The Atlanta Braves have a secret weapon going into the postseason. Forrest Wall has only appeared in 12 games so far this season, but he might be one of the most important players the Braves have come October.
This season, regulars rarely come out of the game. Through Friday's game, the Braves have only used a pinch-runner 22 times this season. One of these pinch-runners was Travis d'Arnaud, who came into the game after Sean Murphy left the game with a hamstring injury.
This is surprising, however, because the Braves are below average in baseball by sprint speed. Despite having the MLB leader in steals (who also has 40 homers!) and Michael Harris II, who could end the season with a 20/20, the Braves have plenty of slow players.
Orlando Arcia, Marcell Ozuna, Matt Olson, Travis d'Arnaud, and Sean Murphy all register below-average sprint speeds. Arica is the second-slowest shortstop in baseball and the slowest Brave in 2023.
While the Braves have been more reluctant to use their bench during the regular season, lifting these slower runners in crucial situations could be the difference between moving on and going home.
Just ask the 2014 Kansas City Royals, who, three outs from being eliminated in the one-game Wild Card Game, turned to Jarrod Dyson.
With the Royals down 8-7 in the 9th, Josh Willingham led off the inning with a single and was replaced by Dyson. Alcides Escobar would lay down a sacrifice bunt (ew) to move over Dyson to 2B. Then, on a 2-1 count, Dyson did this:
Dyson would score one pitch on a sacrifice fly, and the Royals managed to take the game in the 12th inning to advance to the ALDS. The Royals would eventually advance to the World Series, where they lost to Madison Bumgarner and the Giants.
While correlation doesn't equal causation, it's also interesting to see that teams who used Dyson or his longtime teammate, Terrance Gore (Braves legend and World Series champion) have gone 16-2 in games they were used as pinch-runners.
The Braves, of course, have a very different hitting approach to the 2014 Royals. Whereas the Royals only hit 95 homers all year, the Braves are on track to hit over 300. They don't necessarily need to rely on advancing the runner to the next base as much as the Royals did.
But, that doesn't mean they don't need to worry about taking the extra base at all. After all, Braves fans have seen how much Ronald Acuña Jr.'s value on the basepaths has benefitted the team.
Forrest Wall, despite his limited contributions on the field during this regular season, is almost a lock for the postseason roster. He hasn't had much of an opportunity to use his wheels but his speed is a legitimate threat.
In his first career game, he swiped 2B and 3B on back-to-back pitches with the Braves down one in the ninth.
At Triple-A Gwinnett this season, Wall has stolen 52 bases in 60 attempts (86.7% success rate) through just 90 games. Across a full season, Wall could have stolen 80 bags.
During the 2023 postseason, Brian Snitker should use Wall more aggressively than he has during the regular season. Whether he's pinch-running for the catcher or shortstop, Wall could become the Braves' secret weapon that helps lead them to another championship.