Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Atlanta Braves Notes: Team Still High On Dansby Swanson, Despite Early Season Struggles

As one of the key pieces to the Atlanta rebuild, Swanson, despite his early season struggles, remains a face of the franchise and has plenty of time to continue to develop.

Those around baseball and in the scouting industry have long admired the talent of Dansby Swanson. A three-year standout at shortstop and second base at Vanderbilt University, the Arizona Diamondbacks made him the number one overall pick in the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft.

Arizona dealt him to Atlanta in the Shelby Miller deal and the Braves were very happy to get a young shortstop that could be a franchise cornerstone for the next decade. 

Swanson, 23, debuted late last season for the Atlanta Braves and slashed .302/.361/.442 with three home runs and 17 runs batted in arcoss just 129 at-bats. The hype for the young prospect only grew this offseason as the young shortstop has been featured prominently in many ad campaigns for Atlanta and the debut of their new home, SunTrust Park.

A changing of the guard has taken place in Atlanta as they continue their rebuild and fun times are expected in the years to come, with Swanson as a featured component.

The Braves continue to struggle on the field, which isn't unexpected for a rebuilding team, but many have begun to question whether Swanson is the future or if he were brought up to the majors far too early and should be sent back down for more seasoning before coming back to resume playing everyday. Swanson has been one of the worst players in baseball through the month of April.

Coming into the season, he was ranked as the third-ranked prospect in baseball by Baseball America, so his talent is undeniable. His struggles through the early portion of the season have been well-documented. He has struggled to hit breaking balls, he is swinging and missing at pitches you'd expect him to hit, and when he does hit a ball soundly, it hasn't found a hole, but a glove somewhere around the diamond. 

So far this season, Swanson is hitting .150, with just 15 hits in 100 at-bats. He has a paltry .181 BABIP, so he hasn't had much luck on his side. He has managed to hit two home runs and when he has hit the ball, he has hit it hard.

According to hard-hit percentage, he is 18th in baseball when putting the ball in play. He just hasn't put the ball in play much. He has also struck out at 24.3% clip. So far he has struck out 27 times and walked just 10. Through 129 at-bats last year, he walked 15 times and struck out just 13. Examining his early season struggles must come through the scope of it being a small sample size and he has ample time to turn his season around. 

He was given a day off on Saturday against the Cardinals, and while Brian Snitker suggested it was nothing more than rest and an opportunity to get Jace Peterson some time in the lineup, a day off to clear his head and try to right his struggles may be what he needs to get his season turned around. No one is probably feeling more pressure to perform than Dansby himself, as the expectations heaped on him have to be taking a toll on him.

The Braves brass, manager and players continue to stand behind him, expecting him to hit once again, like they know he is capable. He has to just get back to playing baseball and not worrying about the outside noise, though that is easier said than done. 

Swanson has just under 250 at-bats in the majors and had just 529 plate appearances in the minor leagues before being summoned to the bigs. It is understandable for younger players to struggle as they learn and make adjustments to the major leagues, especially as teams and pitchers become more familiar with them.

Although he has struggled offensively, Swanson has impressed with his maturity and make up. Even if the hits aren't falling at the moment, he hasn't let that affect his defense. So far this year, he has posted a 2.1 dWAR and Snitker and other Braves players have noted that he has saved runs multiple times with his slick play on defense.

While his offensive numbers may suffer this year, long-term, this could be a blessing for Swanson as he learns the struggle of full-season major league baseball and gets valuable experience. While his struggles may concern, he has the ability to make adjustments as he sees teams and pitchers more frequently. He has already been putting in more time in the cage and with the hitting coach, so he is willing to put in the extra work, which is half the battle.

Expect a rebound from Swanson going forward. He may not be a .300 hitter this year, but his offense should even out and he's already really good on defense, so he should continue to have a positive impact on the game and the Atlanta franchise. The key is to remain patient. 


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