Braves Find Slots For Trio Of Shortstops





ATLANTA—An abundance of shortstops is a nice problem for any organization to have. The Braves faced that predicament in the lower reaches of the farm system early this season but have sorted through the situation.

They started by promoting Andrelton Simmons, a second-round pick last June, to high Class A Lynchburg, allowing him to bypass low Class A Rome. Simmons, 21, continued to prove in spring training he is the best defensive infielder with the strongest arm in the system, although scouts still have concerns if his bat will play at higher levels.

At Rome, the Braves moved Edward Salcedo, who manned shortstop there during the second half of 2010, to third base. Salcedo committed 28 errors in 52 games at short last season while displaying a lack of instincts. The 19-year-old's performance in spring training resulted in much of the same, which led to the shift to third.

If the first two weeks prove to be a harbinger, Salcedo could be on the move again. He had five errors in his first 11 contests at the hot corner and owned a fielding percentage of .875. On the positive side, he looked much more comfortable at the plate, hitting .349/.417/.535 in his first 43 at-bats.

"There's no question Edward is more at ease this season than he was last year," farm director Kurt Kemp said. "Last year was challenging, especially coming into a new environment and a new culture. His maturity has improved."

With Simmons in Lynchburg and Salcedo at third, Matt Lipka is handling the duties at shortstop. The Braves' first pick (supplemental first round) in the 2010 draft, Lipka, 19, appeared headed to center field but has made impressive adjustments while playing the game as hard as anyone in the organization. He's also serving as Rome's leadoff hitter, where he can put his plus speed and ability to put the ball in play to its greatest use.

"Matt's a classic blue-collar ballplayer," Kemp said. "He has a lot of energy and he loves to play the game. That's evident every time he steps on the field."

Wigwam Wisps

• Lynchburg's starting infield consists entirely of 2010 draft picks. In addition to Simmons, the Hillcats have Joe Terdoslavich (sixth round) at first base, Phil Gosselin (fifth round) at second and Joe Leonard (third round) at third.

• Lefthander Carlos Perez has already shown signs of having the most electric arm in the South Atlantic League. He owned a 2.40 ERA through his first three starts with 19 strikeouts versus five walks in 15 innings.