The most intriguing position battle of spring training this season for the Atlanta Braves has finally come to an end. After what suddenly turned into a heated battle in the past couple of weeks between the formerly-presumptive starting shortstop Vaughn Grissom and hot prospect Braden Shewmake, the Braves have decided to go with — wait for it — Orlando Arcia as their starting shortstop. Yeah, seriously. Both Grissom and Shewmake are going to be starting the season in Triple-A with both players getting reps at shortstop and second base. As for the major league position, Orlando Arcia will be holding down the fort with Ehire Adrianza being next in line.
You’ll hear some people say that this isn’t a shock and should’ve been expected. I’m going to disagree with that because as we’ve documented right here on this website, the Braves have publicly been very high on Grissom being the shortstop of the future and being able to slot into Dansby Swanson’s shoes at his position in the keystone combination. It all seemed like it was going according to plan for the vast majority of spring training until this past week or so, which is when Braden Shewmake started getting an extended look at the position. At first, I figured it was probably just since they wanted to get a look at him in big league camp before eventually sending him down to Triple-A.
Then things rapidly progressed from simply getting a look to Shewmake surprisingly being in the conversation to be the starter at shortstop, himself. Again, it still would’ve been a shock if Shewmake was the starter at shortstop but it wouldn’t have come out of thin air, either. Shewmake’s had a really solid spring and if we’re comparing defensive capabilities then you could make a convincing argument that Shewmake’s defense at shortstop is better than Grissom’s. The Braves already have more-than-enough hitting among their ranks so maybe they could afford going with a pure defensive approach at shortstop if it came down to it.
What makes this such a strange development is that as far as the spring training games were concerned, it didn’t seem like Grissom was doing all that poorly when it came to the glove. Sure, he wasn’t looking like a Platinum Glove candidate out there but it definitely seemed like he had done enough to earn the job at shortstop. This is what they had seemingly been grooming him for all winter, so it seemed like one of those scenarios where all Grissom had to do was not completely botch things and he’d likely be the starter. Now, this may have been the case behind the scenes and that’s one place where we likely won’t have the answers until someone with the Braves talks about it. Until then, we as fans are left in the dark to wonder just what on Earth could’ve possibly happened to get to this point.
My best guess at this point is that the Braves probably haven’t made up their mind and decided that since they have options (both in the literal sense and the baseball sense), they’ll let Vaughn Grissom and Braden Shewmake continue to get some work in a relatively low-pressure situation for maybe a month or so. Once things shake out, then we’ll have a real idea of who the shortstop of the future will actually be. Until then, we’re just forced to do a whole lot of speculation.
In the end, the Braves settle on Arcia as their everyday shortstop to start the year, with Grissom, former No. 1 pick Shewmake to start the year in the minors. Some rival evaluators believe Shewmake will be the long-term solution. But not yet.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) March 20, 2023
So now we’re here with Orlando Arcia as the presumptive starting shortstop for the Braves heading into Opening Day. I can’t say that I’m too enthusiastic about this — given that if the crucial element of shortstop defense is one of the reasons why neither Grissom or Shewmake are going to be playing with the big league squad to start off the season, it’s not particularly encouraging to put a guy who has played a grand total of six (6) games at shortstop since the 2020 season.
It’s even more discouraging when you figure this couldn’t have been done for defensive purposes since Arcia hasn’t exactly been a standout with the glove in recent seasons. This is part of the reason why it’s very strange to see the team suddenly go from being fully ready to have Arcia serve in a bench capacity to deciding to entrust that position to him going forward. This could work out or it could end up with them waiting on pins and needles for either Grissom or Shewmake to tear up Triple-A and make the decision an easier one for them.
This situation also brings up another concern: If the Braves weren’t feeling great about their options at shortstop, then what about a move in free agency or a trade acquisition? One of the most shocking parts of that three-way trade that brought Sean Murphy to Atlanta was the fact that the Brewers somehow came out of that trade by only giving up one prospect and not, say, Willy Adames. Adames had been involved with trade rumors for a while now and after the Braves had effectively decided to move on from Dansby Swanson, it seemed like then was the time to make a move to pick up Dansby’s replacement. Instead, Milwaukee held on to Adames while it seemed like the Braves were fine to go with Grissom at that position. Even if a trade didn’t happen, Elvis Andrus would’ve been a perfectly fine choice to play shortstop — especially if all it took was $3 million to get him on a one-year deal like the White Sox did.
At this point in the entire process, it really seems like when it comes to this position, the Braves are doing what they can instead of doing what they want. Kris Willis basically said it best over on the bird app:
So instead of plan A or B they go with Plan D— Kris Willis (@Kris_Willis) March 20, 2023
Again, I have to mention that it could very well turn out that the Braves have extremely good behind-the-scenes reasons to make the decision that they’ve made here. It also might not end up mattering too much in the long run either since the Braves are otherwise loaded at every other position besides left field and still project to be an extremely good team even despite their two glaring weaknesses. It also could end up being much ado about nothing if one of either Braden Shewmake or Vaughn Grissom are playing shortstop for the big league club by the time Memorial Day rolls around.
All in all, it’s just a very weird spot for the Braves to be in and not what you’d expect from a front office that has a reputation for making plenty of astute moves when t comes to roster construction. I’m sure this isn’t a situation that anybody with the Atlanta Braves would consider to be ideal but it’s also a situation that really should’ve been resolved long before the last few days of spring training.