LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Dansby Swanson arrived in Braves camp on Friday with a clear message."Last year is last year," Swanson said. "That is in the past. I've already kind of reflected, and that is by the wayside."There certainly isn't any reason for Swanson to focus on what he
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Dansby Swanson arrived in Braves camp on Friday with a clear message.
"Last year is last year," Swanson said. "That is in the past. I've already kind of reflected, and that is by the wayside."
There certainly isn't any reason for Swanson to focus on what he can't change. After enjoying success during his inaugural MLB stint over the final six weeks of the 2016 season, the 24-year-old shortstop was humbled last year. He hit below the Mendoza Line for most of the season's first two months and was briefly demoted to Triple-A Gwinnett.
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Overall, Swanson hit .232 with a .636 OPS and committed 20 errors last year in what was his first full Major League season and just his second full professional campaign. At last year's Spring Training, he was dealing with the pressures of being the anointed Golden Boy. This year, he is simply focused on proving he is capable of living up to the expectations of being Atlanta's shortstop of the future.
"I think everything I would tell him, he'd probably already know after the experience he had last year," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "It's not going to be a bad thing looking back at what he went through last year. He's just one of the million players who have been through that."
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Swanson hit .258 and produced a .675 OPS over his final 90 games last year, and he showed better plate discipline and seemed less susceptible to breaking balls and pitches on the outer third of the plate after he returned from Triple-A in early August.
Swanson didn't offer any excuses as he struggled to a .194 average through his first 55 games in 2017. But he hopes to remain healthier than he did during last year's Spring Training, when a right oblique strain sidelined him from March 3-18.
"I think it kind of disrupted the good vibes I had going on, because it all started so well," Swanson said. "To have something like that, it was really unexpected. I didn't really handle it mentally as best as I should have. But that's in the past, and I'm looking forward to a healthy [camp] this year."
A new world
Last year at this time, Kyle Wright and his Vanderbilt teammates were aiming to win a SEC Championship and advance to the College World Series. Now, Wright finds himself in big league camp with the team he followed while growing up in Alabama.
"It's still pretty surreal to think about where I'm at and how far I've come," Wright said. "I definitely have to pinch myself every now and then."
Regarded as the top right-handed-pitching prospect available in the Draft last summer, Wright was taken by the Braves with the fifth overall selection. He got a taste of professional baseball and was introduced to the schedule of a five-man rotation over nine starts, none of which were scheduled to exceed two innings, for the Gulf Coast League team and Class A Advanced Florida.
MLB Pipeline ranks Wright as the game's No. 30 overall prospect. He spent this offseason working out with Swanson and other Vanderbilt products on the university's Nashville, Tenn., campus. He received his invitation to big league camp in January.
"I kind of zeroed in on him today," Snitker said. "He's a pretty impressive kid. It's just a side session, but when you watch how he goes about it, you can tell he's an advanced first-year player."
Snitker confirmed that he is planning to have Ender Inciarte, Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman fill the first three spots in his lineup. He hasn't decided who might fill the cleanup spot, but he is open to the idea of using either of his two catchers -- Tyler Flowers or Kurt Suzuki.
"On any given day, it could be the catcher who is hitting fourth," Snitker said. "I don't think there is anybody who is totally penciled in there. I think it will be about the matchups and who we are playing. We'll let the spring play out, and it will probably become more clear. But right now sitting here and thinking about potential lineups, [having the catcher bat cleanup] is one I have thought of."
Like he did during most of last season's second half, Snitker plans to have his two veteran catchers split playing time on a nearly even basis. Flowers made nine starts as a cleanup hitter last year, and Suzuki filled that fourth spot at the start of three games.
Matt Kemp (105) and Nick Markakis (36) were the only Braves players to fill the cleanup spot at least nine times last year. Markakis hit .227 and produced a .623 OPS in the 152 plate appearances while batting fourth.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.