Swanson handling slow start beyond his years

Swanson handling slow start beyond his years

ATLANTA -- After watching Dansby Swanson's batting average drop to .150 with a hitless performance that included a pair of strikeouts in Friday night's loss to the Cardinals, Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer arrived at SunTrust Park early on Saturday to evaluate video of the rookie shortstop's plate appearances.

Along with analyzing swing mechanics, Seitzer wanted to assess both BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) and his personally developed hard-hit outs scoring system to gain a better sense of how much tough luck has played a part in Swanson's rough start to this season.

Swanson owned a .181 BABIP -- the fourth-lowest mark among qualified Major Leaguers -- before he was given both a physical and mental break by being left out of Saturday night's starting lineup. The 23-year-old shortstop has recorded a team-high 10 hard-hit outs per Seitzer's scoring system.

Statcast™ data shows Swanson ranks second on the Braves with 19 balls put in play with an exit velocity of at least 100 mph. But he has recorded just a .474 batting average (9-for-19) in these at-bats. For context, Freddie Freeman (.846; 22-for-26), Tyler Flowers (.833; 10-for-12) and Matt Kemp (.824; 14-for-17) all entered Saturday with a batting average above .800 on balls hit with an exit velocity of at least 100 mph.

"If his BABIP is .260, which is still terrible, and a few of those balls he blistered find holes, he's probably hitting .250 and we ain't talking about it," Seitzer said. "That being said, from a mental standpoint, what a hitter goes through when everything he does right ain't getting him anything, then he starts to try harder.

"That isn't just a young kid at 23, that's veterans at 30 and 35. They just have the ability to keep the perspective a little bit better, but they still try to go through that trying to do more. But the way he's handling it and what he's doing for me is off the charts."

The Braves rushed Swanson to the Majors from the Double-A level last August after totaling just 569 plate appearances in the Minors. He ended up hitting .302 in 38 games for Atlanta, but once opponents gained a better sense of his tendencies, there was an expectation he might struggle during the early portion of this year.

Swanson ties it up with a homer

Needless to say, neither Swanson nor the Braves were expecting this season's first month to be as frustrating as it has been.

But while serving as the Royals' hitting coach through the end of the 2012 season, Seitzer witnessed Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar experience similar growing pains. Three seasons later, that trio helped the Royals win a World Series.

"Where Dansby is at mentally and emotionally as compared to those kids in Kansas City, he may be the best of the lot, just the way he's handling things mentally, emotionally and mechanically," Seitzer said.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.