The Atlanta Braves made a pair of surprising roster moves on Monday, optioning both Vaughn Grissom and Braden Shewmake to the minors. Grissom and Shewmake had been in competition for the starting shortstop job. The Braves will instead enter the season with veteran Orlando Arcia serving as their starter at the six, with non-roster invitee Ehire Adrianza acting in reserve.
Grissom, a 22-year-old who made his big-league debut last season, appeared to be the favorite coming into the spring. He'd hit for a 121 OPS+ in 41 games last year, but evaluators had reservations about his defensive ability. The 25-year-old Shewmake, comparatively, is considered a plus defender. Unfortunately, he hasn't shown much offensive ability in the upper minors, hitting for a .715 OPS in more than 300 Triple-A plate appearances in 2022.
The expectation around the league over the last week-plus had the Braves choosing a starter between those two, and then optioning the other to the minors so that they could continue to get steady playing time. Arcia, in that scenario, would have been the team's top utility infielder option. For whatever reason, the Braves decided to veer from that approach.
As a result, the pressure to replace Dansby Swanson's production -- and to excuse the absence of an outside addition at the position -- will be on Arcia. Swanson signed a seven-year contract with the Cubs over the winter after spending the first seven years in Atlanta.
Arcia, 28, is a few years removed from his last stint as a starting shortstop. That came in 2020 with the Milwaukee Brewers. He joined the Braves in an April trade the following spring, and has since batted .237/.308/.398 (94 OPS+) with 11 home runs in 99 games with Atlanta. Arcia has filled a super-utility role during that time, appearing just once in 2022 at shortstop. It appears that he's in line to receive a good number more this coming year, at least to start.