OK, so Dansby Swanson is hitting again. The Atlanta shortstop went 2-for-3 on Saturday and, as The Associated Press dutifully reports, is batting .400 over his last 40 at-bats. But is this just an anomaly? Remember, the ex-Mississippi Braves star hit .302 in 129 MLB at-bats at the end of 2016. He was handed the starting shortstop job to start this season and struggled mightily, so much so that he was sent to the minors in late July. He was only recalled because Johan Camargo, who was playing very well, got hurt. For the year, Swanson is batting .227 with six homers and 42 RBIs. We have seen 13 M-Braves shortstops pass through Trustmark Park these last 13 years on their way to the big leagues, from Luis Hernandez (2005) to Ozzie Albies (2016). The best of the bunch, without question, is Andrelton Simmons, who was traded to the Los Angeles Angels in the fall of 2015. Think the Braves’ brass has any seller’s remorse at this point? They should. Simmons is, of course, a Gold Glove-caliber defensive player who has become an offensive force. He blasted a game-winning homer for the Angels on Saturday, his 14th of the year. He is batting .289 (.342 on-base percentage) with 31 doubles, 60 RBIs and 66 runs for a playoff contender. The players Atlanta got from the Angels in the Simmons trade? Erick Aybar, a veteran shortstop, and prospect pitchers Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis. Swanson hadn’t been acquired from Arizona when the Braves made that deal; Albies, who has since moved to second base, was seen as the shortstop of the future. Aybar was a total flop in his short time in Atlanta, and Ole Miss alum Ellis was shipped out in another trade. Newcomb, the prize of the deal, is 2-7 with a 4.36 ERA for the Braves this season. Swanson, a former No. 1 overall pick, may yet prove to be a solid big league shortstop. But it doesn’t appear that he’ll ever surpass Simmons.
Brian McCann was the first to get the call. It was June 10, 2005, but it seems like yesterday. McCann jumped from the Double-A Mississippi Braves to Atlanta. “He might be there two weeks; he might be there 20 years,” then M-Braves manager Brian Snitker said. McCann got two hits in his debut, homered in his second game and has been in the big leagues ever since. It was exciting. A similar buzz was generated when the likes of Jeff Francoeur, Martin Prado, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Andrelton Simmons and Alex Wood jumped directly from Pearl to The Show. Now it’s Dansby Swanson’s turn. The former No. 1 pick (in the 2015 draft by Arizona) is expected to make his Atlanta debut at shortstop tonight at Turner Field. If you’re a Braves fan, you’ll be watching. Swanson can play the game. As one MLB Network analyst said recently, he’s not an “aircraft carrier.” But, in the mold of a Martin Prado, he can do a lot of things to win games, something the Braves need help with. Swanson hit .261 with eight homers, 45 RBIs and six steals during his too-short time with the M-Braves. He is smooth on defense. Atlanta might be a couple of years away from contending again, but Swanson, like McCann in his day, is a key building block going forward. … Meanwhile, the team Swanson left behind starts a homestand tonight bearing down on a second-half title in the Southern League South. Swanson’s departure could be a tough break for the M-Braves, reminiscent of the time (1987) when the New York Mets took Gregg Jefferies from the Jackson club just before the Texas League postseason. But the M-Braves still have the player who might fit the bill as their “aircraft carrier.” Outfielder Dustin Peterson, who has been in Pearl all season, is a legit league MVP candidate, batting .292 (.450 slugging percentage) with 11 homers and 81 RBIs. P.S. Kade Scivicque, the ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College standout picked up by Atlanta in the Erick Aybar trade, is a nice addition to the system. A solid defensive catcher with a good bat, Scivicque was playing at high Class A Lakeland for Detroit and should be ready for Double-A soon.
Well, that worked out nicely. Atlanta reunited infield prospects Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies on Thursday, and the pair combined for seven hits to spark the Double-A Mississippi Braves to a 6-5 win at Jackson (Tenn.). Swanson, the Braves’ No. 1 prospect (as rated by mlb.com), played shortstop and hit third. Albies, the No. 3 prospect, played second base and hit leadoff. The two, both shortstops by trade, had played in tandem in big league spring training games, one at short and the other at second. Albies, only 19, began the season as the M-Braves’ shortstop and batted .369 before he was promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett in late April. Swanson, who started the year at Class A Carolina, moved to Mississippi when Albies left. After a hot start at Gwinnett, Albies cooled off and was hitting .248 through Wednesday. With a 3-for-5 on Thursday, he picked right up where he left off. Swanson, who started hot with the M-Braves, had seen his average drop to .235 before a recent surge. He is now at .267, having hit .385 over his last 10, including the four-hit game on Thursday. They may be the middle infield of the future in Atlanta but for now Albies and Swanson have brightened the outlook for the M-Braves in the second half of the Southern League season. The club is 4-3 and in first place in the South Division. P.S. The third shortstop prospect on the Mississippi roster, No. 24 Johan Camargo, played third base on Thursday and went 1-for-3. He is hitting .254 with four homers and 22 RBIs while playing mostly second base.
