The Face of Atlanta, right? The Savior. The cure of the rebuild. The Commodore that will bring us back to prominence. Wait, he was promoted after 377 PAs above A-ball? And those PAs included a triple slash of .261/.342/.402? That can’t be right.
Could there be a single player that best personifies how uncertain the 2018 season is? The projections are all over the place from fans, analysts, Vegas, etc. And from the fan perspective, it probably says more about who you are than anything when you look at the season itself. And with Dansby, it’s not much different. All told last year, Dansby limped to a 0.1 fWAR in an almost full season of 144 games and 551 PAs. I think we all, Dansby included, wish we could forget his season ever existd. The season started with Dansby appearing on GIFs, TV commercials, random promotional materials, and just about everywhere else the Braves could use his lovely locks and boyish good looks to promote their new stadium. And it may have worked, but just not for the player. It’s hard to put yourself in the shoes of a 23-year old, but could you imagine being in such a spotlight having accomplished what was tangibly a small resume of professional success?
Looking back, it’s not surprising to see how things went. He struggled with mechanical adjustments. His back leg, even as of this Spring Training, still flies back when he swings. He kicked in the field (20 errors for a .965 fielding percentage). He didn’t steal many bases (3 stolen bases in 6 chances). His .232/.312/.324 triple slash is not unpredictable for a 23-year old rookie, but I think we all hoped for more. The Braves certainly did, and they sent him down in July to work on his swing. But like Jeff Francoeur‘s demotion, who was another local hero with a million dollar smile, Swanson’s demotion didn’t last long after Johan Camargo tripped taking the field and turned his ankle. When you consider how Dansby’s season went and the benefit he could have had for a little more time at AAA, wasn’t that just his luck?
But the talent is there, so it’s no surprise that the projection systems like him to improve his showing. Depth Charts sees a 1.5 fWAR season, Steamer is at 1.3, ZiPS 1.7, and Fans is the most optimistic with a 2.6 fWAR season. So what is a realistic but optimistic season outlook for Dansby? How about Brandon Crawford‘s 2017 season: .253/.305/.403 for a 86 wRC+, above average defense, minimal stolen bases, which brings you to a nice, round 2.0 fWAR. What if he hits .300/.349/.427, steals 22 bases in 30 chances, and plays average defense? Then you’d have Jean Segura‘s 2017 season, good for a 2.9 fWAR production. Would anyone be disappointed to see the difference split? If he could put in a 2 fWAR season along with Ender Inciarte‘s typical 3 fWAR season, that will certainly be more than what Shelby Miller will accomplish this year. It may not ever be enough in some people’s eyes (hey, coop!), but if Dansby Swanson can put up a career similar to Jeff Blauser‘s (19.7 career fWAR with a short peak), I think we can all be happy. After all, isn’t he adorable?