No matter how good the starting nine is for the Atlanta Braves, Alex Anthopoulos finds a way to keep players on the bench who can produce in case of injury or give the regulars days off. This was the anticipated role for outfielder Sam Hilliard in 2023.
Hilliard was traded to the Braves on Novemember 6th of 2022 in exchange for right-handed pitcher Dylan Spain. With Michael Harris II, Ronald Acuna Jr., Eddie Rosario and Kevin Pillar already on the roster, Hilliard's expectations were clear.
Early in the season when opportunities presented themselves, Hilliard seemed to take advantage. He filled out a bottom of the lineup spot nicely while playing more than respectable defense. Without trying to do too much, Sam Hilliard was finding a way to help the Braves win ball games when he had the chance.
By season's end, Hilliard only appeared in a total of 40 games. In those appearances, he hit. 236 with 3 home runs, 6 runs batted in and 4 stolen bases. Even though he was in 40 games, Hilliard only had 78 plate appearances with the Braves. Thanks to his speed, he was often utilized as a late inning pinch runner or defensive of replacement.
Unfortunately there was one more factor that played a major role in Hilliard's limited playing time while with the Atlanta Braves: injuries. Sometimes the toughest part of a 162 game grind is to stay healthy.
On July 19th, the Braves placed Hilliard on the 10-day injured list because of a right heel contusion. Once the Braves felt that Hilliard was about ready to return to the MLB club, the organization sent him on a rehab assignment to Triple-A Gwinett on August 1st.
Hilliard re-aggervated his heel contusion and that essentially ended his short stint with the Atlanta Braves. A month later, he was placed on the 60-day IL and on Novemeber 1st of 2023, the Baltimore Orioles claimed Sam Hilliard off waivers from the Braves.
Hopefully, Hilliard will find a home with the Baltimore Orioles and stay healthy for the 2024 season. We hate to see any player's time with the Braves come to an end because of injury and know that Hilliard can contribute to a big league ball club when he is healthy.