Will the Braves get first-half Dansby Swanson in 2020?

Will the Braves get first-half Dansby in 2020?

When the Braves acquired Dansby Swanson from the Arizona Diamondbacks, it was considered the steal of the century. Swanson was never seen as a guy who was going to hit 40 homers in a season but was the number one pick earlier that summer for a reason.

Swanson was a bonafide top prospect in the game after a legendary college career at Vanderbilt and seemed on the cusp of being one of the best young shortstops in the game. However, his career got off to a bit of a slow start after impressing during his initial callup in 2016.

It has taken Swanson some time to get going with the bat, but his OPS has risen over the past few seasons from .636 to .699 to .748. He had his best season yet as a pro with the bat in 2019, showing that he should in fact be a part of the Braves’ future plans.

Going into last season, it was a legitimate possibility that Johan Camargo could push him for the starting shortstop job, but Camargo struggled and proved that he does not have what it takes from a defensive standpoint to play the position. Given the expectations that were set for him, Swanson seems slowly but surely headed in the right direction. We are still waiting for that full breakthrough season though. Could it come in 2020?

Of course, any Braves fan will tell you that Dansby offers you far more than the stat sheet shows, and that is very much true. He is a great defender and has done his best work in clutch situations. Swanson is a fan favorite, but the reality is that, as things stand, he is a low-end to mid-level starter in the MLB.

Set to be 26 years old on Opening Day, there is more pressure than ever for Swanson to have a breakout offensively with the Braves losing some firepower from its lineup due to the departure of Josh Donaldson. Swanson is entering his prime, and in turn, the organization will surely be hoping for his best season to date.

As I mentioned, Swanson was never viewed as a guy who would hit for tremendous power, but most would be surprised that, more than three seasons into his MLB career, he would be a lifetime .245 hitter.

Swanson is under team control through 2023, is seen as a member of the Braves’ young core, and surely the team values his defense. However, if he fails, at the very least, to repeat his offensive output from last season, the Braves may be forced to weigh their options at the position going forward.

Swanson has the talent to hit in the .280 neighborhood with 20+ home runs. I truly believe that, and that’s the type of year I would like to see from him in 2020.

Swanson seemed destined to reach those marks in the first half of 2019, as he emerged as one of the best post-hype sleepers in the game before suffering injuries and struggling mightily in the second half.

After the All-Star Break, Swanson hit just .204 and was outperformed significantly by Adeiny Hechavarria. Swanson was likely affected by his right heel injury. His double-play partner Ozzie Albies had immense second-half struggles in 2018 and turned out just fine, but it is a reason for concern going forward.

Despite the second-half struggles, Swanson did come up big during the postseason. After missing the NLDS in 2018 due to injury, he showed his knack for showing up on the big stage in 2019, going 7-for-18 with three double and two runners knocked in against the Cardinals. Stretches like that make you wonder when Swanson will be able to translate his ability into full-time consistent production.

Swanson has looked good this Spring Training, going 5-for-15 with a couple of RBI. Of course, this is too small a sample size to come to any sort of conclusion.

Like last season, Swanson will go into this year under a microscope, though I would not go as far as to say his job is in jeopardy by any means. He will have to respond as he did last season, and hopefully, he can do so for a full season.

Remaining healthy will be a big priority after missing chunks of time during the last two seasons. If Atlanta can get first-half Dansby, they will be in great shape. If not, I can see the Braves going hard after Francisco Lindor rather than Kris Bryant or Nolan Arenado at the trade deadline, as they may be able to package Swanson with prospects to land Lindor.

When looking at the Braves’ lineup, Swanson is the clear player with the most room for improvement given the talent level. The Braves simply do not have the financial resources to keep up with a team like the Los Angeles Dodgers on paper this season. If they want to make a run to the World Series, a big year from Swanson would be instrumental in making that a possibility.


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