All eyes will be on Dansby Swanson this year.
The Rookie of the Year talk has already begun.
A handful of big league executives ranked him as the No. 1 prospect in baseball heading into the season.
He’s handsome as hell. He’s charismatic. He’s playing for his hometown team.
And if Brian Snitker is to be believed, Dansby will bat 2nd for the club this season, arguably the most important spot in the order.
Dansby was quite good in his first full professional season. He breezed through High-A and Double-A before skipping Gwinnett altogether and debuting in Atlanta in mid-August. Despite some speculation that he was wearing down in the minors, Swanson hit well and displayed strong glove-work in the field. He ended 2016 batting .302/.361/.442 (107 wRC+) over 38 games and 145 plate appearances. He was a tad lucky in his short stint with a .383 BABIP, a number that will regress moving forward, and he struck out at a much higher rate (23.4%) than he ever did in college or the minors.
Keep in mind all of this happened in a season where Dansby was just 22 years old. He was playing in 140+ games for the first time in his life.
As for next season, the projection systems aren’t as high on Dansby. ZiPS has him at .253/.323/.403. Steamer projects .259/.322/.395 and a 1.7 WAR. Those numbers would be a little underwhelming for someone with so much hype, though they would be around the league average among shortstops.
For what it’s worth, I see Dansby closer to .275/.335/.410. With strong defense that makes him a 3-win shortstop as a 23-year-old rookie. You could certainly do worse.
The sky is the limit for the Braves’ newest shortstop, but for 2017, it’s important to keep expectations reasonable.