Ozzie Albies: Man on Fire

When the Atlanta Braves signed 16-year old Ozzie Albies for $350,000 in the summer of 2013, most fans didn’t quite know the expectations that would soon be put on the middle infielder from Curacao. But by the end of the 2014 minor league season Albies was labeled as one of the top 100 prospects in baseball, and Braves fans began expecting big things.

Just two years after the signing, in July 2015, Albies was the youngest player selected to play in the All-Stars Futures Game, a minor league all-star game that pits the top prospects from the United States against the top prospects from around the world. Ozzie then started the 2016 season in AA before getting promoted to AAA (then coming back to AA to play with Dansby Swanson), started the 2017 season in AAA, and was finally called up to the Big Leagues on August 1, 2017.

Continuing the trend, Albies was the youngest player in the MLB last season when he was called up, and entered the 2018 season as the youngest player in the league, holding that title until teammate Ronald Acuna Jr was called up two weeks ago.

Ozzie Smile

The speedy, 21-year old second baseman stands at 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs in at 165 pounds, but despite his small stature, Ozzie Albies has had one of the strongest starts to the 2018 season in the MLB, and should be named NL Player of the Month this week. Through one month (and 3 games in March), the youngster leads the National League in runs, hits, doubles, home runs, total bases,  and extra base hits. He also ranks 2nd in slugging percentage, 4th in RBI’s, 5th in plate appearances, and 17th in batting average.

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Albies is just one homer shy of the Major League lead, and is tops in the entire MLB in runs, doubles, total bases, and extra base hits. That is pretty damn impressive for anyone, much less the 2nd youngest player in the league who is amongst the smallest built players in the Majors.

 

Albieschart

Left Side…Strong Side??

Out of 127 total plate appearances in 2018, Albies has hit from the left-handed batter’s box in 103 of those at-bats. From the left side, Ozzie has amassed 22 hits including 7 doubles and 5 long balls, to go along with 14 RBI’s but he’s also struck out 22 times and is hitting just .239 when batting lefty.

If you are the type that is good at math, you probably know what comes next.

Ozzie Homer

In just 24 plate appearances while hitting right handed, the slugger from Curacao has recorded 12 hits which includes 5 doubles and 4 homers. That’s right, 9 of his 12 hits from the right side have either been doubles or home runs! That is just nuts. With no walks recorded while batting right-handed, he’s carrying a .500 average and on-base percentage to go along with a 1.208 (!) slugging percentage!

Of course, of course, I expect the numbers to even out some on both sides, but my excitement level the next time Ozzie steps in the box as a righty against a left-handed pitcher is going to be through the roof! (Next scheduled opposing lefty starter is on Thursday, May 3)

So He Can Hit, What About His Fielding?

I’m glad you asked about his fielding. When you first look at the defensive numbers from second basemen in the National League, you probably notice that Ozzie is tied for 2nd in the dreaded errors column with 4 so far on the season.

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Digging a little deeper you will learn that Albies is 2nd in the NL in innings played in the field (Sterling Castro has played 1 more game), and he ranks 1st in total defensive chances and double plays turned (Swanson leads Shortstops), and is 2nd in put-outs. Ozzie also ranks 4th in range factor.

For comparison on the errors, Chicago Cubs second baseman Javier Baez leads the NL in errors with 5 and has played just 184.2 innings compared to 246.2 played by Albies. You can believe Albies won’t be a great fielder if you’d like, but I’d lean the other way if I were you. This video gives you a glimpse of what young Ozzie is capable of:

Leading The Pack

With Albies leading the way, and a whole host of others getting off to very good starts at the plate, the Atlanta Braves offense finds itself somewhere it hasn’t been in several years, at the top of the league in offensive statistics. Atlanta currently leads the MLB in hits, is 2nd in batting average, runs, RBI’s and doubles, and is 3rd in total bases, extra base hits, and stolen bases. On top of showing off their big bats, the Braves are also 1st in the league in sacrifice bunts, proving that they can move runners around the base path  in a variety of ways.

In just the National League the Braves sit atop the following categories: runs, hits, doubles, RBI’s, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, extra base hits, total bases, and to top it off, batting average. Only two teams in the NL, the Pirates and Cubs, have struck out less than the Braves.

The Braves currently sit at 16-11 and are just 1.5 games behind the New York Mets for the lead in the NL East division, heading into a 3-game series in New York.

Thats not to say that the Braves will continue their hot start, they will undoubtedly cool off at some point, but for a group of young players trying to build something special in Atlanta, this start has to have them hungry to continue to improve and keep the winning trends going.

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{Photos Credits: Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images}

 

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