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2018 Atlanta Braves Player Review: Dansby Swanson

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Glove good, bat bad.

Atlanta Braves v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

After splashing onto the scene in 2016 as the face of the rebuild at the time, 2017 was the season where things came crashing down to earth for Dansby Swanson. After taking plenty of lumps in 2017, it was expected that Dansby would take those growing pains from that season and turn it into a net positive when it came to growth as a major league ballplayer in 2018.

It’s safe to say that this growth did not occur at the plate. It did happen out on the diamond, as Dansby Swanson emerged as the team’s premier defensive player. He was still scuffling at the plate, but his glove was enough to ensure that he needed to be in the lineup every night. It was that type of year for Dansby.

Bottom line, what did he do in 2018? He still had his fair share of troubles at the plate. You know things are not going well for you with the bat when a slash line of .238/.304/.395 with 80 wRC+ is actually considered to be an improvement over the previous season. The silver lining here is that Swanson is still just 24, so there’s still a decent amount of time to see if he can improve and at least become a league-average hitter instead of being solidly below-average at this point in his career.

But for now, it admittedly was not fun to watch Dansby Swanson flail around at the plate for a big chunk of this season. Anytime he came up with a home run or an extra-base hit, there was more of a sense of relief that he came through instead of it being something that you’d expect to see out of him. It’s pretty evident that Swanson is going to have to work a lot on his approach at the plate, because it’s definitely not a beautiful sight to behold at the moment.

With that being said, he was fantastic in the field. I am well aware that the land of defensive metrics is fraught with landmines, barbed wire and other hazards that could get in the way of properly assessing a player’s defensive contributions, but I’m going to try my best to navigate that dangerous field with all of my limbs intact once I reach the end.

So, according to Baseball Prospectus’s FRAA defensive metric, Swanson was the 9th-best shortstop in all of baseball with an FRAA of 5.4. The much-maligned metrics of DRS and UZR also looked kindly upon Dansby as well, as he finished the year with 10 DRS and a UZR of 5.9.

Now, the reason why defensive metrics are so weird is that they can be all over the place. We all know that Andrelton Simmons is the gold standard of defense and his DRS and UZR bear that out. However, FRAA did not like what Simmons did in 2018 for some reason or another, so this is why one stat is not the be-all/end-all of defensive metrics. With that being said, when everything comes together like it did in Dansby’s case, you can safely say that the Braves have a defensive gem on their hands at the shortstop position.

With that being said, we always have the ol’ trusty eye test to go by. Does he pass the eye test?

You bet he does. So yes, bad offense and great defense basically sums up 2018 for Dansby Swanson.

Will Swanson be on the roster next year? Did you just see that video? He’s going to be around for a while.

What is he going to do next year? The clear and obvious hope is that Dansby can finally put things together at the plate while also continuing to do great things with the glove. If that happens then we’ll see him live up to the expectations that come with being the number one overall pick of a particular draft. That moment may still take a while for him to get there but if it happens in 2019, it’ll be fantastic. If not, then we may have to deal with another year of watching Dansby Swanson continue to make highlight-reel defensive plays while struggling with the bat.

Highlight of 2018: This was the type of play that exemplified Dansby’s season. Yeah, he wasn’t going to give you much at the plate but at the same time, you absolutely had to keep him in the lineup because he could do stuff like this that would help you win a game.

Lowlight of 2018: It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for Dansby in the field, though. He did have this one bummer of a moment where he bobbled what should have been a routine grounder. Instead of locking down the first out of what should have been a close win for the Braves, his error basically helped jump-start a three-run rally for the Rockies and eventually cost Atlanta the win. Hey, nobody’s perfect!