The Atlanta Braves have been a busy team the past two seasons. While they began their rebuild last season getting rid of the old and bringing in some of the new, they really haven’t been able to reap the rewards of their work, the fruits of their labor if you would. Today it all begins.
Today, Dansby Swanson makes his big league debut. Sure, some of the names they traded for like Matt Wisler, Tyrell Jenkins and Mike Foltynewicz have made their debuts and have had some nice stretches of good starts. But they were never the foundation of what the Braves were building. They were the complimentary pieces to a Braves farm system that has most of its talent deep within the minors.
Today is Dansby Swanson Day and today begins the New Braves Way of baseball.
The Braves true rebuild started with last season’s draft, when they snagged Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka, Austin Riley and Patrick Weigel. The strides those four have made this season give a lot of hope that by 2018, the new SunTrust Park my be hopping with excitement. The Touki Toussaint deal a few weeks later — on his 19th birthday — is proving to be a steal, and although they got Max Fried earlier in the 2015 offseason, he didn’t throw a single pitch in a Braves uniform until 2016. The Braves are just getting to see how exciting a pitcher he can be.
Then came the second of two steals the Braves orchestrated with the Diamondbacks, this one greater than the last. The Braves sent Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier to Arizona for Aaron Blair and Swanson, as well as outfielder Ender Inciarte. Swanson — under the new rules after the Trea Turner debacle — would become the first ever first overall draft pick traded within the same calendar year in which he was drafted. The Diamondbacks, in a win-now mentality, thought they got their No. 2 to their newly signed ace in Zack Greinke. It has been anything but out in the desert.
On the contrary, Swanson has been all that the Braves had hoped he could be. He began the season in High-A with the Carolina Mudcats and it proved too easy for him. He slashed .333/.441/.526 with 12 doubles and seven stolen bases in eight attempts. Most impressively he struck out 13 times and walked 15 times — an astounding 16 percent of the time — in his 93 plate appearances. By April 30th, Swanson was Mississippi bound.
Originally, when Swanson was promoted, so was Ozzie Albies. The organizations former top prospect headed to Triple-A at shortstop while the new No. 1 prospect in the system took over short in Mississippi. By July, they brought Albies back and shifted him to second base, and the two would work side by side in becoming the Braves future double-play combo.
Swanson’s numbers were a bit down compared to his hot start in Carolina, but he found his power stroke hitting 13 doubles and eight home runs in 377 plate appearances, showing that the power surge in his final season at Vanderbilt may in fact be for real. He didn’t look as patient at the plate, striking out nearly 19 percent of the time, seeing his walk rate drop to 9.3 percent, not a terrible number but certainly worth noting the fall off.
For more on Dansby Swanson Day, read my full feature at Minor League Ball by clicking on the link below: