Dansby Swanson 2.0

Dansby Swanson 2.0

Dansby Swanson is having a rough first full year in the
majors. The former number one overall pick shot up through the minors last
year, some say prematurely, and had quite the impressive 6-week debut with
Atlanta. Combine that solid performance on the field with an already aggressive
marketing campaign featuring him off the field and the 23-year-old started the 2017
season with some lofty expectations.
Unfortunately for Dansby, those expectations proved to be a
bit unrealistic as he struggled basically from day one this year. While there
have been a few fleeting bright spots, overall, it’s been a disappointing season
for the rookie SS and it reached its peak on July 27th when the
Braves demoted Swanson back to AAA Gwinnett. 
These we’re his numbers at the
time of his demotion:
As you can see, while it’s a rough thing to have to go
through, a demotion was certainly warranted. Swanson had produced a -0.4 WAR up
to the point in the season and for the season, had been one of the worst
players in baseball.
But Dansby is a good kid with one of the best attitudes you’ll
ever see on a young player and he took the demotion in stride. Said all the
right things, went down to Gwinnett and got to work. And because baseball is
baseball and weird things happen, Swanson was back in the show not even 2 weeks
later. His replacement, Johan Camargo, was running out to take his position
when he tripped over the first base line, hurting his knee and forcing a trip
to the DL. Once again Swanson found himself in the position he started the season
in, the starting SS in Atlanta.
And it doesn’t look like he has any interest in giving it
up.
Here are his numbers since returning on August 9th:
The production numbers are great obviously but the BB and K
numbers are what jump out to me. When I wrote about Dansby earlier this year I noted
the big red flag in his profile was the amount he strikes out relative to how little
power he produces. A 23% K rate with a sub .100 ISO isn’t a profile that’s
going to work. Not for a player who can’t make up that difference in value with
all worldly defense. Dansby is a solid defender at SS but he needs his bat to
be a valuable player in the majors. And the 14% K rate/.152 ISO he’s run since
being back up looks a lot more like the profile of a solid everyday player, if
not more.
And these numbers aren’t just the result of some better
luck. Dansby is visibly and measurably making better contact. When he was
demoted his Avg Exit Velocity sat at 87 mph. Since he’s been back, that number
is up to 91 mph. That’s a significant jump. And dropping your K rate by over 10% while adding 4 mph to your EV is enough to get my attention. And it’s not just how he’s hitting the ball but where. Swasnon has found the center of the diamond again. Before he was
sent down this was his spray heatmap:
And since he’s been back:
For someone who sees as many sliders on the outside corner
or just off the plate as Swanson does, staying up the middle and not rolling
over those pitchers is paramount to any type of success. Early on in his return, he’s been much more likely to either lay off those pitches all together or hit them where they’re pitched. And the results speak for themselves.
To be clear, this is 55 PA’s worth
of data and 55 PA’s worth of data is in no way conclusive. He could go back to being
the same mess he was before and we could be talking about a profile that doesn’t
work again. But this is all we have to go on at the moment and there at least seems to be some improvements. And not just in the results but in underlying
data as well. We’ll continue to monitor all of this obviously and see where he goes but so
far, it’s encouraging. 

6 Comments

To Chris Chambers

Jul 27 at 11:03 AM

Chambiz,

Dansby has been sent down and my wife is depressed. Upon hearing the bad news she asked me why he was sent down. One of the things I intended on doing was firing a salvo to you today concerning Mr. Swanson. This was prompted by watching the Braves play in Arizona in the MLB 'free' game of the day. We no longer have cable, so have been listening on the radio. The Snakes announcers discussed Dansby at length, saying something about him being "lost" at the plate this year. From what I saw before having the cable jerked it seemed to me that what happened to Dansby is the same kind of thing I've seen in so many young players who are not power hitters; they hit a few balls the chicks love at the beginning of the season and began pulling the ball in lieu of just trying to hit it up the middle, or to the opposite field. That's the "eye test."

I do this thing with young players, thanks to Baseball Reference, a marvel of the world, which is to look at their first 154 games; their 'real' rookie season. I don't use 162 because how many rookies actually play 162? How many others? And 154 was a season 'back in the day.' And with Trumpxon in office, it is too much like being back in the day! I digress…

You cannot judge a young player by his partial season stats. In some cases you cannot even judge a young player on his first full season-take Mike Schmidt for example. I feel strongly that you gotta consider at least a full season. Take Brett Barbarie of the '91 Expos…his slash line (.353/.435/.515), with an OPS+ of 168 in a third of a season suggested all he had to do was play a decade and be a shoo-in for Cooperstown. He came crashing down the next season when he played about two thirds of a season, showing a slash line of (.232/.354/.281), with an OPS+ of only 83. Put the two seasons together and you get (271/.380/.356) with an OPS+ of 110. He only played about three full seasons, finishing with a (.271/.356/.363), and an OPS+ of 93, which is not too bad for a MI in that run scoring environment.

Dansby has yet to play 154 games in The Show but I will hafta go with what he has produced. Although his WAR is slightly above average, his WAA is -1.0, and that is due mainly to his poor offensive showing this year. This is from B-Ref, where is must be noted that his BABIP last year was way above average at .383 (they were 'falling in'). It has fallen to a below average .266 (they have not been 'falling in') this year. Put them together and his .299 is just slightly below MLB average.
Moving on over the Fangraphs we see that his GB/FB, LD%; GB%; FB%; & HR/FB% rates are close to last year. Their is a noticeable difference in his IFFB% and IFH%. There is a HUGE drop on his Pull% from last season, and his Cent% and Oppo% is way down from last year.
This shows my judgment was correct. It is more than a little obvious that Dansby has attempting to be a 'pull' hitter and hit the long ball. His Pull% went from 29.6 to 40.7, which is DEATH to light-hitting MLB middle infielders!

nocaB

While pleased that Dansby is drawing walks, striking out less, hitting the ball the opposite field more…..it would be nice to see some power that results in a few homers a month throughout the season….especially if there's talk of him opening 2018 in the #2 spot of the batting order. Otherwise, The Braves would be wise to keep Swanson in the #8 spot!

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