Rob’s 2020 Atlanta Braves Position Player Wildcard – Dansby Swanson

As I’m looking at guys who would be “wildcards” to our season success, I’m looking at guys who could potentially lengthen the list of potentially elite players at that unit. For the bullpen, it was Luke Jackson. On the position player side, it’s Atlanta Braves Dansby Swanson.

Most fans have high expectations for the majority of the lineup. There are expectations that Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, and Freddie Freeman will turn in big years. I think even most fans expect Marcell Ozuna to have a “show me” year akin to Josh Donaldson’s, even though I think most don’t expect quite that level of production. We think the catchers will be serviceable, but not spectacular. And between all of the candidates to man third base and the outfield, probably only Austin Riley is a wildcard to give you a monster year, and after watching 100 or so missed sliders last year, expectations are tempered.

However, Atlanta Braves Dansby Swanson holds a large key to the offense. Dansby has long had the ability to be a middle-of-the-order bat who plays a premium defensive position — and quite well, at that. But the offense hasn’t been there. And it hasn’t befuddled just us; Devan Fink of Fangraphs also noted that Dansby didn’t have the year we all thought he’d have. But he has a different reason: Dansby was unlucky last year, and he probably won’t be this year. His reasoning is sound: Dansby improved his barrel %, exit velo, hard hit %, increased his walk rate, and slightly decreased his strike out rate. If a player does all of that in one year, you’d think there was a significant improvement in his overall stats. Instead, his wRC+ only improved slightly — from 80 in 2018 to 92 in 2019 — and his triple-slash was weighed down heavily from a low BABIP that turned into a low batting average. I couldn’t tell you how a player can suffer from “bad luck” across 545 PAs, but I can tell you that Dansby did.

So at minimum, I think we see Danby’s overall hitting performance look much better on paper. But I’m going to take it a step further into a more subjective territory and say that an emotional player like Dansby will take the improved hitting onto the base paths and into the field, and you should see better defense and baserunning performance as well. And I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that since Dansby is a freak athlete. His sprint speed was third on the team, behind only Billy Hamilton and Acuna, and ahead of notable quick-movers Albies, Ender Inciarte, and Rafael Ortega.

So sadly, you won’t be able to tell anyone you weren’t told Dansby is setup for a big 2020, and that’s why he’s my wildcard position player.

Thanks for reading our piece on Atlanta Braves Dansby Swanson. If you enjoyed this piece, take a look at all of our articles of the 2019 Braves Player Reviews.

Long Live Braves Journal!

45 thoughts on “Rob’s 2020 Atlanta Braves Position Player Wildcard – Dansby Swanson”

  1. Dansby Swanson’s ratings for MLB SS in 2019:
    Average Exit Velo: 6th
    Hard Hit %: 5th
    Barrels per PA: 4th

    He’s a guy that needs a tad more launch angle in his swing and he’ll be a doubles/HR machine. Seriously ready for a breakout.

  2. The thing with Dansby is that he was having that breakout last season before the injury. While I no longer expect him to be a superstar I think he has that 5+ win season in him

  3. Yes, exactly. I’ve always seen Dansby as a Renteria type. That may have been optimistic, but I still think he can be a sort of Mark Loretta — a bunch of 2- and 3-win seasons with occasional spikes.

  4. And he’s essentially been Renteria for the first part of his career: a 1 to 2 WAR player looking like he’ll break out. Renteria started pumping out 4+ WAR seasons on average at age 25, so Dansby would be on that path as well. Renteria went from a 1.7 fWAR season at age 24 to a 6.3 fWAR season at age 25. Not saying Dansby will do that, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that before Edgar Renteria was Edgar Renteria, he was basically Dansby Swanson.

  5. Edgar Renteria was in the majors at a SUPER young age, though, and he was terrific as a 19-year-old rookie (and very solid in the World Series as a 20-year-old, even though his sophomore year was more disappointing overall). He had plenty of the same growing pains that Dansby’s had, but Dans still hasn’t had that first breakout that let the Marlins know that all of Edgar’s talent was there, he just had to harness it.

  6. I’ve been ruined for late teens/early 20’s “breakout” years (thank Heyward and Frenchy), so it was the next 5 years of 1 to 2 WAR production that made me feel like his breakout was at age 25. I wonder how many examples of guys that have 3+ WAR rookie seasons to then have a half decade of mediocre performance followed by a true peak of 4-5 years of All-Star production.

