The Break Out: Atlanta Braves

Once upon a time the baseball world was set a buzz as the Atlanta Braves promoted their Georgia-born top prospect to the bigs and he proceeded to handle the transition about as well as anyone. Dansby Swanson’s defensive prowess at shortstop was a given from day one, but he impressed many with how he handled himself at the plate. In 48 games as a 22 year old rookie, Swanson batted over .300 and flashed a power tool previously unbeknownst to many, to the tune of a .442 slugging percentage. He seemed poised to take his place at the helm of a new wave of shortstop talents ushering in a golden age at the position.

Since that time in 2016, Swanson has underwhelmed a lot of people. Granted it’s in large part to the incredibly lofty expectations he had been saddled with. But since cracking the lineup as the Braves’ every day shortstop, his slash line reads just .235/.308/.359. The saving grace for Dansby has been his status as a plus defender, with a top 5 finish at his position in defensive runs saved in the 2018 season.

Since the Braves called up Swanson we’ve witnessed a host of other talents on their roster rise to new heights. His double play partner, Ozzie Albies, took the baseball world by storm in early 2018 with numbers that rivaled then-reigning AL MVP Jose Altuve for the best offensive second baseman in baseball. New top-prospect Ronald Acuna Jr. burst on to the scene and dominated in a major way, earning himself the NL Rookie of the Year nod in 2018 and even a 5% share of the MVP voting. Speaking of MVPs, Freddie Freeman has solidified himself as the Braves’ perennial candidate for the honor, while the front office just landed a former hardware-holder, Josh Donaldson, to man the hot corner. Throw in strong campaigns from the liked of Ender Inciarte, Nick Markakis, Tyler Flowers, and a ton of young yet promising pitchers…and the Braves are fresh off of a campaign that saw them leap up to secure the NL East thrown.

With a host of superstar caliber talent (most of whom are still relatively young with room to grow) Swanson finds himself as the presumed weak point of a formidable lineup. Perception is a funny thing however, and in baseball it means that in an effort to save their best stuff for the real sluggers, pitchers might get a little lazy when dealing with an underachiever like Swanson. This means he’s going to see more pitched to hit than nearly anyone else, and if he can start to build on his offensive approach that’ll lead to a major improvement from him at the dish in 2019.

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