In Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies, the Braves have two young middle infielders that are loaded with potential heading into the 2019 season. However, we are still yet to see both players achieve the level of consistency needed to reach the potential they flash.
Dansby is the hometown kid in Atlanta, the fan favorite, but he has not sniffed the heights of what a former number 1 overall pick is expected to achieve. Swanson came up in 2016, getting promoted straight from AA, and played well. Nonetheless, the last two seasons have been disappointing, posting below a .700 OPS in both campaigns. While he flashes a nice glove, Swanson will indisputably have to do more with the bat to mend off Johan Camargo for long.
That said, it is too soon to give up on Dansby. Sophomore slumps are common, and it came out the wrist injury that eventually shut him down for the season was unhealthy from the get-go last April. That will buy him at least one more season, but Swanson will have no more excuses left heading into 2019: he must perform early on, or the Braves will have to evaluate their options, including moving him altogether.
Ozzie Albies is the higher regarded of the two players. Like Dansby, Albies killed it during his midseason promotion to the Braves in 2017. And he carried that right into 2018, becoming one of the hottest hitters in baseball to start the year and earning an All-Star appearance in his first full season at age 21. But by season’s end, Albies’ 2018 featured as many flaws as it did bright spots.
Outside of his hot stretch during April, Albies was average at best the rest of the season, and below average in the season’s second half. Now, even performing at replacement level is excellent production from a player Albies’ age. But he will have to work on his hitting against righties and adjusting to the grueling 162-game grind before he can indeed join the ranks of the upper tier of second basemen.
Both players should feel the pressure with Johan Camargo breathing down their necks for playing time. Albies appears the more likely of the two to figure things out and will be given more leeway, but if Dansby cannot show more ability with the bat, it could mean more starts for Camargo at second and potentially Albies at short, his original position before being moved in the minors in favor of Dansby. The Braves have a ton of potential up the middle, but the possible results in 2019 range far and wide.
Photo Credit: Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire