Posted on July 27, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
At the start of the season, Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson appeared to be one of the favorites for Rookie of the Year in the National League. But the former first overall pick has not lived up to expectations. Now the Braves are choosing to send their struggling rookie back to the minors for more seasoning. Following Wednesday’s loss to the Diamondbacks, the Braves optioned Swanson to triple-A. Infielder Micah Johnson is expected to be called up to take Swanson’s spot on the roster.
This will actually be Swanson’s first taste of triple-A. The Braves promoted him straight from double-A last August, and he hit the ground running. Swanson hit .302 with an OPS of .803 during six weeks in the majors last year, setting up big expectations for him heading into this season. But in what was supposed to be his first full season in the majors, it’s been a struggle for Swanson.
After a dreadful April and a mediocre May, Swanson finally appeared to be turning things around. In June, Swanson hit .306 with an OPS of .774. But he was not able to sustain that success and soon fell into another slump. Since the all-star break, Swanson is just 3 for 25. He’s continued to lose playing time to Johan Camargo, relegating Swanson to a bench role. On the season, Swanson is hitting just .213 with an OPS of .599.
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With Swanson continuing to slump and Camargo earning more and more playing time at shortstop, the Braves decided now was the right time to send Swanson back to the minors. Not only is Swanson unable to help the Braves during his slump, but the club would prefer that he receive regular at-bats. When he returns to triple-A this weekend, Swanson will be able to resume playing every day and continue his development.
Despite the demotion, the Braves still view Swanson as their shortstop of the future. At age 23, the Braves are far from the point of giving up on Swanson. Club officials say they did expect Swanson to experience some growing pains this season. But with his confidence dashed and his playing time dwindling, it got to a point where both Swanson and the team were better off with him in triple-A.
Atlanta is still holding out hope that they can become a relevant part of the playoff race down the stretch. The Braves have lost three of their last 10 games, causing them to fall 8.5 games out of the second wild card spot. But with the Braves clinging to slim hopes of making a late-season run, they need to prioritize winning over development, which was a factor in sending Swanson back to the minors.
In triple-A, Swanson will be able to spend time playing side by side with second baseman Ozzie Albies. Albies is one of Atlanta’s top prospects and is considered the team’s second baseman of the future. The Braves have long term plans for Swanson and Albies to comprise their middle infield for many years to come. Spending time playing together at triple-A could help Swanson and Albies develop chemistry that could use useful in the future.
Of course, whether the Braves remain in contention or not, Swanson is likely to return in September when rosters expand. If all goes well, he’ll have a chance to regain his spot as Atlanta’s every day shortstop. This demotion is likely a minor setback for Swanson, but one that is still disappointing for one of Atlanta’s most promising young players.