By Burke Granger
Makeup, makeup, makeup. I’m not high on hyperbolic terms that are thrown around to describe prospects. Grinder, gamer, and gritty are all overused and overvalued adjectives. If a guy who plays baseball games for money isn’t a gamer, what is he? With Dansby Swanson, former Vanderbilt Commodore, the universal unofficial tool in which he receives his highest praise is his makeup.
A Marietta (Ga.) product, Swanson excelled on diamond and the hardwood in high school. Shoulder injuries limited Swanson to just 16 at-bats as a freshman, but he stepped in and started at second base for the 2014 National Championship team. In the national spotlight in Omaha, Swanson’s leadership was evident, as was his on field talent. Hitting .323 on his way to being named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, Swanson rode that momentum into a seller 2015 which culminated with his being selected first overall last June in the MLB Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Rather than starting his first full season with Diamondbacks in 2016, Arizona used Swanson to highlight a package to land right-handed pitcher Shelby Miller from Atlanta. Miller, the former 2009 1st round pick (St. Louis) pitched much better than his 6-17 record would suggest. Miller had a 3.02 ERA and logged over 200 innings for the Braves in 2015, his only season in Atlanta. It’s worth noting, however, that Miller’s career low ERA was directly correlated by cutting his HR rate in half last year and he’ll experience a negative park shift in this trade to Arizona.
Also heading to Atlanta in this deal are Ender Inciarte, a glove first outfielder who’s under affordable control, and Aaron Blair, a right-handed pitcher who was a supplemental first round selection from Marshall University in 2013. Coming off a 13-5, 2.92 season where he didn’t miss many bats (6.7 K/9) between AA and AAA, Blair profiles as a back end starter who should step in and help Atlanta right away.
After speaking to dozens of people in Nashville at the Winter Meetings both inside and outside the industry, none have told me that they think Arizona got the better end of this deal and I’m in agreement with that sentiment. If I’m evaluating this deal in a vacuum, I’d much rather be on the Braves side of this trade.
That said, the Diamondbacks are getting some unfair criticism regarding this deal. While I think Swanson is a safe bet to be an above average shortstop and occasional, he’s an unproven commodity. Miller is already an above average pitcher who fits in nicely as a #2/3 type starter who made his first All-Star appearance in 2015. Having just turned 25, Miller has already established, logging 96 starts and 575.1 innings. He’s bonafide.
If you’re a Diamondbacks fan, cheer up, you’re an NL West title contender. If you’re a Braves fan, congratulations! You’re front runner to land the #1 pick in the 2017 draft and this guy could be starting at shortstop for you when you open your new ballpark.