PHOENIX – The move that once seemed so improbable is now a reality: Struggling Braves rookie Dansby Swanson has been sent to Triple-A.
Swanson, batting .214 with six home runs and a .599 OPS in 95 games, was informed after the Braves’ series finale Wednesday at Arizona that he would be optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett.
The Braves also optioned pitcher Aaron Blair to Gwinnett after he started and took the loss Wednesday. Corresponding moves will be announced before the Braves’ series opener Friday at Philadelphia.
It will be the first Triple-A experience for Swanson, 23, who was called up directly from Double-A last in August 2016 and enjoyed immediate success, batting .302 with a .361 on-base percentage in 38 major league games.
He had only 127 games in the minor leagues, but expectations soared due to his early results, his lofty prospect ranking -- as high as No. 2 in baseball according to some experts -- and his presence at the center of so many Braves marketing campaigns.
Some Braves coaches and team officials warned that Swanson would experience the inevitable struggles that virtually every rookie does, but his slumps this season reached the point that something needed to be done, particularly given the emergence of versatile rookie infielder Johan Camargo.
Before getting two hits Wednesday against the Diamondbacks, the organization that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2015 out of Vanderbilt University, Swanson was 1-for-29 in his past 12 games and had lost considerable playing time to hot-hitting Camargo.
Swanson hit .185 with a .559 OPS in 178 at-bats over his first 50 games through May 31, then warmed up with a .333 average, .827 OPS and only 12 strikeouts in 87 at-bats over his next 24 games through June 25.
But just when it appeared he’d righted his season, he went into another, even worse tailspin that saw him hit .119 with six walks, 22 strikeouts and a .386 OPS in his past 21 games, his ongoing struggle to hit sliders (4-for-55 this season) becoming ever more glaring.
Camargo started nine of the past 18 games at shortstop including three in a row before Swanson got a start Wednesday against left-hander Patrick Corbin in what was to be his final game before the demotion to Triple-A.
Swanson has hit .258 with a .769 OPS in 69 plate appearances against lefties this season, and just .202 with a .559 OPS in 293 PAs against right-handers.
The Braves had been hesitant to demote Swanson despite his struggles, since the high-profile Marietta native remains a big part of their future plans and the Braves value the intangibles he brings to the team including the positive effect they believe he’s had in pushing Camargo.
But with his playing time recently reduced, the Braves decided that sending the popular rookie down had become the prudent decision and best course for Swanson, who needs to play every day and regain confidence at the plate.
The Braves acquired Swanson along with center fielder Ender Inciarte and Blair in a December 2015 trade that sent pitcher Shelby Miller to the Diamondbacks.
Swanson was viewed until recently as the primary reason that trade was hugely one-sided in favor of the Braves, but Inciarte won his first Gold Glove in 2016 and made the National League All-Star team this season.