Atlanta Braves Morning Chop: Mixing, Moving, Mooing

Oct 2, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (5) and second baseman Jace Peterson (8) and shortstop Dansby Swanson (2) pose for a photo after a game against the Detroit Tigers at Turner Field. The Braves defeated the Tigers 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

October is done.  November is upon us.  The 2016 Baseball season will be in the books within the next 40 hours.  Here are some news bits for the Atlanta Braves as we start to look entirely forward to 2017.

First – the ‘Mooing’ part, as somebody actually starts throwing cold water on an Atlanta Braves‘ rookie who has played all of 38 games… and this gets a ‘wow’ from this writer (response to follow):

Dansby Swanson of the Atlanta Braves: Savior or suspect?

CLINTON RIDDLE / MINORLEAGUEBALL.COM (EXCERPTED)

However, let’s not get the wrong idea about Swanson. Is he a valuable addition to the Braves’ lineup? Yes, but at this point it isn’t saying a whole lot. Does he have All-Star potential? Possibly, but it’s awfully early to be saying for certain.

Is he a fantastic player, fundamentally strong in the field and patient beyond his years at the plate? Yes.

So then, why am I taking a contrary stance concerning Swanson’s future in the ML?

Let’s be clear: I’m not saying that he isn’t going to be an excellent full-timer in the majors. What I am saying is I’m not so sure that he’s going to be a perennial All-Star candidate, as some have stated.

The first, most obvious reason is that it’s way too early to know how he will measure up in the big leagues. That’s a given, so we’ll just consider that a caveat and move on.

Secondly, Swanson doesn’t grade highly in any measurable category beyond batting. There are no aspects of his game that appear weak, but also none that are exceptional.

In 37 games at short for Atlanta, Swanson had 129 fielding chances (44 putouts, 79 assists, 6 errors). Now I won’t say that I expected him to be flawless out there, but if you look deeper, you’ll see what I mean:

Sep 17, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson (2) prepares for a game against the Washington Nationals at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

According to Inside Edge, Swanson made only 2 of 3 plays deemed to be “Unlikely” (that being, played deemed by IE scouts to have a 10-40% chance of being fielded successfully). Out of nine “Remote” chances (10% or less of success), Swanson completed none. Is it fair to even mention such difficult plays in this discussion? Maybe, maybe not, but if a player has descriptors like “dexterity”, “flexibility”, and is said to play the position like a “point guard”, then I say we should expect that much of such a player.

Of course, I’ll grant that it was his first exposure to ML conditions. But if he’s going to be what so many have said he will be, it’s going to have to happen. For now, color me dubious.

Let’s talk about his bat: Swanson has a reputation for making frequent contact, drawing walks and showing generally-sound judgment at the plate. Again, with the understanding that he made the jump from Class-AA in 2016, his contact percentages were more or less in-line with the ML average. For all of the pomp and circumstance placed on his ML debut, we should be expecting a bit more than average.

What also stands out for me is that benefited from a .383 BABIP, which is eighty-three points above ML average and virtually unsustainable for all but the most talented (or very lucky) batters.

Swanson showed an ability to use all fields, with 37.8% of the balls he put in play landing in center field. This is a good sign. He also picked up six infield singles, likely a product of his hustle as well as his above-average-to-plus speed. However, Swanson will be lucky to peak at ML average in terms of power, so most of his XBH are and will be predicated on his base-running ability. He is currently 6’1″, around 190; he is athletic and mobile, but when he starts to lose a step, do you put him at third when he barely has enough arm for short?

Now, am I saying that I don’t think Swanson will be an All-Star in the majors? No.

What I am most definitely saying is this: I don’t think he’s going to become quite the offensive beast that so many are expecting. If he’s less than a solid, consistent player in all aspects of his game, I would be surprised.

But let’s not lay that savior label on him just yet, Braves fans. If you get a dependable, consistent glove man who bats .280, swats 30 doubles and is one of several main cogs in your offensive machine, consider yourselves fortunate to have that.

