Three Cuts: Adonis Garcia has value in joining Braves' crowded outfield picture
MLB rosters are just days from expanding when the calendar flips to September, and it's not necessarily call- ups, but simply getting healthy that creates some major intrigue with the Braves.
How will manager Brian Snitker juggle the return of Johan Camargo and Adonis Garcia to a crowded infield (and apparently, outfield in Garcia's case)?
Breaking that down, plus putting the torrid pace of Ozzie Albies' triples into perspective, and Brandon Phillips' pursuit of hit No. 2,000.
1. Adonis Garcia back in the outfield? Why he makes sense in a crowded picture
The Braves have been here before with Adonis Garcia. But Sunday, Snitker alluded to the Cuban seeing time in the outfield as he's expected to begin a rehab assignment this week with a return around Sept. 5 (along with Johan Camargo). This time, it may make the most sense, especially when Garica's strength masks the weaknesses of the other options in left field.
Garcia, who spent just four games in left in 2016 and went to Triple-A to learn the position, end up playing 106 games at the hot corner last season. He played their in 33 of 34 games this year, but Achilles tendinitis and then a strained left index finger provided an opening.
Johan Camargo took advantage with a 2.2 UZR/150 to go along with a .292/.437/.454 slash line (and a stunning .404/.424/.684 vs. lefties) to first lay claim to third, before he was moved to shortstop after Dansby Swanson's demotion in July.
In stepped Brandon Phillips, and he's provided a 19.6 UZR/150. It's just 201 innings, but since 2011, Phillips has just one season of higher than 8.5 at his natural position of second base. He appears to have found a new home, and it's left Garcia without one.
Garcia, by comparison, had a minus-4 UZR/150 last season at third and a minus-3 defensive runs saved. He's not likely to see much time at third, but what he does provide is a steady bat against lefties, with a .307/.359/.472 line, because against righties he had 56 wRC+, 45th among third basemen with a minimum of 100 plate appearances.
That would make Garcia an intriguing platoon situation with Matt Kemp, who has battled hamstring injuries and is hitting .237/.341/.329 with 67 wRC+ vs. lefties, and Matt Adams and his 43 wRC+ behind a .175/.203/.368 line (likewise, Lane Adams has his issues vs. lefties with a .214 average and 60 tOPS+). Or, at the least, Garcia can provide a bat off the bench, with Atlanta reserves hitting a collective .189 vs. left-handers, which ranks 22nd in the the majors.
Brett DavisBrett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
2. Ozzie Albies hitting triples at historical pace to begin career
Through his first four games, Ozzie Albies was hitting .091/.286/.364 with just one extra-base hit, a homer that came on Aug. 3. Since then, the rookie second baseman has 22 hits in his last 74 at-bats with 10 extra-base hits, including four triples. He's hitting .271/.330/.494 through 24 games and is riding an eight-game hitting streak.
In the last 10 games, Albies has a .395 average.
Those three-baggers are of special interest as they've all come within the last nine games -- and through his first 23 games -- and have Albies on a very short list of players to get off to that fast of a start.
Per Baseball-Reference's Play Index, only two players have had more triples than Albies through the first 23 games of their careers, Hall of Famer Ross Youngs with the New York Giants in 1917-18 and the Boston Braves' Red Worthington in 1931 with five each. Since 1950, only former Giants utility man Eugenio Velez in 2007 can match Albies' four triples.
Of course, none of that should be that much of a surprise. Albies is Gwinnett's career leader with 11 triples.
Brett DavisBrett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
3. Brandon Phillips poised to give Braves another milestone
With a two-hit day Sunday against the Rockies, Brandon Phillips -- who is riding a 12-game hitting streak -- has 1,997 hits in his career. He hits the road with the Braves in Phillies poised to become the 286th member of the 2,000-hit club, the sixth to reach that plateau this season (the last being the Dodgers' Adrian Gonzalez on Aug. 22) ... and the second member of his team to do so in '17.
The last part will have the Braves in rare company as the first team to produce teammates to reach 2,000 in the same season since the Rangers' Adrian Beltre and Michael Young in 2011 and before that it was the Yankees' Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez in '06.
For the record, Phillips would be the 18th player to notch No. 2,000 in a Braves uniform, following Markakis, Hank Aaron, Orlando Cedpea, Chris Chambliss, Hugh Duffy, Andres Galarraga, Ken Griffey Sr., Billy Hamilton, Chipper Jones, Wally Joyner, Herman Long, Rabbit Maranville, Eddie Mathews, Stuffy McInnis, A.J. Pierzynski, B.J. Surhoff and Gary Sheffield.