With Ronald Acuña Jr. winning the National League Rookie of the Year award last year, many folks turned a blind eye to the other huge talent that was brewing in Atlanta which was Ozzie Albies. Albies at just 21 years old posted a near 4 win season playing some premium defense at second base while being good enough at the plate to get by.
This season, at 22 years old, Albies has taken it to another level and is nearing the same production level as Acuña himself. Albies is about to surpass 5.0 fWAR which would make him just the third player up the middle to reach that level of value in the NL this year. According to Fangraphs he is the Braves second most valuable player behind Acuña and in front of Josh Donaldson.
Albies is riding a rather normal .327 BABIP this season and is striking out only a couple of percentage points less than he did last season, but the real improvement has come in his on-base ability. Ozzie really struggled last season with laying off high fastballs and this season that pitch has turned into walks for him.
However, walks alone aren’t enough to constitute a jump from a 101 wRC+ in 2018 to a 120 wRC+ in 2019. The other part of Ozzie’s game that has really improved is his consistency from both sides of the plate as a switch hitter. Earlier this season Albies’ left handed swing looked like it almost needed to be disposed of in favor of batting right handed full time, but he has really worked hard to stay more fluid through his swing.
As a left handed batter against right handed pitching in 2018 Albies batted .231 with just an 84 wRC+. In 2019 though, those numbers have drastically improved to a .267 average and a 99 wRC+. Even just being an average batter from the left side changes everything for Ozzie as the insanely good numbers of being a right handed batter against left handed pitching are no longer as negatively skewed by his left handed stats.
The defense is still there as Albies has essentially repeated his rookie season output on that side of the ball. He hasn’t been quite as good as he was in 2018, but if he was we’d be talking about him in the MVP race as that would make him more than a 6 win player up the middle.
Ozzie signed a contract this season with the Braves through the 2027 season for $35 million dollars and FanGraphs has already valued him in his short three year career at over $82 million dollars already. With Acuña and Albies leading the way Atlanta is going to be good for a long time and they’ll be able to add talent around them thanks to the innovative deals they signed.
Albies deserves much more coverage and recognition than he’s currently getting because he is just as much the reason for the Braves winning the division this season as Acuña, Freeman or Donaldson has been. The scary thing is, he’s still getting better.