Dansby Swanson

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James Dansby Swanson

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Biographical Information[edit]

Infielder Dansby Swanson was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 38th round of the 2012 amateur draft but did not sign. Instead he attended Vanderbilt University, where he was named College World Series Most Outstanding Player in 2014 as a sophomore. He played second base that year, but moved to shortstop in 2015. He was considered to be one of the top prospects in the 2015 amateur draft and was taken first overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks. In his junior season, he had hit .348 with 6 triples, 14 homers, 61 RBIs and 15 stolen bases.

It took until ten minutes before the official signing deadline on July 17th for the Diamondbacks and Swanson to come to an agreement on a contract that featured a $6.5 million signing bonus. He was assigned to the AZL Diamondbacks to begin his career, although that was expected to be only for a week before heading to the Class A Visalia Rawhide. However, he was hit in the mouth by a pitch during a simulated game and suffered a concussion, setting back his professional debut by a couple of weeks. He made his first appearance on August 12th with the Hillsboro Hops of the Northwest League, going 0-for-2 with a walk and a runs scored. He played 22 games for Hillsboro, hitting .289/.394/.482. In a surprising development, however, he did not stay a member of the organization for long, as on December 8th, he was rumored to be the centerpiece of a trade with the Atlanta Braves in which the D-Backs acquired Ps Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier in return for him, OF Ender Inciarte and P Aaron Blair. Had the trade occurred a year earlier, he could have been a "player to be named later" because of the so-called "Pete Incaviglia rule", but that restriction had just been lifted and he was able to join his new organization immediately.

Dansby started off the 2016 season with the Carolina Mudcats of the Carolina League but played only 21 games there, during which he hit .333 with 12 doubles, before being promoted to the AA Mississippi Braves. He was named to the United States team for the 2016 Futures Game, then a month later, on August 16th, the Braves announced that he was being called up to the Show and would make his debut the next day. He was hitting .261 in 84 games for Mississippi, with 13 doubles, 5 triples and 8 homers while playing shortstop full time. Major league incumbent Erick Aybar had been traded to the Detroit Tigers earlier in the day to make room for him on the big league roster. In his debut on August 17th, he started at shortstop and batted 8th against the Minnesota Twins, going 2 for 4 in a 10-3 loss. Both hits were singles off Kyle Gibson. His first major league homer came on September 6th, and it was an inside-the-park shot that bounced away from CF Trea Turner of the Washington Nationals. He hit .302 in 38 games for the Braves, giving them home that he would soon be a star.

2017 turned out to be tough for the much touted prospect, however. Given the starting job at shortstop from the start of the season by the Braves, he failed to produce much with the bat. He hit only .156 in April and .216 in May to put himself in an early hole. He seemed to have turned things around in June, when he hit .306 with 15 RBIs, but it was back to the doldrums in July, as he batted just .125 in 17 games, without a home run and just 2 RBIs. He began to lose playing time and on July 27th, the Braves decided to send him down to AAA so he could gain his confidence back. Rookie Johan Camargo had played well while he struggled and was slated to take over while he worked things out with the Gwinnett Braves. He ended up playing 144 games for the Braves, during which he hit .232 with 6 homers and 51 RBIs. He had a better season in 2018 and while his batting average was still below expectations at .238, he increased his power significantly with 14 homers, his OPS+ improving from 68 to 88. It was still less than expected, but with a number of young players emerging to become offensive leaders on the team, it didn't hurt too much, especially as his defensive play was outstanding. The Braves had clinched a division title and were preparing for the postseason when on September 26th, he partially tore a ligament in his left hand, ending his season and keeping him out of the playoffs. The injury came while swinging the bat.

In 2019, he basically repeated his previous season, hitting .251 with 17 homers and 65 RBIs in 127 games. For the second straight year, his OPS+ was 87, he had 26 doubles instead of 25 and was 10 for 15 in stolen base attempts instead of 10 for 14. The big difference was that this time, he was healthy for the postseason and went 7 for 18 (.389) with 3 doubles as the Braves lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the Division Series. The 2020 season was cut to 60 games by the Coronavirus pandemic, but he had his best season to date, appearing in all 60 games and hitting .274 with 49 runs, 15 doubles, 10 homers and 35 RBIs. His OPS+ climbed all the way to 108 and he received consideration in the MVP voting, finishing 18th. The Braves made it all the way to Game 7 of the NLCS, where they lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and after a poor Wild Card Series, hit .400 in the Division Series and .269 with 2 doubles and a homer against the Dodgers.

