In my article that I posted just before the season “Bold predictions for the 60-game shortened season”, I started it off by saying Dansby Swanson would do enough this year for the Braves to invest in him long-term. It’s only been six games, but he’s already making me look good, and I’m doubling down on that prediction today.
After a couple of mediocre (at best) seasons from the former #1 overall pick, Swanson started to turn the corner with the bat last year and was nearly named an All-Star after hitting .270 with 17 homers in the first half of the season. However, a heel injury cost him over a month following the All-Star break, and the Swanson that returned from the IL wasn’t the same guy. He didn’t have a home run in the second half of the season (38 games), and his average sat just above the Mendoza line (.204). Still though, when the games counted the most, he was one of the Braves’ best bats in their NLDS bout with the Cardinals.
I’ve long been one of Swanson’s most severe critics. Before last season, I was ready to trade him for some sunflower seeds and a variety pack of Big League Chew. However, 2019 Dansby Swanson was a different player with the stick. He displayed a refined approach, and most notably, power to all fields. The injury undoubtedly affected him and ultimately watered down his stats for the season, but I was convinced the Braves just found their next All-Star, and so far in 2020, he’s proving me correct.
Yea, it’s only been six games, but Swanson has far and away been the Braves best player. Defensively, he looks even better than he has in the past, and he was already really advanced in that aspect, but his offense is what has me giddy. His approach, discipline, and power have all improved, and above all, he’s confident at the plate — something we didn’t see his first few years in the league.
It’s important to remember that Swanson was rushed through the minor leagues. He didn’t even play a game in AAA before the Braves called him up in 2016 — his first full professional season. And not only did the Braves add him to the team, but their marketing team also attempted to make him the hometown hero, treating him like a star player before he had done anything. Even for the most confident players, like Swanson, that’s an unbelievable amount of pressure to handle, especially in a baseball city like Atlanta.
Now, as a 26-year-old, Swanson has cleared a hurdle in his game. The first half of last season wasn’t a fluke; the first six games of this season aren’t a fluke. He is on his way to becoming an All-Star caliber shortstop for a long time, and I’ve yet even to mention the winning presence and culture he brings to the clubhouse. The Braves stuck with him when things looked bleak, and it’s just a matter of time before they make him a long-term piece of this organization.