Where Do We Go From Here? Shortstop

Where Do We Go From Here? Shortstop

The Incumbent

Dansby Swanson played 142 games at shortstop for the Braves in 2017, interrupted by a July demotion to AAA Gwinnett, at which point he was hitting .213.  Swanson only got 11 games at AAA (batting .237) before a Johan Camargo knee injury prompted his recall.  He finished 2017 with a batting average of .232, which is pretty much in line with what one would expect from a .261 AA hitter (333 at bats in 2016,) and added a .312 on base percentage and a .324 slugging percentage.

Although Swanson tied with Orlando Arcia of Milwaukee for the National League lead in errors with 20, his career Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games (UZR/150) is calculated as -0.6, which is essentially league average.  His career 0.9 WAR calculation rates somewhere between replacement level and a starter.

His most similar batter through age 23 is – wait for it – Andres Thomas.  (In fairness, Jay Bell is 2nd.)

Still, Swanson showed offensive promise in limited MLB at bats in 2016, and he now has 696 career Major League plate appearances with a .246/.322/.348 career line.  Like any 24 year old, Swanson should continue to develop offensively, and I feel pretty good these career numbers represent his floor.

Others

Johan Camargo was previously discussed in the 3rd base segment of “Where Do We Go From Here.”  He started 23 games at shortstop as well, essentially taking the job when Swanson was sent to AAA.  Camargo’s career hitting numbers mimic Swanson’s, albeit a year behind.  Both posted unremarkable minor league numbers, followed by an initial major league season that sparked optimism (.299/.331/.452 for Camargo, .302/.361/.442  for Swanson.)  In fairness to Camargo, he had just over double the MLB plate appearances in 2017 that Swanson had in 2016, and he also hit well in AAA in 2017.

Second baseman Ozzie Albies is capable of moving back to shortstop if Swanson and Carmargo both implode.

Prospects

The Braves top shortstop prospects are Kevin Maitan, at age 18, the Braves number 5 prospect and 8th rated MLB shortstop prospect according to MLB.com, and Derian Cruz, age 19, the Braves 20th rated prospect.  Hopefully, they are also the Braves top shortstop prospects in 2019.

Free Agents / Trades

The leading free agents are Zack Cozart and Eduardo Nunez.  http://www.spotrac.com/mlb/free-agents/shortstop/

It is unlikely that the Braves will be in the market for a shortstop, either by free agency or by trade.  As a former #1 pick by the Diamondbacks in the amateur draft in 2015, Swanson will undoubtedly be given a long leash, although it will be interesting to see how long that leash is under the new regime, who will not be personally invested in him.  If the Braves do not go with Camargo at 3rd base, there should be a competition in the Spring for the shortstop job.  It is possible that Swanson would benefit from some more time at AAA; I think he would benefit more from seeing more Major League pitching.  Regardless, if Swanson does go back to AAA, if he is any good, he will be back.  It will be a relief in 2018 if we can see from Swanson some empirical evidence to justify the offensive scouting reports.



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