Bill Shanks

Swanson will work it out eventually in Atlanta

Atlanta’s Dansby Swanson scores past New York Mets catcher Rene Rivera on a two-run triple by Emilio Bonifacio during the fourth inning of a MLB baseball game on Wednesday, May 3, 2017, in Atlanta.
Atlanta’s Dansby Swanson scores past New York Mets catcher Rene Rivera on a two-run triple by Emilio Bonifacio during the fourth inning of a MLB baseball game on Wednesday, May 3, 2017, in Atlanta. AP

There is no denying that Atlanta shortstop Dansby Swanson is off to a bad start. Swanson entered Tuesday with a .151 batting average and a .222 on-base percentage.

The Braves hoped moving Swanson from second in the batting order to eighth would help. It hasn’t, at least not yet. Swanson hit .131 in the two hole and only .178 before the pitcher. There is no way to spin his stats; the numbers don’t lie. Swanson is struggling.

Some contend the best way to deal with Swanson’s slow start is to demote him to Triple-A Gwinnett. But why? What would that accomplish? Would it be to punish Swanson?

Look, if this continues for several more weeks, then let’s talk in early June. But it’s not even halfway through May yet. We’re just shy of one-fifth through the season. I’m not saying I’m not concerned about Swanson’s numbers, but the Braves need to let him work it out in Atlanta.

Swanson is 23 years old, and two years ago, he was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft out of Vanderbilt. This is his first real struggle in pro ball. Swanson had just 494 at-bats in the minor leagues when the Braves called him up in August.

It’s not that they rushed Swanson. He hit .275 between Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett, with a .362 OBP, nine home runs, 13 stolen bases and 55 RBI. He deserved the promoted to Atlanta.

And then, Swanson did well. He hit .302 in 38 games with the Braves. Swanson had a .361 OBP, three home runs and 17 RBI in 129 at-bats. There was every reason to feel confident about him taking over shortstop and having a long career in his own backyard.

Is that part of the problem? Swanson grew up just a few miles from SunTrust Park. The Braves have promoted him in every way since the moment he got to Atlanta. While this is Freddie Freeman’s team, most believe Swanson represents the future just as much as Freeman.

Swanson is a very mature 23-year-old. He has a good head on his shoulders. All the veterans rave about how he handles everything, including his struggles. But he has been put on a pedestal since he put on the Atlanta uniform. The expectations were off the charts, and maybe that has been too much for him.

I’m grasping at straws here, since I’m as perplexed as anyone about how tough it’s been for him. Swanson has skills, but now he has gotten himself in a funk where people will wonder what has been the cause for the struggles.

It’s one thing for a rookie to struggle, but Swanson’s never shown signs of becoming the next B.J. Upton. Swanson always has played well, always handled everything perfectly and that’s what gives one hope Swanson can get out of this season-long slump.

This season is a bridge season for the Braves. They are trying to go from a losing season to a winning season in this rebuilding process. But they’re not going to the World Series (prove me wrong Braves, prove me wrong). They’re simply trying to take the next step in the process.

That’s what affords them to leave Swanson alone. Let him figure this out in Atlanta. There are plenty of reasons to believe he’ll be fine — in time. It might take another few days or even a few weeks, but this kid is too good to struggle this much.

Swanson showed us last year in the final six weeks of the season what he’s capable of, so he’s just got to make the adjustments and get on track. Swanson is a smart kid who has great talent and great makeup. Like many things with the Braves this season, we must have patience and let him work it out.

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