Little Ozzie Albies Swings Big Stick In Key Spot For Atlanta Braves

Ozzie Albies is living proof that big things come in small packages.

Generously listed as 5’8″ tall, Albies is used to teammates casting a long shadow over him. But he swings a heavier bat than best friend Ronald Acuña, Jr. and posts similar power numbers.

The shortest player in the National League, Albies swings a Rawlings Pro Label maple wood bat that weighs 32.5 ounces, topping Acuña’s 30.5 ounce model. A switch-hitter, Albies uses a bat measuring 34.5 inches in length, longer than Acuña’s 33.5- inch weapon, when hitting left-handed but switches to a 34-inch length when batting right-handed.

Since his first full season in 2018, the switch-hitter from Curaçao has led all major-league second baseman in home runs (120), triples (24), doubles (164), and runs batted in (408) while ranking second in hits (730) and runs (440).

With 28 home runs and 90 runs batted in this season, he leads his position in total bases (235), extra-base hits (53), home runs, RBI, and several other offensive categories.

A three-time All-Star whose trophy shelf also includes two Silver Sluggers and a World Series ring, Albies is on pace to top his 2021 career peaks of 30 home runs and 103 runs batted in.

A lifetime .270 hitter, he led the National League with 189 hits in 2019.

Manager Brian Snitker compares Albies to Houston’s Jose Altuve, another diminutive second baseman.

“You don’t look at how tall they are when they get into that batter’s box because they both have thunder,” said Snitker, an organization lifer originally hired by the late Hank Aaron. “They’re really exceptional baseball players.

“Ozzie’s power may surprise some people but it doesn’t surprise me. I’ve been seeing it for a long time.”

Altuve’s record may be hard to duplicate; the Houston star is a three-time batting king, eight-time All-Star, and Gold Glove winner who has led the American League in hits four times and stolen bases once en route to a pair of World Series rings. But at 33, he’s seven years older than Albies.

When Albies hit his 25th home run, at Chicago’s Wrigley Field Aug. 5, he became the fourth Atlanta player to reach that plateau. If Marcell Ozuna hits two more, he’ll be the fifth, giving the Braves a quintet of extremely prolific sluggers.

Albies opened the season batting lower in the lineup but switched places with Matt Olson, who had been in the No. 2 hole, after 48 games. That June 15 Snitker decision sparked the Braves, who sprinted to the largest lead in any of the six divisions.

When this week began, Atlanta led second-place Philadelphia by 11 games, Miami by 14, and the once-competitive New York Mets by 22½.

“If you watch us play,” Snitker told reporters over the weekend, “you better not go and get a beer because you might miss something really special. “Our guys know when they wake up in the morning, they’re going to play. That’s what we do, why we get paid. It’s called professional baseball because you’re a professional.”

The Braves take pride in finding and grooming their own players. They spent less on free agents than any of the 30 teams last winter while withstanding the losses of first baseman Freddie Freeman and shortstop Dansby Swanson over the last two winters.

Atlanta ranks seventh in the majors with a competitive balance 40-man payroll of $242,219,167, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, but trails well-heeled NL rivals in New York, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.

By current baseball standards, Albies seems underpaid with a seven-year, $35 million contract that carries club options for 2027 and 2028. But he expects to earn bonuses from the playoffs, especially if they last all the way to the World Series. The longer his team plays, the more he makes.

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