Tyler Pastornicky came into spring training as the favorite to be the Braves’ shortstop and today they made it official, naming the 22-year-old prospect the Opening Day starter.
Pastornicky was acquired from the Blue Jays in the mid-2010 deal for Yunel Escobar and replaces veteran Alex Gonzalez, who signed with the Brewers as a free agent. Jack Wilson is hurt, so he beat out fellow prospect Andrelton Simmons for the job.
Simmons is headed to the minors, but could be in Atlanta later this season if Pastornicky struggles. And while Pastornicky’s lofty .314 batting average between Double-A and Triple-A as a 21-year-old last season makes struggling seem unlikely, he also managed just seven homers, 27 total extra-base hits, and 32 walks in 117 games.
Pastornicky rarely strikes out and has very good speed, which should enable him to post a solid batting average, but expecting him to hit .300-plus is obviously wishful thinking and his lack of power and patience are definitely weaknesses. Of course, the Braves lived with Gonzalez’s brutal .277 on-base percentage and measly .377 slugging percentage for the past season-and-a-half, so as long as Pastornicky plays good defense, steals some bases, and hits some singles they’ll probably be happy.