LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – A quick spring-training update on Dansby Swanson, a homegrown talent who shows all the signs of becoming a Franchise Player for the Braves, if he isn’t already.
Watch the shortstop go about business on the field this spring training. Watch him in the clubhouse, where he can be seen each morning reading a book at his locker stall when not chatting with teammates or fulfilling one of a seemingly endless array of interview requests.
Then remember he was still in college 1-1/2 years ago, that he has but 47 days of major league service, that he’s still classified as a rookie after totaling 129 at-bats in 2016 and that he just turned 23 this month.
“Coming in this year and talking to him, you forget that it’s (just) his second year and second spring training,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “We were all impressed with how he handled himself on the field last year in his first spring training. Now in his second spring training, you feel like he’s been out here for a long time. He’s beyond his years.”
Few players have looked as good as Swanson in the first live batting-practice sessions this week. Which isn’t a big deal in and of itself. But his preparation and offseason conditioning are more examples of why the Braves considered him untouchable and let teams know early in the offseason that he wouldn’t be available in a trade for anyone, period.
So is his ability to handle the potentially overwhelming media demands that go with being a big-shot hometown player.
“He’s been in high-profile situation for a while,” Snitker said of Swanson, who went from Marietta High School to accolades at Vanderbilt and the first player taken in the 2015 June draft. “I think he’ll handle it. He gets it. He knows it’s part of it, especially a local guy. I don’t worry about that part of it with him at all.”
As an example, here are answers that Swanson gave in his first interview of spring training last week:
On feeling good about the direction of the franchise: “Just look around — lot of good names, lot of good guys, lot of great teammates. They’re just kind of putting pieces together the way it should be, a lot of people that play the game the right way, which is ultimately the greatest reward playing on a team like this.”
On the Braves adding several more veterans since last season: “Whenever you can have guys around that have experience it does nothing but help. There’s guys in here who’ve been in All-Star games, won Gold Gloves, won Silver Sluggers, a lot of individual talent. With that being said, their experience and willingness to want to form a team and create something special in Atlanta means that much more. It’s going to be a fun year.”
On the benefit of having two months in the major leagues: “Obviously it makes a difference whenever you can get your feet wet a little bit. The biggest thing is getting to know the guys. You’re not just coming in here blind. Knowing some of the personalities on the team, you come in here and it’s kind of like a little reunion. Able to see guys and get back together. It’s cool, it’s neat to be able to form those kinds of bonds and keep that rolling.”
And on whether having veterans around to go to for advice makes a difference: “I think it does. Although I think honestly the biggest difference is just having good people, which is what this organization prides itself on — having good people, not only talented on the field but good character off the field. That’s what this place is, and that’s what everyone kind of emulates. I think that’s the first start in going to where you need to go.”
On being in his second major league spring training: “Being able to experience big-league camp for the amount of time I did last year not only helped me grow as a player but helped me become more comfortable in what I needed to do to get ready for this time this year, to know what to expect and how to handle everything.”
On whether he was nervous coming to major league spring training a year ago: “Maybe anxious, but not nerves. I think there’s always some of that associated with baseball. Even pulling up (on the first day this spring), you get like a little feeling in your stomach. But this year it’s exciting. The great guys we’ve got, the team we’ll be able to put on the field this year, it’s pretty cool.”
On up-the-middle defense including Gold Glove center fielder Ender Inciarte: “Ender is special out there in the outfield. Just things he’s able to track down and getting everybody else in position. That’s something that kind of goes unnoticed is his ability to know a scouting report and read hitters and to put (teammates) in the right position in order to make the play. He’s kind of the captain out there in the outfield and we’ve got a lot of guys in the infield that can do the same thing.
“I don’t think it’s just up the middle. Freddie (Freeman) is one of the best first baseman in the league, Adonis (Garcia) and his growth at third (base) last year, and then you’ve got (Tyler Flowers) and (Kurt) Suzuki behind the dish. Solid players everywhere. Good defense is just the start to win ballgames.”