The 2017 and 2018 seasons were not particularly kind to Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson. The former No. 1 overall draft pick struggled to stick his landing at the plate after a solid 38-game debut in 2016 (107 wRC+), finishing with wRC+ marks of 64 and 80 respectively. This offensive stagnation was exacerbated by Alex Bregman, the man chosen immediately after Swanson as the second pick in the 2015 draft, who had followed up a similarly impressive 2016 start (114 wRC+ in 49 games) with back-to-back breakout seasons that include wRC+ marks of 123 and 157, a World Series victory in 2017, an All-Star appearance, a signature playoff performance (223 wRC+ in 38 plate appearances), and a top-five finish in Most Valuable Player voting in 2018. Swanson may never become as good a player as Bregman, who has become one of baseball’s signature stars. That’s a tough thing to do! However, his 2019 campaign thus far is a step in the right direction, one that could lead him towards the celebrated career he seemed destined for not too long ago.
Through 64 games, Swanson looks like a new hitter. His wRC+ sits at a 104, and each aspect of his .264/.314/.490 slash line represents marked improvements (and career-highs) from the full seasons prior. What has changed?
For starters, Swanson has put a wrist injury that pestered him throughout 2018 in the past. Lance Brozdowski identified some mechanical changes Swanson appeared to have made before last season to the position of his hands and the timing of his front foot placement. His .766 OPS across March and April provided some evidence that these changes may be making a difference for the better before his fateful swing against the New York Mets, which tweaked his wrist and prevented a true sample size from taking a reliable shape. Injuries of any kind are not conducive to peak performance, but given the wrist’s role in the act of swinging a bat, this particular one was likely even less so. Read the rest of this entry »