Pastornicky Gives Braves Option At Short
ATLANTA—After a disappointing and unexpectedly early end to the 2011 season, Braves general manager Frank Wren told reporters that he envisions the team's needs this winter centering on the addition of a shortstop, an outfielder and a utility infielder.
At shortstop, the Braves have three options: re-sign veteran Alex Gonzalez, go with a prospect, or acquire someone through a trade or free agency. Wren said re-signing Gonzalez is a possibility. Gonzalez remains a premier defender, and while his bat can be suspect at times, he was by far the best Atlanta hitter in September while batting .367/.385/.633.
Among the prospects, Tyler Pastornicky is likely to be in the mix. Acquired with Gonzalez from the Blue Jays in the mid-2010 deal that sent Yunel Escobar to Toronto, Pastornicky hit .314/.359/.414 this season between Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwin-nett while stealing 27 bases. He made rapid adjustments during his first taste of International League competition by hitting .365/.407/.413 in 27 games, before a high ankle sprain shelved him from mid-August through the end of the minor league campaign.
"He's very close to being a big league shortstop," Wren said. "He did everything he could do at Double-A and Triple-A and he was really on a roll at Triple-A when he had the ankle sprain."
Pastornicky, 21, would give the Braves solid defense at short and above-average speed in the lineup. He displays good instincts in all phases of the game and has a solid approach at the plate. The big question centers on whether he needs more minor league seasoning to handle the ups and downs of the major leagues.
The same thing could be said of a possible sleeper in the equation at shortstop. Andrelton Simmons had the best season of any position player in the Atlanta system while winning the high Class A Carolina League batting crown with a .311/.351/.408 line. He also was rated as the best defensive shortstop on the circuit. Simmons made impressive strides offensively in his first full season after being drafted in the second round out of Western Oklahoma State JC, but is still considered raw as a hitter.
• The Braves will most likely look outside the organization for outfield assistance. The most likely internal candidate for the utility infield role would be Brandon Hicks, who was on the Opening Day roster but spent most of the slate at Gwinnett, where he hit .252/.333/.446 with 18 home runs.
• After pitching two innings in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and making five starts at low Class A Rome, lefthander Sean Gilmartin expected to get a few additional starts with Surprise in the Arizona Fall League.