Swanson sees last season as growth, not failure
ATLANTA — A l ot has changed for Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson. This time last year, the Marietta native and Marietta High grad had his face all over billboards and on commercials. The 24-year-old was asked to sell SunTrust Park as a hometown hero. On the field, he was hitting second and expected to be part of a contending team.
Swanson’s struggles were well documented, but his potential comeback has been quieter.
“Last season, obviously, wasn’t what I wanted,” he said. “It was tough, but I learned from it. We all struggle at points in our lives. I’m grateful it happened early because you can build off that and learn your lessons and move forward.
“I don’t even look at it as a failure. I look at it as growth.”
The former No. 1 overall pick’s fall from grace is a typical tale. A prospect is hyped up and does not meet initial projections. Pegged by many publications as a potential Rookie of the Year candidate, Swanson hit .185 in April. That prompted Braves manager Brian Snitker to move him down in the lineup in hopes of taking the pressure off.
Swanson took another step back in August and was sent down to Triple-A Gwinnett. He was slightly better once he returned, but he finished the season hitting .232 with a .312 slugging percentage and .324 on-base percentage.
“He isn’t the first, and won’t be the last, to struggle,” Snitker said. “I’ve seen a lot of guys get sent back down and then come up and figure out. This is a very humbling game. He has the tools to make it right going forward.”
Swanson also struggled with his fielding, committing 20 errors in the middle of the Braves’ infield.
“He wants to be good, and he works so hard,” Snitker said. “If nothing, he learned a lot from a tough season. Now, he knows a lot more about what it takes to succeed on this level.”
Braves third base coach Ron Washington wanted Swanson to start his redemption tour with def ense. Washington i s known as an infielder guru from his work as a coach with Oakland and manager for the Texas Rangers.
“I just wanted him to trust himself,” Washington said. “I know he can play, and he knows he can play. Now he just has to go do it. The kid can play shortstop, and he’s going to be a shortstop for a long time to come. I’m around this kid, and I’ve seen his mind work.”
Swanson, to his credit, has remained confident.
“I know I can play the game of baseball,” Swanson said. “Individual stats come and go. The ultimate stat is winning and doing what you can do to win. It can be as simple as being in the right spot at the right time. Maybe it’s moving a guy over. Sometimes it’s giving up an at-bat to get a guy in. That’s always fueled me.”
Swanson’s teammates have noticed that his confidence has not eroded.
“He’s a very mature young man,” first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “Last season was tough, but he never gave up. He always showed up to do his work and was focused. He had a lot put on him, and he didn’t quit when things got rough. That’s what you want to see. It’s important to see how someone handles adversity.”