Dansy Swanson is gone and the Atlanta Braves are left with Vaughn Grissom at shortstop.
Cue the worry as the Braves are turning the keys over at shortstop to a 22-year-old with only 41 games at the MLB level under his belt.
But if history has shown anything, Ron Washington’s presence should make Atlanta Braves fans feel a little better about the beginning of the Vaughn Grissom era
If you take a look back to 2020 when the Braves failed to re-sign third baseman Josh Donaldson in the offseason, Washington’s fingerprints were all over third baseman Austin Riley. According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (subscription required), after a less-than-impressive 2020 campaign, there was consideration from the Braves to get rid of Riley and bring in a veteran third baseman to man the hot corner.
However, the Braves stood pat with Riley and he rewarded them with an MVP-caliber season in 2021 when he hit .303 with 33 home runs and 107 RBI. In addition, at third base, Riley went from -0.9 in defensive WAR in 2020 to a 1.5 defensive WAR in 2021, ranking third among all third basemen.
How did he get there?
The 70-year-old is a guru when it comes to defense. So much so that his players work on infield drills every day. Why?
In Washington’s own words to The Sporting News writer Jason Fagan:
"When you leave me, you may try to do it, but you’re not going to get the consistency. You need the consistency, and that’s why I’m on it every day. Every day. That might sound like a lot, but it’s not. They hit every day, right? I’ve created a drill where you can do this every day."
David O’Brien of The Athletic (subscription required) reported that Washington has been working with Grissom this offseason.
So, if Washington can work his magic on Riley, then why can’t he work his magic on Grissom?
Let’s remember that Swanson wasn’t the greatest fielder in the early part of his career. But once Washington got ahold of him, Swanson committed only two more errors in 2018-19 (22) than he did in the 2017 season (20), before committing only 20 total errors over his final three seasons in Atlanta.
Of course, there are worries about the bat as well, which site co-expert David Hill has addressed. There are definitely concerns with the bat.
But when it comes to his fielding, Grissom has the best teacher that will ensure he is prepared to man shortstop for years to come.