2017 was essentially a lost season for the Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson.
After a successful cup of coffee in late 2016, the hype machine for former #1 pick, Dansby Swanson, went into overdrive. A small sample size of 129 AB was taken as the gospel, and he was considered as an early candidate for 2017 NL Rookie of the Year. The marketing department of the Atlanta Braves made the ill-advised decision to tout Swanson as one of the new faces of the franchise. The local-kid-comes-home narrative was there at every turn.
Once the season started, the wheels came off as he entered the first prolonged slump of his career. Through the end of April, his BB%-K% rate was an ugly 5.3%-25.3%. Though he was still making decent contact, even his hard-hit balls were finding their way into defenders’ gloves, evidenced by his .188 BABIP. He was bound to turn things around; except he didn’t.
His struggles persisted, and he began pressing, trying to do too much to right the ship. The pressure began to weigh on him, and his confidence was visibly affected. He was gradually exploited by sliders, and he started chasing balls out of the zone.
His defense, which had been serviceable throughout his career, began to suffer as well. Routine plays were botched, and errant throws became commonplace. To put it simply, he looked lost. Something had to give for him and the Atlanta Braves.
By the time he was finally demoted on 7/26, he had limped to a .213/.287/.312 slash line with a pitiful 52 wRC+. The emergence of Johan Camargo had increased the frequency which Swanson found himself on the bench. Ironically, it was Camargo’s freak injury that allowed for Swanson’s return after 11 games in AAA.
While his stint in Gwinnett was short, Swanson noted at the time that his demotion offered a “new perspective, just able to…slow everything down a little bit better,” and it showed. His first month back saw his alter his batting stance, allowing him to drive the ball with more authority, resulting in a hard contact rate of 31.7% – just a hair off the 34.7% rate he posted in 2016. His defensive prowess returned, possibly in part playing alongside recently promoted middle infield mate Ozzie Albies.
But in the three weeks that followed, Swanson fell back into some of his habits from earlier in the season, striking out in nearly ¼ of his plate appearances, and posting a .471 OPS.