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State of the Braves: Albies, Swanson form strong duo up the middle

It’s hard to find a better pair than Atlanta’s dynamic duo

MLB: NLCS-Atlanta Braves at Los Angeles Dodgers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As Major League Baseball hits pause and we await the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Atlanta Braves continue to bask in their World Series glory.

With no transactions for at least a few more weeks, this presents an opportunity to take a look at the organization as a whole. With the Braves playing into November this past season, there was minimal chance to evaluate where the organization stands heading into an important offseason.

How is the roster situated for 2022 and beyond? Where is there depth and where could there be holes down the road? Next up in the series: the middle infield.

The Present

Few teams in the league can claim to have a stronger middle infield pairing than Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson.

This feels impossible given how long he’s been in the organization, but Albies just turned 25. At worst, he is inarguably a top-five second baseman who can do everything on a baseball diamond with a ludicrous contract that runs through 2027. You can also make a fairly strong case for Albies as the game’s top second baseman moving forward.

Ozzie’s partner, Dansby Swanson, remains streaky as ever, but has settled in as a more-than-capable big league shortstop. There’s value in that. After some injury-riddled first seasons, Swanson has found his groove with a .254/.323/.442 (99 wRC+) line over the last three seasons with strong defense. He’s coming off his best season to date with a strong 3.2 WAR. Add in some heroic World Series moments and there are things to feel good about here.

The Future

Albies is locked in for another half-decade, but it remains to be seen if the Braves opt to proceed with Dansby as their long-term shortstop.

Swanson, 28 in February, is a free agent in a year’s time (short of signing an extension this winter). The Braves likely have interest in keeping him around, but as the likes of Albies, Ronald Acuña Jr., Austin Riley, Max Fried and others continue to age they become more expensive, too. There is also the very large and potentially very expensive hole to fill at first base. I’d be fascinated to know what kind of market Swanson will have should he hit free agency and if the Braves approach him about a contract extension at some point.

Internally, the Braves have a couple of prospects of note. Braden Shewmake has not progressed particularly well since being the No. 21 overall selection in the 2019 Draft, although he’s still got some time to figure it out as a potential utility man down the road. A prospect with a bunch of helium at the moment is Vaughn Grissom, who came in at No. 12 on the Talking Chop midseason top-30 list.

Bottom Line

Two players in the prime of their careers not making much money at two important positions? The Braves are in great shape here. It remains to be seen what happens long-term with Swanson, but for the present, we can enjoy one of the game’s best up-the-middle tandems.

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