Braves look to third baseman of future

Joey Terdoslavich

Joey Terdoslavich

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Joey Terdoslavich played almost entirely at first base last season, but that isn't where the Braves will need him in the future.

Freddie Freeman appears entrenched at first in Atlanta for years and years to come after a strong rookie season. It is at the other corner infield spot where a change is coming.

Chipper Jones is retiring after this season and Martin Prado isn't too far away from being eligible for free agency. That means the Braves need to groom someone as a potential replacement at third base.

Enter the 23-year-old Terdoslavich, who appears to have been put on the fast track to Atlanta after just one full minor league season.

Instead of starting 2012 with Class AA Mississippi, the switch-hitter is jumping from Class A-Advanced to Class AAA Gwinnett despite having to adjust to a position switch as well as more experienced pitchers.

Terdoslavich made that much of a positive impression in major league camp with the Braves after a productive stint in the Arizona Fall League.

The sixth-round draft choice from Long Beach State showed he wasn't overmatched in Grapefruit League play, batting .240 with three doubles and three RBIs in 25 at-bats over 17 games. He walked twice and struck out five times.

Not gaudy numbers, for sure. But solid for someone with limited professional experience.

"We're going to see him at Turner Field," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

Not this year, of course. But 2013 is not out of the question if he can handle third base defensively and continue to pound minor league pitching.

"I don't see any reason why he couldn't do it," Gonzalez said of Terdoslavich's move to third base.

The hot corner actually isn't a new position for Terdoslavich, who saw time there in college and during his first professional season.

But it is at the plate where Terdoslavich has always made his mark. The nephew of former major leaguer Mike Greenwell led Sarasota High School to a Florida state title and put up good numbers at both the University of Miami and Long Beach State, where he spent his last two years.

But even the Braves have been pleasantly surprised by how well Terdoslavich has hit in his brief pro career. He batted a combined .302 in 70 games with Danville and Rome in 2010 and broke the 65-year-old Carolina League record for doubles last season.

Terdoslavich smashed 52 two-baggers a year ago while hitting .286 with 20 homers and 82 RBIs. He had a .341 on-base percentage and .526 slugging mark, finishing the OPS of .867.

But he might have been even more impressive in the Arizona Fall League against more advanced pitching. He was 3-for-3 with a double and three-run homer in the Rising Stars all-star game and finished the season batting .321.

Terdoslavich played first and third base in Arizona and also has experience in the outfield. He claims he doesn't really have a preference. It's all about just getting to the majors.

"Whatever way I can get there, I'm willing to do," Terdoslavich said. Whether it's first, third, left field, right field ... it doesn't matter. I just want a chance, an opportunity."

With a last name that isn't easy to pronounce, the Braves prospect goes by "Terdo" as a nickname. For the record, Terdoslavich is Croatian and pronounced "Ter-DOSS-low-VITCH" correctly.

During spring training, Gonzalez just called him "Joey T" rather than trying to get it right. It may not be long, though, before Braves fans will have to get comfortable pronouncing the name. That will start at Gwinnett's Coolray Field this season, a year ahead of schedule.