Ozzie Albies’ first career home run Thursday was both sudden and a long time coming.
The Atlanta Braves infielder picked up his first career hit, home run and RBI when he launched a three-run shot Thursday against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He became the first player born in 1997 to hit a major league home run on top of already being the first born that year to make the majors.
He also became the youngest player to homer for the Braves since fellow Curacao native Andruw Jones made headlines for his dingers as a teenager in the 1996 World Series.
At the same time, Albies’ emergence at the big league level has been anticipated for some time for Braves fans who keep up with the minor leagues.
He made his stateside debut as a 17-year-old in 2014 and has been at or near the top of Atlanta prospect lists since.
Albies put himself on the map by hitting .310 as an 18-year-old in the South Atlantic League in 2015, then progressed all the way to Triple-A Gwinnett while still in his teenage years last season.
He turned 20 before this season and hit .285 with 21 doubles, eight triples, nine home runs and 21 stolen bases in 97 games for Gwinnett before his call-up.
The switch-hitting middle infielder is quick to become a fan favorite at every stop for his small stature and big smile.
He plays the game with a passion and is expected to take a firm hold on the Braves’ second base spot for a long time.
WRIGHT MOVE: It didn’t take long for Braves first-rounder Kyle Wright to get out of the Gulf Coast League.
Wright, the fifth-overall pick in June’s draft out of Vanderbilt, was assigned to Class-A Advanced Florida on Tuesday and made his Florida State League debut that night at Dunedin.
The 21-year-old right-hander tossed two perfect innings with a strikeout.
Wright is projected as a frontline starting pitcher in the major leagues with advanced feel of four pitches. The Braves are limiting his workload toward the end of the season after leading Vanderbilt’s staff in the spring.
He could reach as high as Atlanta in his first full season in 2018 with the expectation of holding down a rotation spot shortly thereafter.
STRUGGLING SWANSON: Wright’s teammate at Vanderbilt, Dansby Swanson, hasn’t produced as expected this season and was sent to Triple-A Gwinnett in late July, but there have been promising signs since his demotion.
Swanson picked up a hit in each of his first five games after the Gwinnett assignment, adding four walks and two RBI over his first seven games. He’s hitting just .192 through the first week with Gwinnett but has slowly shown more comfort at the plate.
Swanson is still just 23 with plenty time to adjust to the upper levels of professional baseball. It’s worth remembering he was drafted just two years ago and young players often take multiple trips to the major leagues before sticking. He remains Atlanta’s shortstop of the future.