Dansby Swanson made his major league debut for the Braves Wednesday night. He played shortstop, hit eighth in the order and went 2-for-4 in a 10-3 loss to the Twins.
The 22-year-old Georgia native and former No. 1 overall pick hadn’t exactly been tearing it up in the minors, but if you’re the Braves (44-76), you might as well see what the kid has.
“This team is at a point right now where it’s almost, ‘Why not?’” Atlanta’s 92.9. night host Mark Zinno said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “You want to see what the kid has to do. You’re not going to throw him out there Opening Day in a brand new stadium with all these expectations and everything else without giving him a taste of major league life first. And with the moving of Erick Aybar in the trade to the Tigers, it opened up a vacancy at shortstop and allowed him to come in.”
The Braves will miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season. They’ve gone from 79 wins in 2014 to 67 wins in 2015 to 44-and-counting in 2016.
“Obviously the team isn’t going anywhere,” Zinno. “They’re not expected to win a lot of ball games. There’s very little pressure on the kid. So give him an opportunity, let him grow, let him learn. Yes, there’s a lot of expectations on him given everything that he was and everything that he is as far as the No. 1 overall pick is concerned. But this is a very good spot for him to just kind of get a taste of major league life, get adjusted to the way things go so next year – when Opening Day comes and they’re in a new ball park and there are some expectations maybe with all the youth that this team has brought together – that (he’s) not so overwhelmed by them.”
Dansby, who starred at Vanderbilt, is the first position player to play in the majors one year after being taken No.1 overall since Darin Erstad in 1996. On the one hand, there’s a lot of pressure associated with that; on the other hand, it’s a way to manage expectations since the Braves have nothing to play for.
“Look, this kid’s not a hot pocket,” Zinno said. “You can’t pop him in the microwave and then all of a sudden out comes an All-Star. That’s not the way it works. Mike Trout batted .220 in his first 40 big league games and only had 11 extra-base hits in 135 plate appearances. Manny Machado had five errors in his first 51 games. Clayton Kershaw had a WHIP of 1.49 and an ERA of four-and-a-half in his first 20 big league starts. So all these guys that are superstars that seem to ascend to the top of the league relatively quickly in our eyes, it didn’t really happen for them immediately. Baseball is a game that takes time. For me, that’s why I think they play the longest season. The grind is the longest, and they get paid the most because to achieve that level is really, really hard in the game of baseball. To put Dansby Swanson with the Bryce Harpers and everybody else out there, that’s a lot of expectation. It’s going to take time. I know people want him to be that and assume that he will, but it’s going to take some time. I think this first 40-game sample set really is the way to give it to him so next year he can start fresh.”