Atlanta Braves Infield: Best of the 10 for 10’s

I bet you thought that the 10 for 10’s series was over, eh? Like Jose Constanza stealing at-bats from Jason Heyward, we are going to steal your attention for 5 more segments. In the next week (or so), we will be covering the best of the 10’s at each position. The pieces will be split into the following categories: Starting Pitching, Relief Pitching, Infield, Outfield, Bench.

In determining who’s the best, we followed a simple criteria. If there was one player that had a great outlying year that supersedes other players, that player gets the nod. If a player has 1 great year that’s slightly better than another player who sustained success for multiple years, the latter gets the nod. And of course, if we get it wrong, please feel free to Pee Wee Herman us to death in the comments.

Atlanta Braves Infield, Best of the 10 for 10’s: First Base

Chris Johnson…I kid. Freddie Freeman-No player in the organization collected more fWAR in the 10’s than Freddie Freeman. At 34.6, he finished 12.1 points above Brian McCann, who’s fWAR took a huge leap when framing was factored into the equation. Unfortunately for Freddie, no metric has been able to quantify stretches for a first baseman, and he’s the best in the business at getting extra outs by getting his glove 6-7 feet out in front of the base.

Freddie received 24 PAs in 2010, one of  which was quite memorable as he connected for his first career home run off of Roy Halladay. From 2011 on, Freddie has been a steady presence in the lineup, replacing Chipper Jones in the 3-hole. While he’s been much better against RHP for his career (.926 OPS), he’s no slouch against LHPs (.789 OPS).  Even with 2 injuries that sidelined him for 50ish games/each, on average, he’s been a 4.5 WAR player these past 7 years. If he can stay healthy, I think he’s got another 4…at least. Believe it, y’all. Don’t be a Hader.

Atlanta Braves Infield, Best of the 10 for 10’s: Second Base

Ozzie Albies: Ozzie’s been with the Braves roughly 2.4 years and ranked 5th in overall WAR for position players for the 10’s. When he first became a Major Leaguer, he was a talented yet flawed player. He was a bit of a free swinger and lacked pop from the LH side. This could’ve been lingering effects from a broken elbow that occurred just 1 year prior. While it seemed worrisome at the time, Braves fans were quickly relieved of that worry in 2019 as his numbers greatly improved against RHP. Adding to that, he continued his absolute dominance from the right side of the plate. With plus defense, an insatiable desire to get stronger and better, and the fact that he’ll be here for 8 more years, he’s likely going to just keep getting better.

Atlanta Braves Infield, Best of the 10 for 10’s: Shortstop

Andrelton Simmons: Admit it. As a fan of the Andrelton era, we were spoiled. However, as a Braves fan we can now fully admit to ourselves that we got to see, live, and 160 games a year, 2 players in Andrelton and Andruw Jones do what no one’s done in the game’s history (spare me your Ozzie Smith and Willie Mays rebuttals).

The Braves version of Andrelton was a great, yet frustrating player as he was other-worldly in the field. Unfortunately, at the plate he was impatient and apparently allergic to walks, despite being one of the hardest players to strike out in the entire league. And while I feel like Dansby Swanson has another gear and should be ready for the breakout we’ve all been waiting for, make no mistake it would’ve been pretty awesome to redo the Sean Newcomb trade and have Andrelton for one more year in 2020. However, the Angels called no takesies backsies and we have to follow the playground code. In case you miss him as much as I do, here’s 12 minutes of brilliance (you might wanna stop around 10, as the last 2 might make one vomit).

Atlanta Braves Infield, Best of the 10 for 10’s: Third Base

Chris Johnson…kidding, again. Josh Donaldson: It’s weird to put Josh Donaldson’s name up here for the 10’s, as Chipper Jones was still a thing in the early 10’s. However, at that point, Chipper was known around these parts as “Zombie Chipper”, and was essentially a 2ish WAR player that still carried an OPS over .800 at ages 38-40.

