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!