Batter’s Box: Swanson Pyramid of Greatness

Jim Chatterton explores Friday's top hitting performances, including two two-homer games at Coors.

There is plenty that Dansby Swanson fulfills on the Ron Swanson Pyramid of Greatness. Facial hair? Look at that stubble! Intensity and physical fitness? The man is an MLB shortstop! Skim milk? You don’t make to the bigs by drinking milked down water. Swanson, the fourth overall pick in the 2015 draft, has shown he can be a big league ball player. However, it has taken a couple of seasons before this star prospect found his footing. The last two seasons, he had been hitting in the .230s with a mid-40s ground ball rate and a mid-30s hard hit percentage. That translated to two below average seasons of hitting to start off a promising career. Two seasons of struggling for a top first round pick is enough to make fans worry and grow frustrated, even if you got him in a trade for Shelby Miller.

In 2019, Swanson has been showing off his own pyramid of greatness. Let’s start at plate discipline. He is not chasing as much, dropping his O-Swing by ten percentage points. He’s also cut his swinging strike rate by two percentage points from last year. This discipline change may also have helped him to make better contact. He’s driving the ball much better getting it off the ground. His line drive rate is up substantially while knocking his ground ball rate down. He has also improved his hard hit rate by nearly eight percentage points. This has lead Swanson to already have more barrels than last year. Swanson’s improvements haven’t stopped there. He is still underperforming his expected stats. Specifically his xwOBA is .035 points higher than his already significantly improved wOBA. Last night’s game shows off what the pyramid has done to him: 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. Swanson is poised to continue this breakout and be the great shortstop he was drafted to be.

 Yasiel Puig (OF, Cincinnati Reds)—2-4, R, HR, 3 RBI. ManBearPuig has been a little less BearPuig and bit too much man. He never has found a rhythm this year, having spurts of greatness and then following it up with a few 0-fers with a ton of strike outs. Puig’s zone contact rate is down about nine percentage points from last year where he had been gradually improving since 2015. He is also being less selective, swinging at about 56% of pitches, up from 47% last year. If his plate discipline returns to last year he should pick things back up.

David Freese (1B/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI, BB. Freese has mostly been pinch hitting and getting the occasional start as the Dodgers like to cycle through lineups. This doesn’t lend any value to Freese in the fantasy world but he’s been an interesting batter so far. What stands out the most is his 20% walk rate, something he’s gotten no where close to in the past.

JaCoby Jones (OF, Detroit Tigers)—2-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI. An actual tiger couldn’t do what Jones did last night. However, could that tiger put together the season Jones is having so far? He is striking out over 30% of the time while batting below the Mendoza line and getting on base barely 25% of the time. The upside for the season is his hard hit rate has jumped 10 percentage points from last year.

Adeiny Hechavarría (2B/SS, New York Mets)—2-4, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. The Mets recent veteran minor league call ups have provided some late inning magic for them this week and Hechavarria wasn’t any different. With Mets starters dropping like flies as they are prone to do, Hechavarria now has a starting job until an infielder returns. He hasn’t had a full season since 2016 and has never provided any fantasy value even in the steals department, so he can be ignored.

Jorge Alfaro (C, Miami Marlins)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI. Alfaro just needs to learn to make more contact and stop swinging at pitches out of the zone. His O-swing% is nearly 50%!!! No wonder pitchers throw him pitches in the zone only 34% of the time. If he figures that out, he’ll be an elite hitting catcher. As of now, he’s rosterable as he is a catcher that is hitting above .25o and on pace for at least 20 homers. If only he didn’t get traded to the Marlins.

Juan Soto (OF, Washington Nationals)—3-4, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB. How can you improve on a rookie season with a 146 wRC+ at the age of 19? He’s just doing more of the same. He’s been having a solid season for a 20-year-old. But what has he changed? He’s cut down his ground ball rate by 12 percentage points, hitting more line drives and fly balls, while maintaining his great HR/FB ratio. However, he is swinging more and making less contact. Pitchers are throwing stuff out of the zone a bit more often too. He just needs to keep making those adjustments and he’ll remain a great hitter.

Anthony Rendon (3B, Washington Nationals)—2-4, 3 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, BB. It took about a week to get his feet wet again after coming back from his elbow injury at the beginning of May. He looks settled in. In his recent 11 game tear, his BB/K ratio is over two with an .825 slugging. Even though Yelich and Bellinger are in the NL, Rendon will still make a compelling MVP case by year’s end.

