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Time for Tyler Pastornicky to Shine for Atlanta Braves in 2012

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 21:  Tyler Pastornicky #77 of the Atlanta Braves during Photo Day at  Champion Stadium at ESPN Wide World of Sports of Complex on February 21, 2011 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Alex WelchCorrespondent IIFebruary 22, 2012

Atlanta has seen several shortstops come and go in the past decade. Rafael Furcal, Edgar Renteria, Yunel Escobar and Alex Gonzalez have been the big names we've seen at SS for the Braves since 2000. Now that Gonzalez has moved on as well, it's time for a new face to step into the spotlight.

Tyler Pastornicky is only 22 years old, but his talent is already known all across this region. In 2011 he made the jump from Double-A Mississippi to Triple-A Gwinnett, and finally made it to the big leagues as Atlanta's season drew to an end. He didn't actually make an MLB debut, but his presence foreshadowed things to come in 2012.

The Braves chose to part ways with Gonzalez in the offseason. He found a new home in Milwaukee, signing a one-year deal with a 2013 vesting option. Atlanta hasn't picked up anyone to fill his shoes, so the job now falls on the shoulders of their rising young prospect.

Nothing is set in stone yet, but Pastornicky is the clear favorite for the starting spot. His closest competition at this point is the 34-year-old veteran Jack Wilson. If you watched any of his 41 at-bats last season, you probably had a good laugh at some point.

Wilson is a good fielder and has made a name for himself in 11 seasons, but he really doesn't do much for you at this point as far as hitting goes. The Braves' best bet is to have him mentor Pastornicky, who could certainly use some guidance with his glove.

Pastornicky made a total of 26 errors in 117 games last season between Double-A and Triple-A. His fielding percentage in Gwinnett was .938, leaving a little room for concern this year.

Aside from some fielding troubles, his ability to make solid contact and his speed/baserunning skills make him a valuable piece for the Braves' lineup. After 459 at-bats in the minors last season he finished with a .314 batting average and 27 stolen bases. In 476 plate appearances in 2009 he had 128 hits and a ridiculous 57 stolen bases.

At 5'11", 170 pounds, he won't give you crushing home runs every night, but he'll be a solid contributor overall. 

In an article from Fox Sports South, manager Fredi Gonzalez comments on Pastornicky's chances of starting this season. "We're going to give him every opportunity. But it's up to him," said Gonzalez.

Ultimately the starting job is his if he seizes the opportunity. In several interviews recently Pastornicky has talked about how hard he's been working this offseason, so let's hope he's being honest.

The Braves have seen several guys fail to live up to their potential in the past after getting called up at a young age. Will Pastornicky be next in this line of disappointment, or can he prove to be a reliable starter for Atlanta's future?  

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