Swanson, Bradley benefiting from instructs
D-backs' top prospects get time with experienced players in controlled setting
Dansby Swanson's 2015 baseball season officially began on February 13. More than seven months later, he's still out on a field playing.
The setting, of course, has changed over time. Swanson starred at shortstop for Vanderbilt University all spring, leading the Commodores to a finish as the College World Series runners-up (a year after winning it all). The No. 1 overall pick in the Draft, he signed in mid-July, then went out and got 83 regular-season at-bats with Hillsboro in the short-season Northwest League. Now, the D-backs' top prospect is in Arizona participating in instructional league play.
"I think at this time, instructs is huge, not just to be able to meet all the different instructors, us being able to get familiar with each other, seeing how each other work," Swanson explained. "I also think it's good to really break things down, get good fundamentals to have a good solid base going forward."
"Right now, he's moving forward with whatever we're putting in front of him," senior vice president of baseball operations De Jon Watson said. "We're cognizant of how much baseball he's played. He did have some down time after the college season ended. Right now, he looks good and feels good, and there were some things on both sides of the ball he needed to tweak a little."
Swanson echoed Watson's assessment, both in terms of his energy level and needing to keep improving. In addition to the usual "getting to know each other" aspect of instructs, Swanson is getting the chance to play in the advanced instructional league. During his summer debut, he may have largely faced a level of competition he saw in college. This advanced circuit has players from full-season ball, even players on 40-man rosters. As a player expected to move quickly, this affords Swanson the opportunity to get a little sneak preview of what he'll see in 2016.
"I think it's always good to face guys who have a little more experience or might be a little bit older," Swanson said. "It's good to have a challenge. Hitting is hard enough as it is; facing guys with more experience is even more challenging. I'm looking forward to learning a lot. That's one of my favorite things about this game -- there's always something to learn. I'm taking full advantage of seeing guys out here who know what they're doing."
"It gives a chance to see the competition," Watson agreed. "These guys were at this level, it gives his mind's eye an idea of what it looks like. That's important for a young player."
Learning to win is also an important lesson, but it appears Swanson already has that one down. He was the 2014 College World Series Most Outstanding Player when Vanderbilt won the title. A year later, he and Vandy fell just a tiny bit short, losing to Virginia. After getting past a concussion suffered during a simulated game right after signing, Swanson was part of a Hillsboro club that won the Northwest League championship. He knows that not every season ends with playing for a title, right?
"Maybe not?" Swanson said with a chuckle. "Credit the culture at school. We want to win. We do everything in order to be able to win. We try to set ourselves up to have the most success we have. Being able to take that mindset to the pro game is important.
"That little mindset with some guys can help and move people forward, that confidence and security that we are good, that we can win no matter what level we're at."
Bradley making up for lost mound time
Instructs are generally reserved for players at the lower level of a farm system, guys who might be new to the organization, like Swanson, or trying to get ready for a step up to full-season ball the following year. Archie Bradley obviously doesn't fit that description.
Had things gone differently in 2015, the D-backs' No. 2 prospect wouldn't be on that list anymore. His strong Spring Training and good start to the big league regular season do seem ages ago after a line drive to the face and then shoulder problems put a damper one what could have been a fine rookie season.
Bradley only threw a combined total of just over 50 innings this season. As a result, he's one of the "elder statesmen" at instructs this fall, mostly just to get mound time in a controlled setting.
"That's basically it, getting him some innings," Watson said. "We can get him out to that advanced league, he can go as deep as he needs to and just play catch up a little bit. It didn't feel like the right time to discuss winter ball. We wanted him to get through instructs healthy, and he's looked good thus far."
It's another step away from the shoulder issues that shelved him for much of the season after he returned from getting hit. Bradley, who after all of this is still just 23 years old, finished the year with three solid efforts back in Triple-A, a good stepping stone to where he is now.
"It was good to see him get out there, get his fastball up back up to 93-94 mph, able to use all of his pitches," Watson said. "The key is him getting on the mound every fifth day. That's what we're trying to do here, keep him on a routine. He'll be fine at the end of this."