  7. Speaking of guys who have outlier performance at the ends of their careers, I enjoyed marveling at Chipper’s last year: .287/.377/.455 in 488 PAs. 23 doubles, 14 homers, more walks than strikeouts.

    Notable last years:

    Derek Jeter – .256/.304/.313
    Ken Griffey Jr. – .184/.250/.204
    Cal Ripken Jr. – .239/.276/.361
    Mickey Mantle – .237/.385/.398

    My research was all prompted by Chipper retweeting a quote by Mike Schmidt that Schmidt could have played longer, but it would have been for the money. I like that Chipper didn’t play after he was cooked. Makes me appreciate my favorite athlete even more. It obviously helped that during the beginning of the Corona scare, the guy made time to have a conversation with me, sign my ball, shake my hand, and take a picture with me when I was clearly bothering the man. I wanted to care, I really did, but it was Chipper freaking Jones right in front of me. I’ve gotta seize that moment, and then I got out of his hair. Chipper has his skeletons and his transgressions, but as a model hero athlete, he’s one of the best.

  8. I’ve got a really fun idea that I’d like to run by the Braves Journal regulars:

    An Atlanta Braves draft.

    Every Brave that’s played 2 years+ with the team is available and each person will have to draft:
    5 SPs
    8 RPs
    2 Catchers
    1 LFer
    1 CFer
    1 RFer
    1 1B
    1 2B
    1 SS
    1 3B
    4 bench players (2 must have OF positional flexibility with 1 having ability to play CF) , 2 must have IF positional flexibility with 1 ability to play SS).

    Who would be in?

  9. Is this drafted team supposed to be good, or humorous? I, for one, would love to see Ryan Klesko play shortstop and Sid Bream play center field. But I understand that my draft picks might be a taste that only the select few would want to acquire.

  10. Since we’re looking at a drastically shortened season, be sure to look for small sample size outlier years. You may have some players have batting averages and ERAS well north and south of career averages for the season. And you will have really good teams that play .500 ball or so for a stretch and it will cost them a postseason spot because you won’t have as long of a correction period. The Nationals starting 19-31 again would be insurmountable.

    (Who knows how long the season will be. 40 games? 81 games?)

  11. Is this timeline unrealistic? In two weeks, the limit on large crowds is lifted. Teams begin a four week process: one week to report back to Spring Training, two weeks of games (10 games), and then one week to begin the season where it is on the calendar. That would put us at April 30th? Tack on an extra week because of Murphy’s Law: May 7th.

    Is that timeline unrealistic? Why?

  12. Considering that the number of CV cases is still going up, not down, and the experts say it will be awhile…

  13. Klesko anywhere with a glove was an adventure. First time I saw Kyle Schwarber, I thought, “I’ve seen this movie before…” As Ralph Kiner once said of Dave Kingman, “He needs a map & a flashlight to play left field.”

    Here’s something you’ll never do unless you’re experiencing a work-at-home quarantine:
    Watch a DVD box set of the 1975 World Series (Reds/Boston, NBC’s original broadcast).

    It was a gift & I remember thinking, “When am I ever going to watch this?” Now I have my answer… I wouldn’t call it “must-watching for a pandemic,” but hey, gotta eat up time somehow. Plus, it’s instructive to see how quickly the game moved back then, and the players didn’t all look like professional wrestlers. I mean, a guy like Reds lefty Fred Norman wouldn’t make it past Double-A these days – hell, he probably wouldn’t even get drafted.

    FWIW, that’s still the best World Series I ever saw. (It’s very debatable, but I still rate it a tick better than the ’91 WS, mostly for the last 2 games.) As a young Braves fan, I always hated how those Reds used to thrash us, but… man, what a team.

    I also have a sentimental attachment to Game 6 b/c I remember my mother (a Red Sox fan from Hartford, Conn.) coming home very late that night with her purse bursting with loose cash that she won in a bar bet at the Ft. Benning Officer’s Club. When the game went to extras, they quickly drew up a pool & she got “Boston wins, 12 innings.” Thanks, Mr. Fisk.

  14. IMO, I’ve been more disappointed with Swanson’s baserunning, instincts, hustle (not that he doesn’t hustle, but I thought he’d be a maniac ala Rex Hudler or someone like that) and leadership both quiet and vocal.

    He is what he is, probably a .270-.275 14 year future career hitter with modern day slightly below average power and flawed mechanics at times.

    I thought that his intangibles would be MUCH better than what they are. So far.