Sep 27, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson (2) reacts after striking out in the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field. The Braves won 7-6. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Editorial Response to the Previous Opinion

It’s funny how some people seem to be throwing around this ‘Savior’ tag for Swanson… or are they really?

From the same website, here’s an earlier bit from writer Wayne Cavadi:

It was a great night by Swanson, both at the plate and in the field. The biggest takeaway was his makeup. When you watch Swanson there is a confidence about him. It’s not the swagger or ego that many have pinned to Bryce Harper, but it’s almost a feeling of excitement that he knows this the Atlanta Braves have a promising future, and he may just be the leader of that.

… Since his big league promotion, the 22-year old shortstop has been nothing short of amazing. Heading into today’s emotional Turner Field finale, he was slashing .310/.369/.452 behind a nice 112 wRC+.

No mention of a savior… but an impressed writer after one in-person observation.

I’ve actually only found 2 recent references to the term in connection with SwansonHere’s one, from FoxSports:

The homegrown label is important to Hart & Co., but the “hometown savior” dynamic is woven into the fabric of this franchise dating back to the Baby Braves. It is the franchise’s marketing holy grail; the Local Kid Makes Good angle taken to its sporting extreme.

The context here isn’t Swanson, per se, but an idea that the Braves have used for several years:  having a hometown premium player in the mix to help provide community.  The same piece mentioned Swanson in the context of Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann.  Jason Heyward was another in that line..

Obviously, some have worked out better than others.

Even so, Zach Dillard, in that write-up, seems to be apologetic for his use of the ‘Savior’ term as he himself ‘air-quoted’ it.

But here’s the kicker reference, as Mark Bowman and Pat James announced Dansby’s call-up and debut in the majors:

“There’s a lot we like about Dansby,” said John Hart, Atlanta’s president of baseball operations. “We don’t expect him to come up here and be the savior, but we feel like this is an opportunity for us to take a good look and get him some experience up here in the big leagues.”

This would be the opposite of Savior.  And anyone trying to assign such a label is a bit nutty.

There’s a reason that Sports Illustrated covers have a ‘jinx’ associated with them.  It adds unnecessary pressure to an already over-cooked situation:  playing at the top of your profession.

Some make it, some do not.  Jeff Francoeur is one of those flashes in the pan who didn’t blossom as hoped.  Jason Heyward looks to be going down the same road.  Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was once an SI cover boy as the #1 prospect.  The list goes on.

But when evaluating anyone, can’t we evaluate based on what we see – which is obviously a solid body of work in a Small Sample Sized world to this point?

Can we then avoid measuring Swanson (or anyone) against some nebulous, impossible-to-reach “Savior” standard?  Especially when that term seems to be applied or otherwise made up out of whole cloth?

For cryin’ out loud:  baseball is tough enough on its own.  I hope never to be measured against a yardstick of perfection in anything I do.  For I will certainly come up short every single time.

SunTrust Park rendering, via AtlantaBraves.com

SunTrust Park rendering, via AtlantaBraves.com

Braves begin moving into SunTrust Park

RICKY LEROUX / MARIETTA DAILY JOURNAL ONLINE (EXCERPTED)

With the final games of the 2016 season complete, the Atlanta Braves’ move from Turner Field in Atlanta to SunTrust Park in Cobb is underway.

Mike Plant, president of development for the Braves, said moving out of the Atlanta stadium represents the closing of an era for the ballclub.

Plant said the Braves began moving things out of Turner Field on Oct. 3, the day after the final game at Turner Field, and while some of the equipment and other items will be stored in a warehouse for a few months, some are already being delivered to SunTrust Park.

The first game scheduled at SunTrust Park is an exhibition against the New York Yankees on March 31, but Plant said there will be several events at the ballpark and adjacent mixed-use development before that matchup.

“We will have dress rehearsals, but they’re going to be quick, they’re all pretty condensed. When you have the (certificate of occupancy), the main CO that we get at the end of February, and then we’ve got about 30 soft launch events that will take place over that four-, five-week period before we play that first exhibition game,” Plant said.

County Manager David Hankerson, in his monthly update on the stadium’s construction to county commissioners this week, said the stadium is about 83 percent complete.