Max Kepler (OF, Minnesota Twins)—3-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI. Here the Twins go again. Kepler keeps adding to his breakout year with another home run and double. He is now halfway to last years RBI total despite leading off almost all year this season. He is absolutely destroying right-handed pitching while holding his own against lefties where he usually struggles mightily. Kepler also looks to have figured out the fastball, hitting over .300 against it while last year it was closer to .200 against.

Eddie Rosario (OF, Minnesota Twins)—4-5, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. Rosario keeps on slugging the ball defying what many worried to be a down year as he outperformed all his expected stats in 2o18. However, he had been playing through an injury some of the year which may have greatly affected that performance. Now, Rosario is hitting the ball harder and striking out less. He is making more contact on pitches both in and out of the zone.

Trevor Story (SS, Colorado Rockies)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, BB. This Story closed the book on the Orioles last night with a two-run walk-off homer in the ninth, for his second dinger of the game. Honestly, not much has changed for Story in his numbers from last year. He has been consistent, which means great things for you Story owners, hoping for a 30/30 season. The only small change is an uptick in fly balls which could benefit nicely hitting at Coors.

Nolan Arenado (3B, Colorado Rockies)—3-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. Remember way back when, to the first few weeks of the season, and we were all hootin’ and hollerin’ about how Arenado forgot how to hit? Those days are long forgotten. One major change Arenado has made this year is his plate discipline. He hasn’t been striking out nearly as much as he has in the past. He’s swinging more, especially at pitches out of the zone, but he is making a lot more contact. Put the ball in play at Coors and good things happen.

Ketel Marte (2B/SS/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks)—3-7, 3 R, HR, 4 RBI. Marte is well in the midst of a breakout campaign hitting his tenth homer of the year yesterday. However, it was a while between nine and ten with a few too many 0-fers. Over that span, he hasn’t been hitting the ball as hard, but he’s been hitting more line drives.

Ildemaro Vargas (2B/3B, Arizona Diamondbacks)—5-6, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI. Vargas has popped up to the majors for a few games the last couple years, but isn’t much of a prospect. This 27-year-old has been up and down from the bigs pinch hitting and getting the occasional start. Last night, he delivered five hits with a homer. He got the call back to the majors when Flores went down with an injury. Vargas may stay around after this performance but don’t expect further fantasy impact.

(Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire)

Jim Chatterton

Jim has written for Razzball and now is a part of the Pitcher List staff. He is a Villanova alum and an eternally optimistic Mets fan. He once struck out Rick Porcello in Little League.

5 responses to “Batter’s Box: Swanson Pyramid of Greatness”

  1. Your Vandy baseball Homer says:

    Good stuff, as always. One note – Swanson was the first pick in the 2015 draft (not fourth). Ahead of Bregman, Rodgers, and Tucker – gulp.

    • theKraken says:

      Zero chance that ever looks great. They did trade him though, so I guess AZ got everything they wanted from him – nice job DBacks… only problem is that Shelby Miller’s arm fell off immediately. That trade is even weirder in retrospect. Swanson was supposed to be the big part of the deal and he has done nothing but act as a drag on the ATL roster. A player like Swanson is actually very negative because you are not looking to improve. Simply handing the keys to a mediocre, young player means you won’t be looking in FA as you think of him as a part of your future plans but also get nothing out of it. He may become a decent player someday, but it would have taken until 2019+ for that to happen – AZ actually sold him at his absolute peak. Problem is they bought Shelby close to his peak and the wheels fell right off.

  2. Saint says:

    Trade question Jim.

    Profar/Strahm or Moustakas?


    • Jim Chatterton says:

      Hey Saint – sorry for the delay. I know this advice may not matter any more if the trade talks have moved on. However, I would take the Moose side, especially if there is still pitching to back that side up losing Strahm.

  3. theKraken says:

    I’ll take the under on Swanson being the great shortstop he was drafted to be. He is about as average as it gets and usually way below. If he wasn’t a high-profile name, then he would have lost his job by now, but guys with big names and expectations get unlimited opportunities. What is more interesting to me that that is that everyone sits waiting for years for the moments when things look good – Profar is a good example as well. Those terrible years count too. Some guys get blasted for struggling while others get a pass.

    Keep Sano in the updates – he now has 4 HR in his last 3 games.

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