Tyler Pastornicky‘s 2013 spring training has a much different feel than in 2012. The young Atlanta Braves shortstop was the leading candidate for the starting job a year ago and now finds himself in a battle to just make the 25-man roster. That’s a tough pill to swallow for a young player, but it appears he is handling the situation in stride so far this spring training.
2012 Recap: There’s no way around it. Pastornicky’s 2012 season was a major disappointment. He began the season as the starting shortstop at the MLB level and posted a respectable .248 batting average during his time as the starter. However, his fielding at an important position to be sound at cost him the job. He made seven errors in 40 starts and had an atrocious -12.2 UZR, according to Fangraphs. The Braves sent Pastornicky to the minors and Andrelton Simmons won the starting job for the foreseeable future.
2013 Outlook: Pastornicky’s role has changed dramatically. It is painstakingly clear to him that he is not the future at shortstop. His immediate future with the organization is a utility role. Coming off the bench would mean that he would serve as a pinch-hitter and runner in end of game situations. He has continued to show he is an adequate hitter at the MLB level as he’s posted good numbers this spring training: .419 average, .455 OBP, two home runs and two stolen bases in 31 at-bats.
While his role has changed, he has made the most out of his opportunity this spring training with both Simmons and Ramiro Pena out for the World Baseball Classic. He has made two errors this spring training, but if he makes the team, he won’t be asked to come in for Simmons or second baseman Dan Uggla as a defensive substitute. His value would be as a hitter and runner – both of which he’s proving to be capable of in spring training.
I think Pastornicky makes the roster to begin the season because of that value. Pena is the better fielder, but he won’t be coming in for Simmons at the end of games. Pastornicky is the better hitter and runner and would give manager Fredi Gonzalez more versatility. Unless the Braves want him to increase his trade value by sending him to Triple-A, I believe there is more upside in keeping him with the MLB team. It truly has been a tale of two years for Pastornicky, but he has seemingly embraced this change in spring training.