December 13, 2015

Dansby Swanson: Essentially a No-Risk Prospect

The Braves fleeced the Diamondbacks, getting the first overall pick from this past year’s draft, SS Dansby Swanson, top pitching prospect Aaron Blair, and Major League CF Ender Inciarte for P Shelby Miller and pitching prospect Gabe Speier.

To play devil’s advocate a little bit, Dansby Swanson is probably not as talented a player as some other first overall picks in recent years.  A.J. Pollock is the Diamondbacks’ centerfielder so Ender Inciarte was expendable. And Aaron Blair is a young pitcher and, though he was named the Diamondbacks’ organizational pitcher of the year, young pitchers are risky.  The Diamondbacks get a solid #2 or #3 type starter in Shelby Miller and an interesting arm in Gabe Speier.  Miller is the big prize for them.  They just signed Zack Greinke to a six-year deal with an average annual value of $34.4 million, so they clearly want to win now at the expense of the future.

To temper expectations, I don’t think Swanson is the type of first overall pick that is on the fast track to Cooperstown, like a Alex Rodriguez, a Ken Griffey, Jr., a Chipper Jones, or a Bryce Harper.  Of course not many players are, even among first overall picks.  But there isn’t much risk with him.  The odds are extremely high that he’ll play well at the Major League level and it’s very possible he’ll be an all-star caliber shortstop.

Aaron Blair is a 6’5″, 230 lb. right-hander and consensus top 100 prospect.  There’s a little bit of Roy Halladay in his delivery but given his reliance on a sinking fastball and changeup rather than overpowering hitters, he projects as more a mid-rotation type starter than a top-of-the-rotation guy.  You have to like his size and what it likely means for his durability plus his ability to sink the ball, even if he never develops overwhelming stuff.

Ender Inciarte is a left-handed hitter and thrower who has posted around league-average offensive production but great defensive numbers in 2 years and 250 Major League games.  The most likely outcome is for him to continue to be at least a steady everyday centerfielder.  The upside is a very good offensive player who plays outstanding defense in centerfield.  The downside, if his offense doesn’t improve or takes a step back and his defense isn’t as good as his number indicate, is he’s a solid bench player who can play centerfield.  At the very least the Braves have an extremely useful Major Leaguer, if not a very good everyday player.

Not many people have questioned this trade from a Braves perspective.  Those who have expressed slight concern seem to be those who are hesitant to accept trading any young, cost-controlled, good player for prospects.  However, teams don’t look at prospects as some sort of mystery group.  Teams view every player individually.  It’s not as if Major Leaguers are knowable but minor leaguers are wild cards, certainly not to Major League front offices who scout and study these players.  Yes, a player’s performance against Major League competition is extremely useful information, more useful than performance against minor leaguers.  But a player like Swanson’s physical tools, skills, and performance against the competition he’s faced indicate he’s less of a risk than some players who have Major League track records.

That doesn’t mean there’s no possibility of Swanson becoming a bust.  But anything can happen to any player, regardless of resume.  You roll the dice based on the player based on what he’s likely to do, not based on his track record.  Yes, track record provides useful information on what he’s likely to do, especially if it’s track record against Major Leaguers, but there is also other information about the player that teams take into account.  Sometimes that other information is so overwhelmingly positive, that the player is pretty low risk.  That’s what the Braves have in Dansby Swanson and some of the other prospects for whom they’ve traded.



7 Responses to “Dansby Swanson: Essentially a No-Risk Prospect”

  1. 1
    Tim Says:

    For me, the best part of getting Swanson in this deal is, he can now become the face of the franchise. He plays probably the most polarizing position. Grew up miles from where the new stadium is being built. The last thing is no one is expecting 30 home runs and 120 RBI, which will take some pressure off to perform at an outrageous level.

    And with all that said, let me say this. I would really like to see Freeman traded, the sooner the better.

  2. 2
    Tyler Says:

    I think the only way you trade Freeman is if someone over pays for him. Personally, I think Markakis is the next Brave to be shipped. We would probably have to eat some of his contract, but if he plays like he did last year, with a little more power (e.g. .300 with 6 home runs) then I think youvflip him at the deadline. At that point Mallex Smith will be ready, the Braves just slide Inciarte over to right.

    As for Swanson, at the least, I think he’s going to be a good player with the potential to be great.

  3. 3
    Chris P. Says:

    @Tim – Swanson is amazing! I have watched GIF after GIF of this guy doing incredible feats. He really has a “winning” gene and Atlanta will be built around him in the clubhouse. I have seen him with the same excitement as Smoltz when makes a play and it brings a tears of joy to my eyes that this kid will lead a new generation of Braves on the way.

    @Tyler – Honestly, I believe that Freeman could really pull alot out of a farm system like LA or PIT if traded at the right time. I agree with you on Markakis. However, I agree with Bowman that he would be better traded next year to smooth out that Mallex Smith transition.

  4. 4
    Nick U Says:

    Anyone who thinks it would be a good idea to trade Freeman for anything that gets us less than Mike Trout in return is nuts.

  5. 5
    Tyler Says:

    Well that would never happen. Let’s be realistic.

  6. 6
    Craig Says:

    Markakis is another year from back surgery so I would expect the power to be closer to the 10-15 Hrs he showed pre-surgery. If he comes out and is hitting like his old self come July ..I definetly see him being moved.

    Freeman’s window of being traded has probably closed. He hasn’t had the break out people expected (yet) and the Braves would be tradinf him at a low point if they traded now or early in the season. However, if he is playing well the PR would be too much to trade him as you are showing the return to competition is still 3 years away.

  7. 7
    Jerry Says:

    Now that the season has started for real, it becomes evident how bad (for the Braves) some of the trades were. An organization which repeatedly trades promising young players for old, worn out AL players is NOT rebuilding. Since I live outside the Braves TV area, I get (have) to watch few Braves games. I have watched only part of two games, but it seems that there is not a lot of hustle and effort up and down the Braves lineup. Last night, I turned off the Braves game off and switched to a college baseball game after I watched Garcia take two pitches right down the middle of the plate and then swing at one over his head!

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