On Wednesday, shortstop Dansby Swanson made his big league debut with the Atlanta Braves, going 2-for-4 in a 10-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

On Monday, right-hander Shelby Miller made a start for the Reno Aces—the Arizona Diamondbacks‘ Triple-A affiliate.

That’s significant, because Swanson was a key piece in the trade that shipped Miller from the Braves to the D-backs this winter.

Swanson is a story unto himself, as we’ll delve into shortly. But his role in the Miller swap can’t be ignored.

Arizona, recall, selected Swanson with the No. 1 overall pick in the June 2015 amateur draft. Roughly six months later, the Diamondbacks sent Swansonalong with outfielder Ender Inciarte and pitching prospect Aaron Blairto the Braves for Miller.

The trade was widely panned at the time. In May, yours truly asked if it could end up as one of the worst in MLB history.

Now, with Miller and his 7.14 big league ERA flaming out in the desert and Swanson completing his impressively rapid MLB rise, the answer is approaching an unequivocal “yes.”

Atlanta cleared space for Swanson by trading veteran shortstop Erick Aybar to the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday, per David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The rebuilding Braves plugged the 22-year-old Swanson into the middle of their infield and, presumably, will give him ample rope.

Yes, the 44-76 Braves are a country mile from playoff contention in the National League East, on pace to lose 100-plus games.

More importantly, though, Atlanta is moving into a shiny new stadium in 2017 and is seeking a new face of the franchise to lubricate the transition.

There’s talent on this Braves roster, including resurgent first baseman Freddie Freeman, but arguably no signature player for fans to rally around—a moniker that will grace jerseys and light up talk radio for years to come.

Can Swanson be that guy?

It’s a heavy question to ponder as he takes his first hacks in The Show. History is littered with the husks of touted prospects who failed to live up to the hype, at least initially.

Count Atlanta president of baseball operations John Hart among the believers.

“I think that Dansby is going to be able to handle it mentally,” Hart said, per ESPN.com. “He’s not a kid that if he comes in and really struggles right out of the gate that it’s going to affect him.”

In 21 games with High-A this season, Swanson hit .333 with a .967 OPS. His numbers tailed off after advancing to Double-A Mississippi, where he posted a .261/.342/.402 slash line.

In naming him the Braves’ No. 1 overall prospect, MLB.com noted that with “his quickness, hands and arm strength, Swanson should stay at shortstop long term.”

Still, it’s too early to toss this kid on the heap with the Houston Astros‘ Carlos Correa, the Cleveland Indians‘ Francisco Lindor and the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ Corey Seager and anoint him part of baseball’s burgeoning shortstop revolution.

He’s an intriguing talent, however, no argument there. Just 26 months after leading Vanderbilt to a College World Series victory, he’s vaulting past Triple-A and doing his thing on the game’s biggest stage. 

If you’re a Braves fan searching for the glass-half-full take, MLB.com’s Richard Justice provided it, noting the team’s improved record and strong bullpen:

Swanson can shove the optimism meter up several notches with a dominant debut. Those two hits he notched Wednesday don’t hurt.

Here’s how Steve Hummer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution summed it up:

Enough waiting. Enough watching a shortstop who was an obvious short-timer [in Aybar]. Enough sitting through this Braves season with one eye on the losingest team in Major League Baseball and one on a long list of prospects working distant fields, longing for a tangible return on our patience. It is time to throw Dansby Swanson into the deep end.  

Swanson’s big league career won’t be decided by the next month-plus. That’s not how these things work. The jury, technically, is still out on the Miller trade.

A scalding stretch from Swanson, however, would add salt to Arizona’s wounds. And that same salt would undoubtedly line the margarita glasses of grateful, toasting Atlanta fans.


All statistics current as of Aug. 16 and courtesy of MLB.com and Baseball-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.

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