As is the case with most construction projects as they reach completion, Plant said crews working on SunTrust Park have two different lists of tasks now that the major components of the ballpark have been completed: a noncompliance list and a punch list.

“Maybe one of the better examples [on the noncompliance list] is the eyelets that the backstop net goes in along the lower wall,” Plant said. “Some of the eyelets look like they’re about an inch in circumference and others are a half-inch. They all need to conform to what the spec was, and the spec was an inch so you can get the cable through it. So they have to go back and take those out — the half-inch ones — and put the one-inch ones in.”

Plant said the main drainage system for the field has been installed and two feet of “backfill” material — gravel, sand and dirt — has been spread across the field.

“Now the irrigation system starts to go in. You start raising that field up another almost two feet. We’re at a point now where the field is just absolutely off limits. No one’s even allowed to walk on it at this point because of the work that’s being done on it,” Plant said.

Meanwhile, Plant said more than 60 percent of the stadium’s 41,000 seats have already been installed with most of the regular seats installed by mid-December. The premium seats will be installed in the spring [to avoid issues of winter].

SunTrust Park’s main data room is complete, which includes the servers and other technology that the ballpark’s Wi-Fi, television, telephone and security systems will run through, Plant said.

“That data room’s up and running, so that’s a pretty significant milestone because that all has to be operational by the time we get in there. That’s been on a pretty aggressive schedule,” Plant said.

Next door to the ballpark, in the mixed-use development known as The Battery Atlanta, construction crews are also focusing on interiors in several of the buildings. For example, the five-story retail and residential building on the north side of the site is structurally complete, Plant said.

Additionally, many of the restaurant spaces throughout the Battery have either already been handed over over to their operators or will be handed over soon, Plant added.

On the residential side, Plant said two mock apartments will be ready in the coming weeks ahead of a December pre-leasing period and a March move-in date.

Interior work continues on the nine-story office tower Comcast will occupy, and all of the exterior glass has been installed, Plant said. The 16-story Omni hotel is seeing the structure for a new floor complete about every two weeks, Plant said, putting construction ahead of schedule on both projects.

[ed. note:  The Turner Field lease arrangement ran on a December 31st annual schedule, so the team offices, equipment and everything needs to be out by the end of the year.  Sounds like that was already well underway.

No word on how this move impacts day-to-day team operations, given given that organization meetings in Orlando are complete and no one has mentioned any issues related to that, it would seem that all is running according to plan. ]

Jul 18, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; A general view of the game between the Atlanta Braves and the Chicago Cubs at Turner Field. The Cubs defeated the Braves 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Mixed-use apartment building to go up near SunTrust Park

BECCA J.G. GODWIN / myAJC.COM (EXCERPTED)

Right now, if a metro Atlanta resident said they lived in the Modera apartments, it would only mean that they resided in Morningside.

But in the future, it could also mean they lived in Buckhead. Or Sandy Springs. Or Midtown. Or Vinings.

A national development company, Mill Creek Residential, is in the process of bringing four new Atlanta concepts to fruition. That’s in addition to the already-open Modera Morningsidewhere rent prices range from $1,175 to $3,035.

One of these in-development concepts is Modera Vinings, a mixed-use apartment building with “six stories atop 5,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and a below-grade parking garage,” according to the website.

Part of the Cumberland Improvement District of Cobb County, the community located at 3205 Cumberland Blvd. will be at the start of the Silver Comet Trail and within a few miles of SunTrust Park.

[ Ed. Note:  It appears that a lot of upscale apartments may be competing for the attention of young professionals in the southern Cobb region… and the mention of SunTrust Park here in this announcement is likely not an accident, either, as these are probably intended to compete with the new apartment offerings on the stadium site, as noted previously.

Certainly, growth in Cobb is starting to blossom… which is kinda what the Braves had suggested might start happening with their presence.

Would this specific complex be launching here without the Atlanta Braves’ in the area? Unclear, but it is fair to suggest that for developers looking for a place to build, jumping on this bandwagon makes all of the economic sense in the world for them. ]

This article originally appeared on