ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson’s departure and Vaughn Grissom’s bid to replace him as Atlanta’s everyday shortstop were two of the most popular topics as Braves Fest unfolded at Truist Park on Saturday.
“I love Dansby, he’s been a tremendous friend of mine,” Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud said. “He has been a tremendous influence in this organization. He’s taught everybody in the clubhouse how to respect the game and how to pull the same rope basically. We all hope nothing but the best for him. We all understand. It’s a business. I mean, if we didn’t learn with what happened with Freddie Freeman, how much of a business this is, then you learned it from Dansby.
“I think the Cubs got a great shortstop, a great leader. I think he’s going to change the culture in that organization and they’ll be back to the winning ways. But at the same time, I believe in the guys we have here, and I think we’re going to be just fine.”
Swanson established himself as one of the game’s top defensive shortstops and a valuable clubhouse leader before ending his Atlanta tenure in December by signing a seven-year, $177 million deal with the Cubs. The Braves have some big shoes to fill as they decide who will be their next shortstop.
“I’m not trying to fill nobody’s shoes or do anything different,” Grissom said. “I’m just going to go play Vaughn Grissom’s ball.”
If the Braves don’t find an external option, they open the season with either Grissom or Orlando Arcia as their new shortstop. Arcia served as Milwaukee’s everyday shortstop from 2017-20. But the less-experienced Grissom will come to Spring Training with a legit chance to land the starting role.
Grissom drew the respect of teammates and fans as he began last year at High-A and advanced to the Majors, where he helped the Braves win a fifth straight National League East title. The 22-year-old produced a .956 OPS through his first 26 games and provided adequate defense at second base. His offensive production dipped over the season’s final three weeks, and he moved to a bench role over the final nine games.
Braves manager Brian Snitker said he will feel good if he does enter Spring Training with Arcia and Grissom as his shortstop options.
“We’re going to be fine,” Snitker said. “We’ll use the sum of our parts to make it happen.”
Scouts have long questioned Grissom’s ability to be a big league shortstop. But the young infielder has had the benefit of working out with Braves third-base coach Ron Washington, who is regarded by some to be the game’s best infield guru. Grissom has twice traveled to New Orleans to work out with Washington, and he will do so one more time before Spring Training begins.
“Wash is probably one of the most positive people I’ve ever been around, and it’s going to do Vaughn great to just get that one-on-one that they’ve had,” Snitker said. “We still have to play the games and everything. But it’s definitely not going to hurt. It was Wash’s idea. He was like, ‘Let me have that kid three different times.’”
Grissom has impressed the Braves with his dedication and work ethic. If he’s not filling a starting role at the big league level, he would likely be playing every day in Triple-A. There has been some thought he could play left field if necessary.
Snitker didn’t rule out the possibility when asked about Grissom potentially playing left field. But he said he doesn’t think the team will ask the young player to attempt to acquaint himself with the outfield while also trying to prove himself as a shortstop during Spring Training.
Grissom seems ready to come to Spring Training with the genuine confidence that made him so likable when he made his unanticipated leap to the Majors last year.
“The only thing I can do for you guys is just play my game,” Grissom said. “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. So, to me, it doesn’t matter either way, because I’m just going to go play my game.”