NEW YORK — The ease-him-into-it stage is over for Braves rookie Dansby Swanson, who’s handling the play-every-day part much as he has everything else at the outset of his career. Successfully and with aplomb.
After resting him in five of Swanson’s first 18 games, including against some of the tougher pitchers in that span, Snitker penciled him in the lineup for the 13th consecutive game Tuesday night against the Mets.
In 12 consecutive starts Swanson hit .400 (16-for-40) with three doubles, two homers and 10 RBIs, raising his overall average to .305 with a .358 OBP and .451 slugging percentage in 27 major league games. In Monday’s 7-3 series-opening win at Citi Field, he had three hits and three RBIs, including two hits against ace Noah Syndergaard.
“It’s always awesome to be able to play against these (top pitchers),” said Swanson, 22. “It’s always going to be a challenge; it’s going to be battle ever time out against them. He’s got electric stuff – really, really good stuff. But I thought we did a good job of putting together some good at-bats tonight off of him.”
Snitker wasn’t surprised by what Swanson said about facing top pitchers.
“I’m sure,” he said. “I mean, he’s one of those guys who raises his game. He’s had good at-bats. Really good at-bats. That was the whole idea of why we wanted him here. Go through this experience now, get to spring training and he’s not going to be in awe of anything. He’s going to be ready to go after experiencing this. He’s going to know what to expect.
“He’s going to go into spring training aware of the speed of the game, the competition. It’ll be a little jump-start on all these guys he’ll face next year, too. So it’s all been good.”
Because Swanson was only 14 moves removed from college ball and hadn’t played above Double-A before being called to the majors just over a month ago, and because his numbers at Double-A Mississippi were not overwhelming, some wondered if he might struggle initially. He has not.
He’s also thrived batting mostly eighth, a spot that some players dislike because of a perceived lack of good pitches they get with the pitcher batting behind them. Not Swanson, who was in the eighth spot Tuesday for the 21st time, the sixth time in eight games and the third consecutive game.
From the eighth spot he was hitting .342 (25-for-73) with four doubles, two homers, 14 RBIs and a .390 OBP and .479 slugging percentage.
“It’s worked, so we’re going to stay with it for now,” Snitker said. “I could visualize him down the road being like a No. 2 hitter, a guy who could spray the ball around, be a good guy to hit behind Ender (Inciarte), be able to handle the bat.”
Snitker was asked if Swanson had seemed overwhelmed by any aspect of major league life, even briefly.
“Not to me,” said Snitker, 60. “The plays he’s made, how he’s handled himself, the confidence, not in awe of anything. The kid’s handled everything kind of like we thought he would. Just from the short experience I had with him in spring training — when you talk to him, it’s fun to talk to guys like that. I remember when Tommy (Glavine) and (John) Smoltz and those guys were young, you could talk to them. Like (Kent) Mercker and Ave (Steve Avery) and all those guys, you could have a conversation at a young age with those guys. And they were fun to be around.
“He’s like that. He’s fun to talk to, he’s interesting. He’s a good kid.”
Being a star of a national championship team at Vandberbilt, then the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft (by the Diamondbacks) before being traded to his hometown team, some wouldn’t have been surprised if the Marietta native was a bit full of himself or came across that way. But Swanson has not had that air about him whatsoever.
Snitker said he’s glad Jeff Francoeur was with the Braves to talk to Swanson during spring training and during his first weeks in the big leagues, before Francoeur was traded to Florida.
“Jeff had been there, done that, so he could enlighten him on things like that,” Snitker said. “And he was really good about taking him under his wing and talking about things. What a better guy to fall back on than him, who’d been through all that. I said the same things about (Francoeur) 10 years ago. They have the same characteristics.
“I haven’t met (Swanson’s) parents, but I’m sure if I met them I’d know that’s the reason why. They should be commended in how they raised that young man, because he’s a really good kid.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.