After a stellar 2021 season for the Atlanta Braves, second baseman Ozzie Albies saw his season come to a screeching halt last year due to injuries. Going into this season feeling healthy, Albies is eyeing to bounce back with an aggressive approach.
He garnered all sorts of accolades for his play in 2021, including an invite to the All-Star Game, a Silver Slugger Award, and finishing 13th in the voting for MVP. He sees no reason why he can’t replicate, if not top, that effort in 2023. With the foot and pinky fractures of last season behind him and off-season shoulder surgery to alleviate a nagging pain he’s been playing with, Albies is healthy and optimistic.
All of the hype in the Braves lineup seems to be surrounded by the fearsome trio of Ronald Acuna Jr, Matt Olson, and Austin Riley, and understandably so. Then there are the young upcoming stars like Vaughn Grissom and Michael Harris. But let’s not discount what Ozzie Albies can bring to the table.
His leadership skills and much-loved humor will be a great asset in the clubhouse in the absence of Dansby Swanson this season. Not to mention, his skills at the plate, on the field, and his speed on the bases. In a conversation with Jayson Stark of The Athletic, Albies even said that he saw no reason why he can’t strive for a 40-40 season, especially with the new infield shift rule, pitch timer rule, and larger bases.
His goals are quite lofty when looking at his 2023 projections. ESPN is predicting Albies will smack 24 HRs and only amass 13 stolen bases for the season. Most other pundits are forecasting similar numbers. Looking at his best season, 30 HRs and 20 SBs in 2021, a 30-30 season might be a more realistic goal. But if Albies is determined to up the ante, who are we to discourage him?
Albies' spray chart seems to indicate that he hits the ball well to all areas of the field, so the infield shift rule may not have much of an effect on him. But the larger bases are thought to cause a more aggressive approach on the bases, leading to more stolen bases. Another school of thought is that the pitch timer may cause the hard-throwing pitchers to tire out earlier in the game, causing a drop in pitch velocity, hence resulting in more home runs. Only time will tell, no pun intended
He's already hit a couple of dingers in his delayed Spring Training appearance. I don’t think it would be too bold of a prediction to include Ozzie Albies in the discussion for 2023 Comeback Player of the Year Award. It will be fun to see a healthy and aggressive Albies in the middle of that potent Atlanta Braves lineup, turning DPs on the field, and cutting up in the dugout.