Coming into the 2019 season, no Atlanta Braves player faced more pressure than shortstop Dansby Swanson. Swanson, a former number one pick out of Vanderbilt and a Georgia native, was expected to become an immediate superstar in the Braves rebuild. However, this wasn’t the case as Swanson put together a disappointing rookie year at the plate, followed by a frustrating sophomore season.
Nonetheless, in the early days of the 2019 season, Swanson has been able to silence the critics and start living up to the hype. Swanson has been healthy and confident in his new approach at the plate, resulting in eye-catching numbers. Swanson will look to build off this new found success and continue his impressive start to the season.
Dansby Swanson Looking to Build off Hot Start at the Plate
Healthy at Last
One main question mark that has plagued Swanson is the inability to stay healthy, — with last season being no different. Despite playing 136 games in 2018, Swanson was bothered with a left wrist injury that he aggravated in a frigid April game against the Chicago Cubs. This nagging ailment sidelined him for two weeks in May and then struck again on a rainy September night against the New York Mets. It led to Swanson being excluded from the postseason roster.
In the off-season, Swanson decided to undergo surgery to remove the piece of loose cartilage in his left wrist that pestered him throughout most of 2018. Of course, time will tell, but it appears that the operation might have done the trick for Swanson. He is now hitting with power and finally able to slug the ball to right field without pain.
“The kid is healthy,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He doesn’t have that bothersome wrist he fought all last year. It’s good to see him going the other way…”
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) April 4, 2019
Working with Chipper
After recovering from off-season surgery, Swanson was eager to get back to work this spring. He and Braves legend Chipper Jones worked on his swing and approach at the plate. Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer described the work that Jones did with Swanson as “beautiful” and something that “set the table for me … just to keep it going.”
The idea from Jones was for Swanson to lay off the outside slider and let the ball get deeper in the zone. Their changes aimed at making him more of a “Derek Jeter-like hitter” who will “play pepper with the right-center-field gap and the right fielder”.
So far it appears these changes have benefited Swanson, as he is seeing more pitches per plate appearance than last season, up from 4.02 to 4.11. He is also hitting with an impressive exit velocity of 92.8 mph, which is higher than the MLB average of 89.0 mph. One obviously cannot overlook his .324 average, four home runs, and 15 runs batted in. The power numbers are arguably the most exciting. It wasn’t until June 1 that Swanson hit his fourth home run in 2018, but in 2019 it only took him until April 9th to accomplish this feat.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) April 10, 2019
Can He Keep It Up?
Swanson already has a reputation for being a Gold Glove shortstop and an excellent base runner, but now things are looking much better on the batting forefront in 2019 as well.
There’s still plenty of time for Swanson to hit a skid and return to last year’s struggles, but Dansby will strive to quiet the big question mark looming over his bat and keep producing for this Braves lineup.
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