Atlanta Braves: Dansby Swanson’s sophomore slump*

While he is still considered a rookie because of his limited at-bats last season, the Atlanta Braves’ Dansby Swanson is going through a horrid sophomore slump.

Being a former number-one pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2015, Dansby Swanson was traded in a multi-player deal centering around pitcher Shelby Miller to the Atlanta Braves before the 2016 season.

In one season with Atlanta, at first glance, you’d think Miller was awful. While his record was a measly 6-17, he had a sparkling ERA of 3.02. He threw over 200 innings for the first time in his career, started 33 games and struck out 171 batters, all while pitching for one of the worst teams in baseball (67-95).

In his one-plus season so far with the Diamondbacks, Miller is an atrocious 5-14 with a 5.78 ERA. In 24 games started, he has given up 147 hits through 123 innings pitched and hasn’t even struck out 100 batters (90 K). Making matters worse, Miller was shut down with a flexor strain and partially torn UCL. He underwent Tommy John surgery on May 10 and is probably done for a significant part of the 2018 season as well.

Making the deal look even worse is that Atlanta received 2016 Gold Glove winner and full-time center fielder Ender Inciarte as well as the young Swanson. (They also received pitcher Aaron Blair.) In his limited action with Atlanta last season, Swanson did not disappoint.

Through 38 games and 129 at-bats last season, Swanson batted .302 with three home runs and 17 RBI. He had seven doubles and one triple among 39 hits, as well as three stolen bases. Another side note that got fans excited was that he only had 129 at-bats for the season, one fewer than the cutoff of 130 that would’ve qualified him as a rookie last season.

We even saw in the offseason that ex-Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart had a feeling Swanson would become the real deal. Via 12up.com, he had this to say about the trade:

“I should have stuck to my gut. My gut the whole time said I shouldn’t move Dansby Swanson. I had to deal with three people above me, which makes it hard to do your job. I pretty much took the blame for a lot of the negatives when it was a group decision, not just a single decision.”

Coming into the season, the sky seemed to be the limit for a player that not only produced in his brief time last season, but was going to be a huge part of an offense that performed very well toward the end of last season. That has not been the case at so far this season.

Through 31 games and 114 at-bats this season, Swanson is batting .167 with two home runs and 8 RBI. He has accounted for only 11 runs and has amassed only 19 hits for the month and a half of play so far. While he struck out 34 times last season, he has already struck out 32 this season.

The only positive of his game from an offensive standpoint are his walks, tying his total already from last season (13). Through 69 games for his career and 243 at-bats, he has a .239 average as well as five home runs and 25 RBI. So what exactly is the problem?

While he is still technically a rookie, I feel it’s a sophomore slump that so many players fall victim to. He played a nice amount of the season last year and needs to see the ball better. The more playing time he has, the more chances he’ll have to come out of it. We saw Michael Conforto last season with the Mets go through a similar slump. While he was sent down and played at an extremely elevated level, it just didn’t seem to click for him at all. While he has been playing fantastic this season, playing time is what these guys need.

For Swanson’s own benefit, he seems to be too good of a player to not find it eventually. While he has done virtually nothing this season, and Atlanta are supposed to be a below average team yet again, maybe a couple of weeks in the minors is something he needs. He is too big a piece of Atlanta’s future to be marched out on a day-to-day basis and not perform.

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