s a disciplined hitter at the plate. He’s not a young player that is a hacker, someone trying to simply pull everything to right field or someone trying to hit a home run every time. That in itself is unusual for a young player that can hit.
Defensively, you can tell Davidson is still learning more about playing the position. But yet he doesn’t look like a first baseman playing right field. He simply looks like a player that is trying to get better playing the outfield. He covered a couple of balls hit to him well. The angles seemed fine, and his arm was solid as he threw the ball to second base. He just has to be more comfortable with more time.
That’s all these two need – time. They seem like great kids. They both seem like players that can be leaders on a team, and I would be shocked if they change. There are players on the Atlanta roster right now that were equally as humble in the minor leagues, but once they became stars they changed a bit. I would be shocked if Albies and Davidson do that. They just seem like really nice young men who want to be major league players one day, and they won’t change once that happens.
The one thing I kept saying while watching these two is, “Can you imagine how much better they are going to be in two years?” They’ll likely be in Double-A in 2017, or maybe even in Triple-A. But regardless, they’ll be better, and they’ll probably be close to being options in the big leagues.
We talk so much about the pitching the Braves have accumulated, and there’s no doubt that’s the focus right now with the front office. But in Albies and Davidson, the Braves have two serious position player prospects who should never be out of the conversation about the future. That future might not be until 2018, but they have an excellent chance of being huge parts of the Braves once the team is in Sun Trust Park.
Albies is a shortstop. He has Andrelton Simmons ahead of him, and you almost have to count Jose Peraza ahead of him as well, even though Peraza has played second base and now center field as well. I always like to talk about options for an organization, and there’s no doubt Albies gives the Braves a tremendous option moving forward. He’s a legit top-of-the-order hitter, and there’s tremendous value in a player like that.
Davidson could be on track to replace right fielder Nick Markakis in 2019, as Markakis is just in his first year of a four-year contract. But if Davidson’s timetable is sped up, he might be an option for left field before that. But either way, if Davidson continues to improve offensively and shows he can be a legit player in the outfield, this is a player you can possibly pencil into the Braves future lineup.
I could not be more impressed with these two young men, and for an organization in need of position player prospects, the Braves have two solid players for the future in Albies and Davidson.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at email@example.com.
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