Braves' Dansby Swanson has put last year's struggles behind him

BY Cory McCartney • February 16, 2018

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Last season was a trying one for Dansby Swanson.

If the local product's arrival in 2016 was met with hype -- including digital billboards around the metro Atlanta -- it only fed into the expectations of his first full season in the majors.

It didn't completely go as planned, as the shortstop hit .232/.312/.324 with 66 wRC+ -- 41 below his '16 output -- and committed 20 errors. But as the 24-year-old arrived at spring training early, Swanson did so not dwelling in the past.

He's leaving it there.

"Last year is last year," Swanson said Friday. "Whether I finished strong or not, it doesn't really matter because it's a new year and I'm looking to build off things starting this year. Last year is last year, it's in the past and I've already kind of reflected, and that's by the wayside."

Amid the problems of last season -- which included being sent down to Triple-A with his slash line at .213/.287/.312 and zero wRC+ in 48 July at-bats -- he still managed to return with 127 wRC+ in August and hit .259/.338/.310 in his last 34 games.

"I think everything I would tell him, he'd probably already know after the experience he had last year," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "It's not going to be a bad thing looking back at what he went through last year. He's just one of the million players who have been through that."

Swanson's troubles last season started in the spring when he missed 15 days with a strained right oblique. He's not pointing to it as an excuse, and may have factored into his posting a .194 average 55 games into '17.

"I think it kind of disrupted the good vibes I had going on, because it all started so well," Swanson said. "To have something like that, it was really unexpected. I didn't really handle it mentally as best as I should have. But that's in the past, and I'm looking forward to a healthy [camp] this year."

He's also looking forward to establishing a double-play combination the Braves have hoped would be a mainstay for years to come.

"Honestly, I think the big thing is being able to play with (second baseman) Ozzie (Albies) again," Swanson said. "I think that's a big part and just being able to establish our expectations, our standards of this organization."

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft, Swanson's growing pains were magnified as he'd been ordained as the face of the Braves' future. He may still be that player, but it's not the highs or the lows that his manager is focusing on: it's Swanson's approach to it all.

"Everything that was dealt to him last year, he handled it with a mature look, a mature attitude," Snitker said. "Even when we sent him down, he got it. ... I guarantee you when the year was over and he looked at everything and started thinking about (it), that's part of the growing process of a young player."

Follow Cory McCartney on Twitter @coryjmccartney and Facebook. His books, 'Tales from the Atlanta Braves Dugout: A Collection of the Greatest Braves Stories Ever Told,' and 'The Heisman Trophy: The Story of an American Icon and Its Winners.' are now available.

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