Dansby Swanson was tremendous as a rookie for the Atlanta Braves in 2016. At the age of 22, Swanson arrived for the tail end of the campaign and raked, producing a .302/.361/.442 slash line (107 wRC+) in 38 games and 145 plate appearances. When coupled with (relatively) strong defense, Swanson put together a stint that placed him “on pace” for more than a 3-win performance over a full-season sample.
As you might imagine with that backdrop, his prospect status and general chatter, expectations were through the roof as the 2017 season opened. Then, of course, Swanson fell flat on his face.
In the first 20 games (83 plate appearances), Swanson looked lost. His slash line of .138/.169/.188 was unsightly at best and the talented shortstop produced just two extra-base hits over that sample. In an instant, it became (very) difficult for Swanson to salvage what would be considered a strong first half of the season, as digging out of a hole like that would be challenging.
As the halfway point arrives for the 2017 season, Swanson’s overall performance hasn’t been tremendous. His .225/.296/.333 slash line in 80 games (318 PA) leads to a dismal 60 wRC+ and even strong defense can’t save him from a sub-replacement level overall showing according to FanGraphs’ metrics. With that said, things have actually been pretty solid since the early-season implosion.
Over the past 60 games (since Apr. 28), the 23-year-old Swanson sports a .263/.345/.395 slash line (.740 OPS) with 12 doubles and five home runs in 235 plate appearances. That type of performance doesn’t move the needle for a former No. 1 overall draft pick but, at the very least, it is serviceable production when grouped with his above-average defensive outlook at a premium position.
Swanson’s season-long defensive performance is up for debate, as 14 errors make old-school evaluators cringe with fear. Still, he is pegged for a 0.7 dWAR on Baseball-Reference and, according to FanGraphs, is a solidly above-average defender based on positive metrics in DRS and UZR.
Is Dansby Swanson a Gold Glove-worthy performer right now? No, but his defense is quite reasonable and it is probably rational to expect the youngster to clean things up in avoiding mistakes.
Is Dansby Swanson a top-tier hitter right now, even at shortstop? No, but his bat has clearly come around since the atrocious kick-off to his first full season in a starting role.
The total package is, as noted above, underwhelming but there are plenty of signs that Swanson could be turning things around and becoming what many projected him to be as a rookie in the big leagues. That isn’t an All-Star player just yet but more of a functional starter that can hit a little bit, field his position well and not take anything off the table.
It’s worth a deeper look sometimes and, well, the first three weeks of the season make Dansby Swanson look a lot worse than he actually is.