With only 98 plate appearances at Double-A, 21-year-old Vaughn Grissom discovered himself on center stage filling in for the beloved Albies while the Braves forged a late-season push for the playoffs. That late-season push was due in some part to the consistent bat of Grissom, who posted a robust 121 RC+.
Vaughn Grissom Set Up For Stardom in 2023
A team’s ability to build confidence in its young players remains an intangible crucial to any prospect’s development. So far, the Braves have laid solid groundwork to pave a path of success for Grissom, whom they’ve been grooming in the minors as a super-utility player.
Between his unexpectedly stellar debut and the also somewhat unexpected exit of Dansby Swanson, Vaughn Grissom appears poised to avail himself of a grand opportunity in Atlanta.
Upper Management Believes…to an Extent
Proving not only to be a shrewd GM but also a bold one, Alex Anthopoulos let a beloved Braves player go when Freddie Freeman signed with the Dodgers. He left the same door open for Dansby Swanson to become the Chicago Cubs starting shortstop in 2023.
It would seemingly appear Vaughn Grissom Wally Pipp–ed his short-time double-play partner Swanson for primarily financial reasons. Perhaps the Braves front office plans a big free agent 2023 acquisition when a certain Japanese two-way player breaks some records with what will likely be an astronomical payday.
Regardless, the Braves have indicated shortstop is Grissom’s job to lose – despite also hedging their bets by pointing to Orlando Arcia as another potential starter.
A possibly likelier scenario could involve Anthopoulos going outside the organization. Power/speed Korean import Ha-Seong Kim was recently made available by the Padres.
A player like Kim could start at shortstop, maneuvering Grissom back into the less demanding starting role of super-utility player, strengthening the Braves depth and allowing Grissom to develop at a more deliberate clip.
Ron Washington and Defensive Potential
Grissom is certainly no stranger to shortstop, as he has logged 161 minor league games at the most demanding infield position, compared to less than 50 games combined at second and third base.
Braves’ upper management doubled down on their promising rookie by pairing Grissom with defensive guru Ron Washington, who has utilized the off-season to impart infield wizardry on Grissom.
Washington has expressed glowing reviews for the six-foot-three multi-tooled athlete.
Of course, Grissom acquitted himself well enough with his defense to justify this promotion. But his bat might prove to be his better carrying tool – not unlike other shortstops with his large build, such as Miguel Tejada, to whom Washington has already compared Grissom.
Vaughn is an Offensive Upgrade Over Swanson
Drafted in the eleventh round of 2019, Vaughn never lit up major prospect lists. His minor league track record, however, displays above-average on-base acumen coupled with emerging power potential, as well as excellent contact skills.
With his glove as primary carrying card, Dansby Swanson, on the other hand, is best appreciated as an above-average defensive player who flashes occasional pop.
Swanson’s strikeout rate and consistently diminishing contact rates over the years actually portray a below-average offensive player, who put up his qualitatively best statistical season in 2022 – managing only a paltry 71.8% contact percentage.
Checking under the hood of Grissom’s major league advanced metrics, a barrel rate of 7.4% puts him in the top 80 player range, protracted over a full season. While that indicator marks the encouraging spectrum of his batting profile, his average and max Exit Velocities fall on the low end of the spectrum.
Furthering some concern, Grissom’s 9.0 Launch Angle puts him in the company of other talented youngsters with murky profiles – such as Bo Bichette and Juan Soto, who have both yet to tap into their offensive potential.
For Grissom, if he can’t manage to launch more balls with authority, his inflated BABIP of .350 will certainly regress and bring down his batting average to Statcast’s xBA range of .259, rather than the .291 Grissom posted in 2022.
Other positive takeaways from Grissom’s 156 plate appearances in the Show include his 21% K rate & 7% BB rate, contributing to a solid .353 OBP – continuing his minor league trend of being a steady on-base presence.
As defensive shifts have now been forcibly minimized because of new MLB rule changes, Grissom could realize his offensive potential even sooner than the aforementioned Bichette and Soto, who both debuted in arguably some of the least favorable offensive climates.
How much more development Grissom might need to implant himself as the Atlanta Braves starting shortstop will likely hinge on the pop that should emerge as he matures and fills out his large frame.
A recent radio interview with Chipper Jones featured some cautiously optimistic praise underpinning his belief in Grissom. When Braves Hall of Famer Jones blasts a player’s name in this manner, it serves as both a confidence booster and a clarion call for that player to rise to the occasion.
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