Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Will Dansby Swanson Be A Star?

Dansby Swanson,
After being called up by the Atlanta Braves, the highly-hyped Dansby Swanson will now carry the helm as one of the next franchise cornerstones, their shortstop for both the near and long-term future. Talented both offensively and defensively, the 2015 1st overall pick has definitely deserved the attention, but will he be able to meet the lofty expectations of the fans and front office?

Inevitably sharing the spotlight with the second overall pick, another college shortstop, Alex Bregman, Swanson is more athletic and well-rounded than his Astros counterpart. While Bregman put up outstanding numbers in the minors and beat Swanson to the big leagues, Swanson definitely has the potential to both match and exceed his production over the course of their careers. His offensive numbers haven't been on par with Bregman yet, but with the quick hands and bat speed, as well as power projection, the upside is just as high. Check out this video of his swing:
His swing has a nice bat plane and a toe drag, his hands fly through the zone. Swanson will hit, no doubt, and there should be some power as well because of the plus bat speed. The pop may be limited a bit from reaching full potential because of lack of loft in his swing, but doubles will come for sure.

Defensively, Swanson has good hands, arm, range, and overall instincts. While his pure speed and athleticism can't match some other guys like Alcides Escobar or Andrelton Simmons, he can still make plays of their caliber because of his strong fundamentals and quick first step. The little things are very cleanly executed, and he doesn't have any excessive motions on defense. Expect him to be a defensive cornerstone for Atlanta in the years to come. On August 25, against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Swanson made three outstanding plays that many other shortstops might not have made, all in the same game.

On top of being a great ballplayer, Swanson is also an incredibly down-to-earth guy. This interview from his time in short-season A-ball is a must-read.
Combining the bat, glove, and makeup, it's not hard to see why Swanson was ranked as one of the top-20 prospects in the game, and retaining his rookie eligibility, will probably rank higher this year. So where do the doubters come from? Some say that Swanson's lack of top-notch pure athleticism and physical tools will limit his potential. He has a strong arm, but it won't ever be an absolute cannon. He has a nice swing and his bat will play in the bigs, but he also doesn't have the raw power to hit 40 homers annually. And while his defense is plenty solid, he might never be able to catch up to the flashier shortstops in the league. You could say he is a 5-tool player, but none of the 5-tools are elite, making him a sort of better-than-a-jack-of-all-trades, but nonetheless master of none.
Still, Swanson is going to be the face of the Atlanta Braves franchise. His charisma, his play, and his name will draw fans to watch them play in their brand new stadium. While he may never lead the league in homers or win a Gold Glove, he could hit .290 with 20 homers and play very good defense, good enough to be an All-Star and be a top-5 shortstop in this league. No, not all white shortstops with good leadership skills will become Derek Jeter, and it may be a lazy comp, but it could also be the most accurate. Jeter, while never winning any MVPs, was a very good shortstop for a long time. He will definitely be a first ballot Hall-of-Famer despite not having the greatest numbers, because his leadership and being the franchise cornerstone of the dynastic Yankees helped his numbers play up. Swanson could very well be the same for the young Braves team on the rise. When the Braves return to contention in the next few years, watch for Swanson to continue his ascension to becoming one of the MLB's brightest young stars.

Bonus video: 
This is from JustBombsProductions, one of my favorite and most well-made YouTube highlight videos of all time, from Swanson's junior year at Vandy. JBP also makes other college baseball/football videos, so subscribe to them if you're into that kind of stuff!

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