  15. Klesko and Schwarber were good (bad) but Greg Luzinski was in a league of his own. From Bill James: “Greg Luzinski was the worst outfielder I ever saw, bar none…. [I]n addition to being a big, slow guy, he had no arm at all. He couldn’t throw a ball across a room…. He had dreadful hands, and he had no confidence in his ability to make a play, so he played everything timidly, except the wall, which he seemed to be in denial about. He was always fighting to avoid the sun. He played with his back to center field, sort of officially notifying Maddox that he considered anything hit to his left to be Maddox’s responsibility. If a ball was hit deep, he had no idea whether it was going to hit the wall and come back or not, so he would chase fly balls to the wall, only to see them rocket past him on their way to the infield. Everything hit out there was a surprise to him; nothing was ever easy. It was like having Herman Munster playing left field.” (One of my favorite Bill James quotes ever. From the Historical Abstract.)

  16. Our healthcare workers in many major league cities are already exhausted and we’ve yet to come close to the apex of disease spread. The ban on large gatherings will (or should, anyway) extend significantly beyond the waning of this first wave, if for no other reason than the need to replenish the healthcare workforce and apparatus. I don’t have a number of games to predict, but I am looking forward to my draft this Sunday (Stu, hope you’ll be there) just for the distraction.

  17. @16

    Let me expound. It’s going to be really hard to keep 330M people indoors for a long time. If there are, say, 500K test kits out there in the US (a large sample), and it’s leading experts to believe the infection rate and mortality rates are much lower than expected, it’s going to be hard to keep the large crowd limit. When that happens, I think the major sports are going to start making plans to open back up.

    That’s my rationale for how MLB might become open for business sooner rather than later. So then it becomes about how quickly they’ll get back to work. And my speculation that a 4 week preparation time from that date is seems realistic. I don’t think MLB will not have games a day later than they absolute can. They’ll be rushing to get back as soon as the crowd limit is lifted. I genuinely wonder if these teams can even afford to have a 100 game season.

  18. Braden Shewmake getting some indy ball in:

  19. 28 — Forgive me if this is ignorant, but I legitimately do not understand what you are trying to say in your first paragraph. There is a severe shortage of testing kits and the amount of people infected is undoubtably many times higher than the 16,000+
    confirmed cases. The crisis is getting WORSE, not better, and it’s going to have to get substantially better before they consider starting the season and opening the stadium to crowds.

  20. @32, 18 month is what they’ve been saying here in Europe as well. We’re still just at the beginning and the States are probably even a week or two behind Europe. No baseball or any sports this season it looks like unfortunately. Stay safe all.

  21. Since we know we are at minimum a year from a vaccine (and probably longer), it seems to me the keys to getting somewhat back to normal are: 1) widespread and readily available testing so we know who needs to be quarantined; and 2) effective treatments so that those that test positive and need medical intervention in the vast majority of cases don’t need hospitalization. If both these things can be achieved, then I think there is hope to avoid the yo-yo scenario that the article envisions.

  22. I hope this doesn’t violate the “no politics” rule because there are some very intelligent people on this board, and I’d love to read the discussion.

    Medically, I’m a novice, but my wife is a nurse practitioner, so I tend to lean on her for these things. And she’s in the process of applying to do travel nursing in some the highly affected areas, so her lack of fear about this becoming the worst-case scenario is probably impacting my thinking.

    Are these spikes in infection statistics not largely due to lack of testing? Aren’t we destined to see huge speaks now that test kits are FINALLY being rolled out on a larger scale?

  23. Honestly, I’m a complete ignoramus, too. All I’m doing is reading way too much stuff. There’s probably a best-case scenario here, but the realistic scenario definitely seems to stretch a lot further out.

    At this point, with so many unknowns, I think all we can do is manage our expectations.

  24. Rate this trade:

    ATL trades SS Dansby Swanson, 3B Austin Riley and SP prospect Jasseel De La Cruz to the Chicago Cubs for SS Javier Baez and a B-/B 3B prospect.

  25. The only way to speed things up is for people to stay at home. Folks continuing to celebrate spring break is not helping. As long as it’s not taken seriously by everyone, it will not get contained.

  26. The Wuhan bat
    we’ve already had quite enough of that
    the unused bats in our viewing closet
    this was never the summer plan, was it?

    Rob…kudos to your brave wife, wonderful example.

    See if you can make sense of these numbers from today’s papers. We started late, that’s our problem. Listen to doctors, not politicos. Best to you both.

    The Times has taken down its paywall for its corona coverage, indefinitely.

  27. According to coop
    Dansby Swansong, we’re in the soup
    others see Achilles, Helen on arm
    tearing it up, the hair, the charm.

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