Since his demotion to the minors, Dansby Swanson‘s bat has been slow to come around. Through his first eight games, he was 6-for-30 with no extra-base hits, four walks, and seven strikeouts. On Sunday night, the Gwinnett Braves tried something new – they gave him his first game away from shortstop. Not to be the DH, but to play second base – something he had yet to do professionally. Swanson responded with his first multi-hit game and went 2-for-3 with a home run, two walks, and a strikeout. On Monday night, Swanson again was at shortstop.
Naturally, it got people talking.
Let’s have a discussion: Why is Dansby getting time at 2B? #Braves
— Ryan Cothran (@baldheaded1der) August 7, 2017
Let’s go into some of the theories and how likely they are. And I’ll leave out my ridiculous theory that Damon Berryhill, Gwinnett’s manager, needs a second baseman for his Triple-A fantasy roster. Though, if I were a manager – and that probably should never happen – I’d use Ronald Acuna at catcher for five games. It’ll be good for him. And for my Triple-A roster, The Jack Slugbauers.
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Theory #1 – Versatility is a Good Thing, Right?
Of all the theories we can discuss, this one has the highest likelihood of being true. Why not play Swanson at second base here-and-there? It improves his comfortability at the position, helps his trade value, keeps Atlanta’s options open, and more. And there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, Swanson was an All-SEC second baseman at Vanderbilt before moving across the bag his junior year. Typically, though, top prospects don’t move around unless that’s part of their game (i.e. a super utility player) or the organization has a bigger – possibly permanent – move in mind. That may not be what is happening here, but this article would be extra small if we limited it to the most likely reason.
Theory #2 – The Braves have soured on Swanson’s defense
Swanson committed a decent amount of errors and they all seemed like they came back to haunt the Braves – like every mistake the Braves have made this year. Of his 14 errors in 785.1 innings, nine were fielding while the other handful were throwing. If you care about errors, that might be a problem. I, personally, don’t. Errors are subjective and too often depend on whether you are playing at home or on the road. With that in mind, the advanced metrics aren’t glowing for Swanson – nor are they damning. He carried a 0.0 UZR (or -0.6 UZR/150) before his demotion with one defensive run saved (DRS). His range was okay both in terms of RZR, RangR, and the Inside Edge Fielding stats – all numbers that gauge range. So, while the errors are what we remember, Swanson was not a bad option at shortstop and I have a tough time believing the Braves don’t feel Swanson can play a decent shortstop moving forward. He’s unlikely to win many awards, but he shouldn’t embarrass you, either.
Theory #3 – The Braves want to flip-flop Ozzie Albies and Swanson
This…could be possible. When Albies was promoted, I was flabbergasted by the Braves push to use Brandon Phillips at third base while using Johan Camargo at shortstop full time. The simpler idea, in my mind, was to move Albies to shortstop, where he has a wealth of experience at. The Braves didn’t concur and oddly, Phillips looks like the next incarnation of Brooks Robinson so far at the Hot Corner so what do I know? But will the Braves consider flipping Albies and Swanson anyway?
This one goes back to why the Braves chose Albies at second and Swanson at shortstop in the first place. The Braves believed Swanson’s defensive skills were just a bit higher overall. That didn’t stop the Braves from continuing to give Albies time at shortstop this season, though. The Braves could have changed their mind and right now are keeping Albies at second to not put too much on him right after his promotion to the majors. I’m of the belief that Swanson is better, but it’s close and Albies is plenty capable of playing shortstop. Whatever the arrangement really doesn’t matter all that much to me.
Theory #4 – The Braves Are Trying to Jumpstart Dansby
The Braves put a lot on Swanson even before the first pitch of the 2017 season was delivered. They scheduled much of their ad campaign around him, were ready to push him heavy as a Rookie of the Year candidate, filmed many vignettes, and basically tried to make Swanson their crowned jewel as SunTrust Park opened. Oh, sure, Freddie Freeman is still the face of the team, but Swanson was going to be one of the game’s young and charismatic figures. And then, the season happened.
The Braves stuck with Swanson for a long time and for much of that time, he was handling the adversity well. But over the final weeks before his demotion, he was starting to show it. The season from hell was finally getting to him and why wouldn’t it? Now, in the minors, they can turn off the spotlight and let him do his thing. A move to second base might take even more stress off.
Theory #5 – With the emergence of Camargo, could Swanson be the utility guy now?
What do you think? Are there any deeper reasons for Swanson playing second base beyond just versatility and keeping him fresh at the position should he need to play it for any reason?