For a player claiming a low power output through his first 182 MLB games, the Braves’ 24-year-old shortstop is collecting an impressive list of names he’s taken deep. His nine career regular-season homers include pitching names Gio Gonzalez (twice), Gerrit Cole, Jerad Eickhoff and Lucas Giolito. If spring training games are thrown into the mix — which is the reason this subject is being broached — Adam Wainwright and Max Scherzer and their nine top-five Cy Young finishes join the club.
Swanson provided an early sign of optimism by turning on an inside fastball against the three-time National League Cy Young winner on Sunday afternoon, belting (presumably) one of the hardest-hit balls against major-league competition in his career. It’s early in Grapefruit League action and virtually no player is at his best, but it’s worth mentioning that Scherzer allowed just under one home run per nine innings last season, a top-20 rate among qualified pitchers.
The 2018 Braves roster looks fairly power-deficient. Atlanta’s active roster would have ranked 26th in the majors with 103 home runs during the 2017 season, and while that does not account for full-season contributions from the likes of Ronald Acuña and Ozzie Albies, it does factor in career highs for Ender Inciarte and Kurt Suzuki. Swanson is not going to singlehandedly push the franchise into baseball’s slugging upper echelon, but if he can rebound and out-pace his Steamer projections and reach double-digit homers it would be a start for an offense that will regardless rely more on extra-base hits than planting baseballs in the seats.
At any length, Swanson’s first spring hit was a loud one.