Dansby Swanson Will Win Rookie of the Year

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There is no question former first overall pick Dansby Swanson is off to a slow start in Atlanta. His abysmal .167 average demonstrates that. However, this may not hinder his ability to win the NL Rookie of the Year award. With little competition among NL rookies, to this point, Swanson may find a highly coveted award falling right into his lap.

Dansby Swanson Will Win Rookie of the Year

Swanson has struggled at the plate in the first two months, and not just with his average. He has already struck out 32 times in only 114 at-bats. He also struck out 34 times in 129 at-bats after being called up for the end of the 2016 season. This is a problem. Swanson is not known for power as a shortstop, which does not follow the current trend of young shortstops such as Corey Seager or Trevor Story. Rather, he should hit for average. Swanson should usually hit around .300, similar to Derek Jeter, to whom many have already compared the rookie.

Not only has Swanson struggled with hitting, he has also committed his fair share of errors (five), which is about average. Playing alongside a great, experienced defensive player in Brandon Phillips will aid this maturation process. A total of 29 double plays, 78 assists, and a .961 FPCT have come from the shortstop already, which is an early bright spot in his rookie season. Due to his lack of offensive production, all he currently has for his ROY bid is his defense. He must perform at a Gold Glove level to earn the hardware.

The Potential

There is no doubting Swanson’s potential or the decision the Arizona Diamondbacks made to draft him with the first pick. There is also no doubting just how successful the Atlanta Braves were with their trade for Swanson. However, the real value from this trade has so far come from center fielder Ender Inciarte. It is tough to judge someone’s potential based on roughly four months of play, but this sample size is enough to determine where Swanson is trending. The trend is a significantly gradual, but positive, uptick.

The Braves have plenty of time and patience to wait for Swanson’s development in the field and at the plate. He will not be sent back to Triple-A Gwinnett; he already has his own bobble head night. If Swanson wants the personal accolades and recognition that come from being Rookie of the Year, he needs to revamp his hitting approach. The only problem with this is that Swanson has little competition for this award, meaning there’s no pressure. Swanson has the speed to steal a handful of bags, and the ability hit for .300 and win a Gold Glove, but he must dig himself out of this hole.

The Fix

If anyone has watched Swanson for an extended period of time, they will notice two things. First, he is an elite defender, specifically at a deep shortstop position. He made a few incredible pick plays and diving grabs in series against Arizona and Washington last season. Second, they will notice that he never swings at the first pitch. Unfortunately, more often that not, this pitch is a strike. If Swanson can start getting ahead in the count, he will not only increase his average, but will not strike out as much. There are many ways to do this i.e., show bunt, actually swing, etc.

Every Braves fan must have some degree of patience, otherwise they would have switched teams by now. The Atlanta faithful will not turn on their future superstar; he is already a fan favorite. It is reasonable to assume that, with a revamped approach, Swanson could end the season with a .250 average, which is not bad. Swanson has been continuously compared to Jeter, who finished his rookie season with that exact average. With an increasing average, Swanson will also move back into his preferred two slot in the batting order, which will create more runs scored and RBI opportunities for his stat line.

The Competition

At the beginning of the season, almost every expert across all outlets chose Swanson as their NL Rookie of the Year Candidate, and the Boston Red Sox Andrew Benintendi as their AL choice. Benintendi has performed far beyond expectations, yet, may not be in pole position because of performances such as that of the New York Yankees Aaron Judge or the inevitable arrival of Chicago White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada. The battle in the NL is not nearly as crowded.

San Diego’s Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot are being considered for the award already, as well as the Pittsburgh Pirates Tyler Glasnow. All of these players, including Swanson, have been mind-numbingly average. Renfroe is hitting .209 with five home runs, while his teammate Margot owns a .266 average with 12 runs scored and only three home runs. Glasnow has an ERA of 7.98 and a WHIP of 2.02. While these stats are not awful, they are well below industry average.

Perhaps someone such as Lucas Giolito could be called up by the White Sox and win the award, but they do not have a reason to rush his development yet. None of these rookies, or other eligible players not mentioned, are running away with the award. It is safe to say Judge and Benintendi have the best chance in the AL, but the NL award is totally up for grabs.

The Outcome

While only a few months have passed, early season trends tend to remain true. With nobody running away with the award yet, an early season favorite could be named winner simply based on name recognition. Swanson already has that going for him. The Braves seem adamant to start Swanson as their everyday shortstop, only giving him regular rest like every player deserves. This gives Swanson a chance to prove his worth on a daily basis, creating more opportunities to put himself in the spot light. He already bagged the Braves first walk-off win at Suntrust park with a single, but one clutch performance is not enough to merit a Rookie of the Year award.

Swanson must increase his average, decrease his strikeout rate, and continue to turn double plays alongside Phillips. In doing so, Swanson will find himself back in the two spot ahead of an MVP candidate Freddie Freeman. Batting ahead of such a great hitter will give Swanson a good bit of runs to add to his name and more base stealing opportunities. If Swanson can turn out an average season, his name recognition alone will earn him the honor. All the tools and resources are there for Dansby Swanson to win NL Rookie of the Year. The Braves need him to improve far more than his status for the award does.

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