It was always a question of when, not if, Ozzie Albies would get called up to the Braves during the 2017 season. It turns out the when was Tuesday. The 20-year-old infielder will be at SunTrust Park and in Atlanta's lineup against the Dodgers.
The Braves hope Albies, ranked No. 2 on Atlanta's Top 30 and No. 19 overall, will eventually link with former No. 1 prospect Dansby Swanson to form a double-play combination that will call SunTrust Park home for years to come. Albies brings a number of plusses to the table upon his arrival: his speed, defense and ability to hit.
Let's start with Albies' speed, because that is something that will help him contribute even if it takes him time to get the bat going at the highest level. He's long been an efficient basestealer, even when he first started his pro career. The Curacao native made his pro debut in the United States and stole 22 bags in 27 tries in 2014. That's continued all the way up to Triple-A in '17, where Albies was 21-for-23 at the time of his callup.
The speed works on both sides of the ball. There's no question Albies can handle playing shortstop at the big league level if needed. He has plenty of range and enough arm for the position, but he slid over to second because of the arrival of Swanson, and Albies has the chance to be a Gold Glove-caliber defender on the right side of the infield. Watching Albies and Swanson work together in that Braves infield in the future should be a real treat.
Albies is clearly not just a speed-and-glove middle infielder. We wouldn't have him ranked so high if he was. Throughout Albies' career, while playing years below the league average (he is 6.7 years younger than the average position player in the International League this season), he has always hit. The one exception came when Albies was pushed up to Triple-A in 2016, at age 19. A true testament to his maturity, he hit .336/.432/.473 in July after being sent down to Double-A.
Albies started a bit slowly in his return to Gwinnett this season, but after a .656 OPS in April, he upped that to .721 in May and .925 in July. His ability to make adjustments and make consistent contact from both sides of the plate really stand out, though he is better from the right side. Albies is not a huge power guy, but there is extra-base ability to tap into, and it should be noted that his .440 slugging percentage this year is higher than any full-season SLG he's posted since 2015. He knows how to get on base, keeps his strikeouts relatively low and allows his speed to be a factor. Albies has tremendous instincts at the plate and in the field.
Even if Albies scuffles a bit out of the gate -- and if he does, he'll make adjustments quickly -- he will make an immediate contribution simply from the energy he brings to the field. He has off-the-charts makeup and plays the game with a passion that can't help but be infectious. In that regard, Albies can have an impact similar to Francisco Lindor, with some serious baseball skills to back it up and allow him to eventually reach impact/star status.