He is listed at 6 feet 1, 190 pounds but looks smaller out on the field. Dansby Swanson is batting .292 with a homer, seven RBIs and six runs – and two errors at shortstop — in his first 11 Double-A games. Nice numbers but nothing to drop your jaw. Then again, there is more to Swanson than what personal stats can tell you. The No. 1 overall draft pick from 2015, who is now the top prospect in Atlanta’s system, is said to be dripping in intangibles. His coach at Vanderbilt, Tim Corbin, described him this way: “Dansby is a rare talent … he affects the game in so many different ways, whether it’s physically on the field or in the clubhouse. Plain and simple, he’s a winning baseball player.” Mississippi Braves hitting coach Garey Ingram recently echoed that sentiment. “He’s a ballplayer, man,” Ingram told milb.com. “You haven’t seen the depth of this guy.” Alas, Swanson may not stay with the M-Braves long enough for fans at Trustmark Park to see an impact on the club. He is only 22 and has played just 54 professional games, but the woeful big Braves need help — and something to get Atlanta fans jazzed about 2017 when the team moves to the new ballpark. The M-Braves (14-19) do have some talent around Swanson, who replaced Ozzie Albies on the roster on April 30. Johan Camargo is batting .272 with 16 runs in 31 games, and Dustin Peterson is at .262 with four homers and 19 RBIs. Starters Chris Ellis, the ex-Ole Miss star, and Brandon Barker are a combined 8-1 with a sub-1.70 ERA. It’s a team that could make a move in the standings if Swanson sticks around.
Mondays are typically a slow night at Trustmark Park in Pearl. May 9 could be – should be – different. Dansby Swanson, the former No. 1 overall pick and one of the top prospects in all of baseball, has been promoted to the Double-A Mississippi Braves, whose next home game is May 9 against Mobile. Swanson, a shortstop acquired by Atlanta from Arizona in the Shelby Miller deal, was batting .333 with a homer, 10 RBIs, 12 doubles and seven steals at Class A Carolina. He is expected to make his M-Braves debut tonight at Jacksonville. In a corresponding move, the Braves promoted Ozzie Albies, another shortstop prospect, to Triple-A Gwinnett. Albies was batting .369 for the M-Braves.
When the Mississippi Braves open the 2016 season on April 7 at Trustmark Park, keep an eye on the shortstop. He’s a heckuva player. As of today, we have no clear indication who the shortstop for the Double-A club will be, but we do know that he’s a heckuva player. It might be Dansby Swanson, Atlanta’s No. 1 prospect. First pick in the 2015 MLB draft by Arizona. Former All-SEC star and College World Series MVP at Vanderbilt. But Swanson, 22, played in short-season Class A last year, and even though he has played a lot – and well — for the big league club in spring training, Braves brass might opt to start him in A-ball. So … the M-Braves’ shortstop might be Ozzie Albies, rated Atlanta’s No. 3 prospect on the mlb.com chart. The Curacao native, who also has been impressive in big league camp, played at low-A Rome in 2015. A switch-hitter, he batted .310 with eight triples and 29 steals. And yes, he can pick it. But Albies is only 19, and the Braves might be considering shifting him to second base. It’s possible he’ll start the year at high-A Carolina. So … the M-Braves’ shortstop might be Johan Camargo. The Panama native doesn’t get the kind of attention lavished on Swanson and Albies, but he’s certainly no slouch. Rated the No. 25 Atlanta prospect, the switch-hitting Camargo, 22, batted .258 with six triples, 32 RBIs and 50 runs for the Carolina Mudcats in 2015. He was a Carolina League midseason and end-of-year All-Star and was selected for the Arizona Fall League. So … it might be Swanson … could be Albies … maybe Camargo. However it shakes out, the guy at shortstop on April 7 will be worth watching. P.S. The M-Braves have had a succession of quality shortstops, including Luis Hernandez, Yunel Escobar, Diory Hernandez, Brandon Hicks, Brent Lillibridge, Tyler Pastornicky, Andrelton Simmons, Ed Lucas and Daniel Castro, all of whom have played in the big leagues.