When the Braves made the trade to acquire Dansby Swanson from the D-backs, the hope was that he'd eventually be the everyday shortstop in Atlanta. With the trade of Erick Aybar to the Tigers on Tuesday, Braves fans will get the chance to see what that looks like for the rest of the 2016 season.
By now, most know Swanson's story: the 2015 No. 1 pick, and Atlanta-area native, traded by Arizona for Shelby Miller over the offseason, a transaction not previously seen since draftees weren't allowed to be dealt so soon after the Draft until this past offseason. The No. 5 prospect in baseball began the year in the Class A Advanced Carolina League, but he earned a bump up to Double-A after hitting .333/.441/.526 in 21 games.
The Southern League has been a bit tougher for the former Vanderbilt star. The 22-year-old has held his own, with a .261/.342/.402 line in 333 at-bats, but those numbers don't jump off the page, perhaps as some expected to see. Swanson has still shown all of the tools that made him the top player in the 2015 Draft, with some extra-base pop, basestealing ability, solid defense at shortstop and outstanding leadership skills. The Braves were so sure of his skills at the premium position that they moved their other top shortstop prospect, Ozzie Albies, to second when the two started playing together at Double-A Mississippi.
The one thing Swanson won't be upon his arrival is overwhelmed. Swanson has excelled on large stages before, particularly the College World Series, so there won't be any deer-in-the-headlights moments. He'll play a very solid and heady defense, and it won't take long to become a general of the infield.
At the plate, it would be unfair to expect too much from Swanson right out of the gate. There is little question he'll be a major offensive contributor long-term. Swanson has maintained an advanced approach at the plate all season, showing an ability to work counts, even when he wasn't swinging the bat as well with Mississippi. That should serve him well as he makes the double-jump to the big leagues, as his on-base skills, combined with his speed, should allow him to help the Braves' offense, currently 11th in the National League in OBP. It might not happen right away, but Swanson should hit for average and even approach Major League average power in the future.
Alex Bregman, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 Draft, beat Swanson to the big leagues with Houston by about three weeks. It's worth noting that while Bregman pretty much raked at two stops in the Minors before getting called up, he had trouble adjusting to the highest level before starting to get his feet under him. He had the added variable of his Astros team hanging around the American League Wild Card race. That's not an issue for Swanson this year, so he will be able to get a feel for what it's like to be an everyday big leaguer without that kind of pressure to perform.
Being the former No. 1 pick, not to mention one traded before he had even played a full season of pro ball, should provide enough of a spotlight. Knowing Swanson, even if he scuffles at first, he'll respond to that attention by finding ways to help the Braves win games.