Braves 2021 Player Review: Dansby Swanson

It only seemed fitting that I would take this player review, to be honest.

For anyone who follows me on Twitter, I am an unapologetic Dansby Swanson apologist. To start with, his biological brother is my fraternity brother. I’ve been hearing about Dansby from a proud big brother since he was in middle school, probably. So from the moment he was traded to the Atlanta Braves from the Arizona Diamondbacks, I was a fan.

And frankly, it’s more than a little cool to see a guy that I know grew up in Atlanta as a Braves fan get a chance to win a World Series for HIS team.

In a lot of ways, this year felt like the year we finally saw what Dansby can be offensively. He essentially matched his career slash line, posting a .248/.311/.449, but he hit another gear in terms of power, smashing 27 home runs on the year.

It wouldn’t be a Dansby season without some ups and downs at the plate, though. After putting up a paltry .582 OPS in the first month of the season, he heated up in May, launching six homers in 93 at-bats as part of an .876 OPS. June was back closer to his norm at .707, and then he went for back-to-back solid months of .924 and .898 before slowing down in September.

In the postseason, Swanson continued his slide at the plate through the first two rounds, but an .804 OPS in the World Series was buoyed by a pair of highlight home runs. The first tied Game 4 in the seventh inning before Jorge Soler put the Braves ahead for good with a solo homer of his own, and the second put Atlanta ahead 5-0 and really felt like the finishing blow after Soler sent a ball into literal orbit.

Truthfully, what costs Swanson in the eyes of the fanbase is comparison. Over the history of baseball, having a solid defensive shortstop who can hit .248 with 27 homers would be seen as a huge asset. But Dansby is playing in the midst of a boom period in terms of production at the shortstop position. He ranked 10th among qualified MLB shortstops in OPS despite finishing third in home runs, and his .248 batting average was good for 11th.

In reality, it’s tough to know what to make of Swanson’s future in Atlanta. He was predictably tendered a contract, but he’s entering his last arbitration year – assuming that’s still a thing after the lockout – without a long-term deal. If he has another year like 2021, it’s easy to see where he and the Braves might be able to come to terms on a mutually beneficial deal. But if he’s less productive – or even significantly more productive – the second act of his career will likely take place elsewhere.

20 thoughts on “Braves 2021 Player Review: Dansby Swanson”

  1. I do wonder what the long-term shortstop plan is. I figure they would have locked Swanson up by now if they thought he was the guy, but it’s probably too late for that now. They don’t have any quality near-term shortstop prospects in the system, and good ones don’t get traded. It might have been a good idea to move him this offseason and shoot for one of the FA shortstops, but Seager, Seimen, and Baez are off the board, and Correa is probably too rich for their blood (unless he wants a pillow contract to shake the QO, which seems highly unlikely, and still doesn’t solve the problem beyond 2022). Story? Are they willing to invest that kind of dough with 1B and the outfield still unaccounted for?

    I kind of wonder if they were expecting Shewmake to have grabbed hold of the “SS of the future” mantle. Maybe they’re hoping Grissom is the guy for ‘23 and beyond?

  2. Honestly, I think shortstop is the definition of a problem you don’t have to solve right now. The Braves haven’t rushed to lock Dansby up because he’s constantly flirted with a higher gear but never sustained it. So it totally made sense to just wait and see with him. There are a ton of amazing shortstops right now, and Dansby is merely good: a very nice piece, just not a cornerstone.

    The way things are going now, I see a few possible scenarios:

    1. Dansby finally has the year he’s been threatening to have: he hits the next gear offensively and stays there all year. 150 games, 25 homers, .850 OPS, 3-4 WAR. Serious platform year performance, serious case for a long-term deal. The Braves consider between a Qualifying Offer and a large-dollar deal. He flirts with hitting the market in hopes of an $80 million payday.
    2. Dansby has a Dansby year: up and down, but about 2.0-2.5 WAR at the end of the year. The Braves give him a QO, and he takes it.
    3. Dansby has a Bad Dansby year: up and down, with more bad streaks or lost games due to injury, 1.0-1.5 WAR. The Braves don’t give him a QO. He winds up departing on a modest free agent deal, betting on himself to have a better platform year.
  3. Yeah, I can’t really criticize the Braves’ handling of Swanson — he’s always been the sort of good-ish player who was never the problem, so trying to upgrade was never a pressing concern, but also never the kind of foundational piece that justified committing to him long-term. Year-to-year is probably the best way to handle that kind of situation.

    My only real worry is that in 2022 or 2023, he’ll be gone (or bad) and the team will be scrambling around trying minor league filler to man the position. It’s one thing to not necessarily write in permanent ink who your left fielder or fifth starter or eighth inning guy will be in two years, but shortstop seems like a place where you want a more solid plan.

  4. You could do a lot worse than Dansby. Dansby is the epitome of the player you think you could do better than and once he’s gone, you realize how much you miss him. He does everything pretty well, some things better than others. Probably a #5-#10 rated SS fielder, #10-#15 rated SS hitter, excellent speed and baserunning, and his special talent being consistency (i.e. error prevention). He could have a very long productive career doing exactly the same thing every year. And he’s likely to make the Hall of Very Good. If he had a higher OBP and more SBs, he might become Luis Aparicio.

    Seems to have a better chance to become JJ Hardy except with better speed. A lot of people thought Hardy was near the MVP of the Machado-led Orioles.

  5. @5 Does it mean I’m getting old if every time JJ Hardy’s name comes up, I immediately think of “Damn Yankees”?

  6. Here’s a nice 12 minute movie about the Braves winning the WS. Enjoy!
    Got goosebumps all over again.

  7. Wow, did all that really happen? Amazing.

    Speaking of amazing… Buck Showalter in Flushing. Hate to root against him b/c I always liked him. But… he is a Met now.

  8. @9, Buck Showalter was managing in the majors before Sid Slid. Buck Showalter is also younger than Brian Snitker.

  9. Showalter is a hardass and hard to argue that clown show couldn’t use a little professionalizing. But until events prove otherwise, he’s a deck chair, the club is the Titanic, and Alderson and Cohen are the iceberg. (I think that makes Francisco Lindor Jack Dawson.)

  10. @12 If Linder is Jack, does that mean he’ll stand on the front edge of the Mets dugout yelling “I’m the King of Queens!”?

  11. I’m glad Buck’s back in NYC. He always sounded like the football & baseball coaches I grew up with, similar cadence, good storyteller.

    Back in his days as the Yankees manager, he was really entertaining doing radio interviews on WFAN & he was one of the only people I ever heard on NYC radio who grew up on SEC football. As a kid, his dad took him to games in Tuscaloosa during Bryant’s time. Great stories there… and, of course, he played baseball at Mississippi St.

    This is an engaging MLB Network special on him from about 6/7 years ago when he was still the O’s manager:

  12. I was talking to a Mets fan buddy the other day, and referring to Buck, he had a lot of the same things to say: he’s a placeholder, he’s a safe hire, boring, etc.

    It’s so interesting to see how differently Mets and Braves fans look at this. Managers aren’t there to entertain, to provide sound bites, or introduce some revolutionary strategy. They’re there to support the players, execute the strategy the FO and he agrees on, and stay out of the headlines. Buck might be their first good manager in a long time.

  13. @17 I think he simply thinks more of the manager role than we do. Snit does a great job of staying the heck out of the way, as he should.

  14. @18 He did a much better job as the season wore on with that and I think the results showed well when he backed even farther out of the way

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