Of all the position players honored among the Braves minor league “Future Stars” before Friday’s game, Tyler Pastornicky is the closest to the cusp.
The 21-year-old shortstop might have been in a Braves uniform rather than a suit and tie Friday night as a September call-up, had it not been for a high ankle sprain he suffered in mid-August.
And come next spring, he might have an opportunity to fight for a major league job depending on what the Braves decide to do with Alex Gonzalez, who is in the final year of his contract.
“It’s tough not to, especially when you come here,” said Pastornicky, when asked if he thought much about those possibilities, while standing in the Braves dugout Friday. “But you can’t start thinking about that. You’ve got to keep going how you’re going, and one day hopefully you get that call. And when you do, hopefully you’re ready for it.”
Pastornicky came with Gonzalez in a deal from the Blue Jays last year at the All-Star break. He’s been a shining star in the organization since then. Pastornicky hit .299 with a .345 on-base percentage and 20 stolen bases in 90 games for Double-A Mississippi. After his promotion to Triple-A Gwinnett, Pastornicky hit .365 (38-for-104) in 27 games with a home run and nine RBIs.
After hitting .257 combined in low A for the Blue Jays and Double-A for the Braves in 2010, he hit a combined .314 this season.
“It’s still a work in progress, but I think I did a much better job this year staying more consistent throughout the whole year,” Pastornicky said. “…I didn’t strike out much this year; I think that was a big help. I swung at the pitches that I could do stuff with.”
He combined for only 45 strikeouts in 459 at-bats combined in Mississippi and Gwinnett.
Pastornicky got to see his old Mississippi roommate Antoan Richardson make his major league debut this September. He’s also taken note of the success Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman had breaking into the majors the past two seasons respectively.
“Our minor league system is doing a pretty good job with guys coming up here and having success right away,” Pastornicky said. “That motivates guys like me to hopefully try to be next in line.