Award Watch 2017: Do any Atlanta Braves have a shot at major awards?
By Scott Ferris
Rookie of the Year: Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies
The Rookie of the Year Award aims to celebrate players who excel in their first taste of the major leagues. Given that, it may seem odd for Swanson – a guy with a month and a half of experience as an everyday big league starter – to even be in the conversation.
However, such is the case for Atlanta’s shortstop. His career total of 129 at-bats falls just one shy of the 130 AB cutoff to retain rookie status making him eligible for the award in 2017.
Though some considered his mid-August promotion last year to be aggressive, the Vanderbilt product held his own against major league competition. In 145 plate appearances, he delivered a .302/.361/.442 line with three home runs, three stolen bases, and excellent defense.
Barring injury, Swanson will begin the year where he left off in 2016, as Atlanta’s everyday starter at short. If last year’s late-season cameo is any indication, that position will remain his for the foreseeable future.
If he can build on his debut performance, Swanson will have a strong shot at besting his fellow NL rookies.
Also of note is Swanson’s double-play partner of the future, second base prospect Ozzie Albies.
After flying through the minors, Albies finds himself knocking on the door of a big league promotion despite having just celebrated his 20th birthday last month.
While Atlanta appears set to enter the season with a combination of Brandon Phillips and Jace Peterson at the cornerstone, it may not be long before Albies forces his way into the picture. That Peterson has considerable positional flexibility makes this scenario even more likely.
One thing that will work in favor of Atlanta’s rookie tandem is the relative dearth of high-profile NL prospects.
That isn’t to say the National League is without exciting young talent, it’s just that big, close-to-the-majors names like Andrew Benintendi (BOS), Yoan Moncada (CWS), and Lucas Giolito (CWS) will be peddling their wares in the American League.
Cardinals hurler Alex Reyes would have represented the most likely challenger. He, like Swanson, has already impressed in a brief MLB stint. Unfortunately, the young righty will now spend the 2017 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.