After Chipper, it was good Chris Johnson followed by stupidly-extended horrible Chris Johnson. Next it was surprisingly not awful Adonis Garcia followed by awful Adonis Garcia x2. Finally in 2018, Johan Camargo brought justice back to the 3B position and put up the first 3 WAR season since Chris Johnson BABIP’d himself 21 million dollars. Rather than sticking with Camargo for 2020, AA, true to his philosophy on players, grabbed Donaldson on a 1 year deal and moved Camargo to a super-utility role that wasn’t ever really utilized.

But Donaldson was great and his signing felt like the Braves were finally bringing an end to “The Braves Way” and that it was okay to have fun playing the game. Not only that, but Donaldson with his high spirits, sometimes outrageous personality, accompanied by a pair of brass balls, made the Braves feel like the Bad Boys of 2019 and oddly, it felt pretty damn good. He finished the season with a .900 OPS, 37 HRsM, and a 4.9 fWAR that was supported by some pretty great defense. 

The cherry on top for Donaldson’s 1 year stint in Atlanta was a celebration that flaunted that “We are here to have fun” mentality, and I’ll miss this just as much as I’ll miss him.

Atlanta Braves Infield, Best of the 10 for 10’s: Catcher

Brian McCann: Did we as fans ever appreciate Brian McCann as much as he deserved? I truly don’t think so. After framing was added to Fangraphs formula (honestly, I think they overdid it), McCann had 4 remarkable seasons that no catcher has touched since: From 2008-2011, McCann put up 28.5 WAR, nearly ½ of what catchers are expected to have to get HoF consideration. Yes…that’s an average of 7.1 WAR/year. 43.1 of his total 54.5 WAR came in a Braves uniform. I’m glad he was able to come back to the Braves for his final year, and I do think we as fans got it right the 2nd go around and gave him the applause he deserved.

And this? The best.

Thanks for reading our 10 for 10’s piece on the best Atlanta Braves Infield! If you enjoyed this piece, check out our entire 10 for 10’s series here.

Author: Ryan Cothran

Ryan is the site editor and manager of Braves Journal. Follow him on Twitter.

44 thoughts on “Atlanta Braves Infield: Best of the 10 for 10’s”

  1. JC’d

    January 30, 2020 at 2:27 am
    @Rob “they sent him down to the minor leagues when he was clearly obviously ready and didn’t need any additional minor league seasoning”

    So, to enforce “manipulation,” who would you empower to second guess teams regarding when a player is ready to come up?

  2. JC’d

    Alex Remington (Another Alex R.):
    January 30, 2020 at 7:39 am

    @19, the way the service time rules are written clearly incentives teams to send players down for a few weeks to get an extra year of service time, rather than call them to the majors at the start of the season. The rules should be rewritten. There’s no good way to divine a team’s motive, though as Rusty said, you can infer it from the fact they called him up pretty much the instant he satisfied the requirement and put him right into cleanup.

  3. To be fair to the Cubs their opening day 3rd sacker, Mike Olt, went on the disabled list on Apr 16 that season and Bryant was called up the 17th. Olt was a hotshot prospect in his own right, being named a top-50 prospect just 2 years before, so the team can credibly claim they brought Bryant up as soon as they could.

    Bryant winning the Arbitration would have set a horrible precedent. Really, Ronald could have had a better case.

  4. Oh, absolutely. It would’ve set a precedent that would have hurt us. That said, the Braves refused to play games when they brought up Heyward on Opening Day, and then he homered off the Cubs on the very first pitch. I want teams to have more incentive to do that with their best prospects.

  5. Juicy stuff from a source (and I don’t know of the validity so let’s just leave it there as it’s 2nd hand info), but the Braves are allegedly throwing some haymaker trade packages at the Indians. Brent and I discussed it the other day, but there’s 0 reason the Indians should be selling. They literally have 4 guys on their team that could give them a 20-25 WAR total combined.

