Fantasy Baseball: Should You Reach for Dansby Swanson?

Swanson is a highly-touted prospect, but isn't getting as much love in fantasy drafts as some other up-and-comers. Should he be going higher this year?

In the 2015 MLB draft, Dansby Swanson, Alex Bregman and Andrew Benintendi all went in the top 10, going first, second and seventh, respectively.

Each is 23 years old or younger -- with only 480 major league plate appearances combined -- yet they're all expected to have everyday roles with their clubs this season.

However, despite going number-one overall in the real thing, Swanson is lagging behind the other two in fantasy drafts. If you take a gander at FantasyPros' average draft positions (ADP) across the industry, Bregman (80th) and Benintendi (120th) beat out Swanson by a healthy margin (170th).

Going in the top 200 is still pretty good for a guy who skipped Triple-A and has 38 games of major league experience, but why is Swanson not getting the same hype as the other two?

Jack of All Trades, Master of None

Part of why he hasn't gained as much fantasy traction is he doesn't have any defining trait that makes him stand out.

If we take the whole of his brief minor league existence across Single-A and Double-A, it comes to 569 plate appearances, a close approximation to a full season. In that span, he hit 10 home runs, scored 87 runs, stole 13 bases, and slashed .277/.367/.435. He also had a solid 17.2% strikeout rate and 11.2% walk rate. These are respectable across-the-board numbers, but they also don't exactly scream fantasy superstar.

Still, in his MLB cameo last year, those numbers did carry over fairly well.

In 145 plate appearances, Swanson hit .302/.361/.442 with 3 bombs and 3 swiped bags. Like most young players, the strikeout rate went up (23.4%), but he did keep the walk rate pretty high (9.0%). Between the strikeouts and bloated .383 BABIP, we shouldn't expect such a high average this year, but a 34.7% hard-hit rate and 22.7% line-drive rate show some promise.

It's a small sample size, but there's enough evidence to suggest that some approximation of Swanson's minor league stat line is what to expect this season.

With that in mind, let's check numberFire's yearly projections to see how Swanson stacks up with Bregman and Benintendi. Surprisingly, Benintendi comes out on top with the highest nF fantasy score, but Bregman is not far behind. This isn't to say Benintendi will necessarily have the better season (these are baseline estimates, after all), but it does speak to why he's an intriguing pick this year.

Meanwhile, Swanson is a distant third.

Alex Bregman 1.26 557 73 22 80 6 .269 .791
Andrew Benintendi 1.86 537 65 18 62 12 .275 .810
Dansby Swanson -1.10 539 65 10 55 11 .259 .700

As expected, Swanson's projections fall right in line with his minor league track record, with the batting average docked a few points, likely due to his elevated strikeouts in the majors. Although he hangs pretty well with the other two in most categories, he falls way behind in home runs, putting a serious dent in his value. It's worth noting that some industry projections place Benintendi and Swanson's home run totals closer together, but that's more a case of conservative Benintendi projections than anything else.

In 2015, 64 players hit at least 20 home runs and only 4 were middle infielders. This number rose to 111 last year, including 28 middle infielders! If these trends continue, Swanson's expected lack of pop could be a bigger weakness than in years past.

Here's Hoping

What's the good news? Last year, Swanson posted an Isolated Power (ISO) of .140, which fell in the range of players like Francisco Lindor, Adam Eaton, and Odubel Herrera -- modest power-speed combos who hit high in the order. Conveniently, that's not very different from Swanson, who is expected to bat second for the Braves.

No, he's not going to suddenly turn into Lindor, who hits .300, nor steal 25 bases like Herrera did last year. But remember that this is a highly-touted prospect, so with progress, a 15-15 season with a .275 average could be possible.

That said, Swanson's pedestrian floor makes him less interesting than a speedster like Tim Anderson, or guys with more power like Brad Miller and Marcus Semien. The truth is Swanson's upside probably isn't worth reaching past his ADP to draft. But at his price, he still makes for a solid consolation prize as your middle infielder, and one who could surprise if everything breaks his way.