The biggest storyline of the spring for the Atlanta Braves will be how the team replaces Dansby Swanson as the team’s starting shortstop. Those aren’t small shoes to fill, as Swanson had become a fixture in the team’s lineup and had a huge year before hitting free agency and signing a hefty contract with the Cubs. Swanson was a constant among many changes as the team transitioned from a rebuild into a World Series Champion, and now he himself is the cause of some big lineup turnover.
While many expected the Braves to go outside the organization in looking for a Swanson replacement, they doubled down on their internal options and are hoping that either veteran Orlando Arcia, or youngster Vaughn Grissom can fill the role.
Arcia seems like more of a safety net at the position, as the Braves appear to be positioning themselves to let Grissom sink or swim as the starter. Grissom has already made two trips to New Orleans to work with infield coach Ron Washington, and will do so again before the start of Spring Training. Grissom spoke at Braves Fest this past weekend about how his time with Washington has been beneficial.
“I think it’s changed my game a lot. The detail. He really just takes care of all the details and just polishing up,” Grissom said. “I was stoked. Yeah. I love it. I couldn’t wait to go for my first time already. It’s been worth it.”
Grissom described the training sessions with Washington as mostly focused on repetition and attention to detail. He talked about slowing down, which often isn’t the easiest thing for a young player to do.
“Just slowing it down. I figured out after a couple of weeks that he likes it when I move a little bit slower because it’s just a little bit more crisp,” Grissom said. “It’s just more fluid. Most times when you think you’re going the fastest you’re slowing down, or you’re leaving something behind.”
When asked about what a typical day with “Wash” looks like, Grissom noted a lot of hard work, but there a lot of interaction as well. He said that he has used his opportunity to probe Washington.
“There’s a lot of working hard. Also, I ask a ton of questions,” Grissom said of Washington. “He’s so insightful, and he knows so much about the game. He’s been around so long, and just life in general. I can ask him any single question I want and he has a great answer for me. That is one of the most valuable pieces probably in my life right now. To be able to bounce stuff off of him and just hear him out.”
The current situation isn’t lost on Grissom either. He understands that all eyes are going to be on him as Spring Training gets underway. When asked about Swanson, Grissom said that he was one of the best role models you could have for a teammate and said that they are still in touch.
As for Swanson’s former double play partner, Grissom said that getting in sync with second baseman Ozzie Albies is just a matter of getting on the field together and that he is looking forward to learning from the veteran.
“It’s just like ground balls, it takes repetitions. Just going to take some time. He’s great. We always laugh at each other, we always mess around with each other,” Grissom said of Albies. “They obviously had a different thing going because they came up to the minors and stuff and they’re around the same age. So I’m sure he’s gonna have to pinch me a couple of times. So it is what it is, but I’m going to learn and we’re going to get there.”
The Braves pushed Grissom to the majors last August after injuries to Albies and Arcia created a huge hole at second base. He provided an instant spark at the plate, hitting .311/.354/.473 with a 131 wRC+ in August. Grissom slumped at the end as pitchers adjusted and the batted ball luck disappeared, and lost playing time to Arcia down the stretch and in the postseason. Still, it hard to disparage what was overall a solid debut, and the fact that even with his struggles, Grissom managed a .326 xwOBA at the MLB level.
“That was a an incredible experience. I’m blessed to be able to have that experience going into this year, potentially trying out for short,” Grissom said of the opportunity to experience the majors in 2022. “Just to have that somewhat comfort-ability. It’s just what a lot of it is, just being comfortable wherever the situation is at.”
Multiple times this offseason, Alex Anthopoulos has relayed praise from Washington in regards to Grissom, which has added to the confidence that he will be able to hold down the shortstop position on Opening Day. Grissom said that hearing that is reassuring, but he understands that he has to go out and win the job this spring.
“It’s reassuring in a sense, but baseball is a crazy sport,” Grissom said. “So it’s very humbling. I know that you have to keep your head down and just grind and you can’t be listening to that stuff. To me, in my head, the job’s not mine. I still have to go earn something. I don’t really, like, try to listen, but I’m just gonna put my head down and go.”
At the end of the day, he knows that he can’t try to be Dansby Swanson, the only thing he can do is be Vaughn Grissom.
“The only thing I can do for you guys is just play my game. If you guys like it, I’m sure I’ll hear about it. If you guys don’t, I’m sure I’ll hear about it,” Grissom told the media. “To me, it doesn’t matter either way, because I’m just going to go play my game. I’m not trying to go fill nobody’s shoes, or do anything different. I’m just gonna go play Vaughn Grissom ball.”