  6. I think there’s no debate that the Cubs held him down to get an extra year. The issue is over whether it was a “bad” thing to do. Contrast the hidden ball trick with what the Cubs did with Bryant. Both are a manipulation of the rules. Both are within the rules. Both are, I don’t know, “not nice”, so to speak. But until the rules of the game outlaw the hidden ball trick and service time manipulation, then it’s fair game.

    And once again, I’m just not going to feel sorry for the MLBPA when Tony Clark was chosen to oversee and advise. I’m sorry, but these just aren’t smart people, many of them, and I’m not going to feel sorry when millionaires lose millions through stupidity same way when billionaires lose billions through stupidity. Baseball players are the product of the sport, and so they are valuable, but we’ve seen sports not do well because of bad owners, and I think the owners deserve some credit for keeping the sport popular. And when they hire good attorneys to protect their best interests and the players hire guys like Tony Clark, both parties can afford the same quality of attorneys, and the owners end up with a loophole, then the owners won. Good job. Victor goes the spoils.

    I do agree that the rules should be re-written. I do agree the players should be paid more. But I think we’re disagreeing over whether the players deserve to be punished when they negotiate foolishly.

  7. @7, fair enough — think we’ve gone around this enough. Agree to disagree.

  8. By the way, finally got a chance to listen to the Three Flags Flying Podcast. Really enjoyed and recommend everyone check it out. This lastest episode discusses each of the top 20 Prospects in the system. Great work Ryan and Rob (and Brent).

  9. Every player in baseball has an agent or agency to represent them. You’d think the agents would be putting the bug in these guys’ ears to hire an elite team of attorneys to handle MLBPA negotiations. The agents get paid when the players get paid. Mutually beneficial victory.

  10. @15, that’s one of the reasons that people have been afraid of a labor stoppage. The agents clearly are as unhappy as the players.

  11. Should Albies give up switch hitting?

    As for service time manipulation, I think the easiest answer is to change free agency to be based on player age, as in all players are free agents after the season they turn 28 (or something). You could limit that to players who went through the rule 4 draft since the July 2 players are younger and transfers from Japan are older. This would push teams to bring up players early.

  12. Mobile home parks
    Allow for poetry with much snark
    Makes for a nice retirement fit
    That is until the hurricane hits

  13. Agents are paid a fairly small percentage of the contract right? Why would they be that mad? If a guy is losing out on $50M over the life of a deal, he’s probably pretty mad. But if his agent is only losing out on 2, 3 percent of that $50M, but he’s made that 2, 3 percent on that other $200M, is he really that mad?

    And folks, that’s why you need to hire a good Realtor. Does he or she care about whether or not you get that last $10K on the sale of your house? After all, 3% of $10K is only $300, but it’s pretty much $10K to you. Hire someone who cares. I’m Rob Copenhaver, RE/MAX Realty Unlimited, and I approved this message.

  14. @19, agents are mad on behalf of players because agents are paid to take the players’ side at all times!

    @17, trouble with making it age-based is that it’s kind of like the old Bonus Baby thing, which was really harmful to a lot of players. (If a player got a bonus over a certain amount, they had to go to the majors and couldn’t go to the minors. In theory, it meant a team couldn’t stash a player and keep them from playing. In practice, it meant a promising kid had no chance to actually develop his skills before being thrown to the wolves, so a lot of those guys went to the majors, rode the pine because they weren’t ready to play, and literally lost years of development time.) Players physically mature at different ages, and they’re ready at different ages. So age-based limits could be good for some players and much much less good for others.

  15. Yeah, Acuna’s probably ready for free agency right now.

    That Trade Value Calculator has Acuna’s positive value at $200M. Albies is not terribly behind. I wonder who else has surplus value at that number. Has anyone looked into it?

  16. @ 21,
    Fangraphs did a trade value series around July 1. Acuna was number 1 and I think Fernando Atari’s, Jr. was number 2.