He was back playing nearly every day in 2021 and shattered the Braves' team record for most homers by a shortstop, previously held by Denis Menke since 1964, when he hit his 21st on August 13th. He then hit two more the next day and finished the season with 27. He also hit 33 doubles, another personal best while batting .248 in 160 games with 78 runs and 88 RBIs. But for all the extra-base hits, his OPS+ was still only 99, given a poor .311 on-base percentage. Still, the Braves went on to win the 2021 World Series and while he went 13 for 58 (.224) in the postseason, he did hit a pair of homers as the Braves upset the Houston Astros in the World Series. That series was interesting in that he was pitted against Alex Bregman, now playing third base for the Astros, who was considered his main rival for being the first overall pick in the 2015 draft. He followed that with his best season in 2022, when he batted .277 while played all 162 games for Atlanta, scored 99 runs, slugged 32 doubles and 25 homers, and drove in 96 runs. He was named to the All-Star team for the first time, won his first Gold Glove and finished 12th in the voting for the MVP Award, his second time receiving support after finishing 18th two years earlier. The Braves won 101 games and a division title, but they were upset in the Division Series by the Philadelphia Phillies. Dansby went 2 for 16 in the four games. He became a free agent after the season and was expecting to sign for a huge amount, especially after Xander Bogaerts had extracted a mega-deal from the San Diego Padres. The team willing to meet his demands turned out to be the Chicago Cubs who on December 17th came to an agreement with him on a seven-year deal worth $177 million. It was the second largest deal in franchise history, only trailing the $184 million given to Jason Heyward over eight years.

In his first season with the Cubs, in 2023, he played 147 games, hitting .244 with 22 homers and 80 RBIs, for an OPS+ of 99. He still made it to a second consecutive All-Star Game and received some down-ballot support in the MVP vote, the third time his name had been among those receiving those. However, a lot of that was because the Cubs improved significantly as a team that year, just missing the postseason, and he was considered a leader on what was otherwise a fairly young squad.

On December 10, 2022, he was married to Mallory Pugh, a member of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team, at a ceremony in Greensboro, GA.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2-time NL All-Star (2022 & 2023)
  • 2-time NL Gold Glove Winner (2022 & 2023)
  • NL At-Bats Leader (2020)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 3 (2021-2023)
  • Won one World Series with the Atlanta Braves in 2021

Further Reading[edit]

  • Nick Aguilera: "How Swanson turned slow start into career year", mlb.com, July 15, 2022. [1]
  • Jordan Bastian: "Swanson agrees to 7-year deal with Cubs", mlb.com, December 17, 2022. [2]
  • Jordan Bastian: "Swanson expects to win with Cubs: 'That's why I came'", mlb.com, February 15, 2023. [3]
  • Jordan Bastian: "Swanson won't let contract add pressure to first Cubs season", mlb.com, March 23, 2023. [4]
  • Jordan Bastian: "Swanson better prepared for second time around with Cubs: All-Star shortstop looking to provide veteran leadership after challenging 2023 season", mlb.com, February 21, 2024. [5]
  • Mark Bowman: "Braves certain Swanson can make next step up: Despite rocky 2017, Atlanta still high on young shortstop", mlb.com, December 19, 2017. [6]
  • Mark Bowman and Pat James: "The future is now: Braves call up Swanson: Aybar dealt to Tigers to make room for prospect and Aviles", mlb.com, August 17, 2016. [7]
  • Adrian Garro: "Get hyped: Dansby Swanson has arrived after getting the call from the Braves", "Cut4", mlb.com, August 17, 2016. [8]
  • Steve Gilbert: "D-backs pick Swanson as Draft's top prize: Key to Vanderbilt's '14 College World Series title, shortstop rises to occasion", mlb.com, June 8, 2015. [9]
  • Ray Glier: "Dansby Swanson arrives, a ray of hope after Braves' razing of roster", USA Today Sports, August 17, 2016. [10]
  • Brian McTaggart: "Bregman, Swanson forever linked by Draft: Top two picks from 2015 face off in World Series", mlb.com, October 26, 2021. [11]

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