  17. snowshine

    It is a pleasure to observe a further entry from you into the verse world on these pages. So you will allow me to say this….

    singulars rarely rhyme with their plural…thus no parks/snark or hit/fits. The only other rule that comes to mind is m must never be rhymed with n…ever. It’s a cardinal sin – because it’s just so tempting! But on the other hand outrageous funny almost-rhymes are lauded despite their failure. Generally then that’s about it …leaves plenty of scope. Please continue.

  18. Rob

    It was only mid afternoon when you responded @19 so, the sun having not yet gone below the yardarm, serious drinking was out I assume – so why plunge into commissions etc right off the bat when i was trying to suggest something much more general with a wider application. Argue commissions later!

    If you want to start the transition to commercial, small to medium size parks in florida with ideally a nice wrap around mortgage from the seller will get you going like nothing else. Promise, and good luck with it. And i’d try for 10% under a million. Just like Hech! Phone if you want.

  19. @17

    Albies? No more, never

    Did you miss the second half of last season? He was terrific from the left side, hitting with great power and production.

  20. You’re right, blazon, and especially here in Pinellas County (a peninsula) because the land appreciates well. All the northern retirees looking for affordable housing!

  21. @19 You make a fair point about the % on an extra few million on a contract, but I would think it’s more about the first 6 years of a player’s career being locked up under a rookie contract and only making the league minimum for those first 3 seasons. There could be a lot more meat to be had during what roughly represents, now, the best years of a player’s career…

  22. Apropos of nothing, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read “Veeck as in Wreck” by Bill Veeck. One of the best baseball books ever, and they honestly ought to teach it in marketing classes — it’s at least as engaging a primer on sales as Sam Walton’s “Made in America.”

  23. @26
    Glad we’re on the same page, Rob. If you’re on a peninsula though have someone keep a check on rising sea levels – waterfront property not what it used to be they tell me!

  24. @30

    The title alone should take it into the HOF. Ball Four still sets the standard though, first book i bought on arrival here. First movie was Deep Throat in Times Square – had no idea what the title meant. Soon learnt.

  25. Kris Bryant
    remains deliriously defiant
    do not criticize my batting stance
    which is infinitely adjustable to circumstance.

    Mirror, mirror on the wall
    who’s got the ugliest of them all.

  26. In May of 2009, I was at a conference in Cleveland. My colleague and I decided to skip the evening program and take in a game at Jacobs Field. As a Braves and NL guy, I didn’t know much about either team, but reigning Cy Young winner Cliff Lee was on the hill for the Tribe against the visiting Tigers. On the mound for the Tigers was a young Justin Verlander, whose career had gotten off to a great start but who had lost 17 games the previous season. I didn’t know much about the position players either, but the offensive stars of each team were the young centerfielders and leadoff batters, Grady Sizemore and Curtis Granderson.

    Lee didn’t disappoint, going 8 innings and giving up a single run in his final frame. Verlander, however, pitched a complete game shutout, striking out 11 and consistently hitting 100 on the gun. Granderson scored the game’s only run in the eighth on a leadoff walk, a stolen base, advancing to third on a groundout, and coming home on an infield single.
    In the bottom of the ninth, with Verlander still on the mound and a runner on first, Granderson made one of the greatest catch I’ve ever seen in person, especially considering the context. Sizemore launched one to deep right center, but Granderson went high above the wall to rob Sizemore of a game winning home and save the shutout for Verlander.

    I’ve been a Granderson fan ever since.

  27. Thanks, Alex. I meant to link the video but I forgot.

    I’m relieved to see the video. At my age, I often wonder if what I remember really happened.

  28. Even at my age, I misremember what actually happened in baseball games many years ago. I believe Grissom induced a fly out by Baerga; Wohlers was playing centerfield that day. Well done getting all that right, Tfloyd.

  29. My memory of the game was pretty accurate, I think because it was such a remarkable game. But I did double check the box score for a couple of details. I was gratified tthe video confirmed that Granderson really did go over the wall. That’s the kind of thing your memory can exaggerate.

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