By: Jack Boulia
If you follow the MLB even relatively closely, you’ll notice that this year’s draft class is one of the weakest in recent memory. There are no 60 FV players (on the basic scouting scale of 20-80), with the closest being prep arm Kolby Allard who grades out at a 55/60 when healthy, but for now is considered a 45+ FV due to his health risks. For those who don’t know, generally a 60 FV player is a player who is better than above-average, but isn’t quite consistent All-Star material. These are basically three-win players, or better described as very valuable. On prospect lists, FVs of 60 are generally in the tier 10-30 and are clearly highly-regarded. In this draft, there were two other players of 55 FV and the rest 50 and under. Now, don’t get me wrong–55 FV players are very valuable; they are considered to be above-average regulars and roughly 2.5 win contributors, however you generally don’t envision the number one player in the draft “only” being an above-average regular.
So, in that regard, Swanson’s name value is inflated a little and not because of his absolutely terrific name. Next year on prospect lists, I expect Swanson will be in the range of 30-80. Some people will be high on him, some people will be low on him, so let’s settle right in the middle and say he’ll be about the 55th ranked prospect (most of the guys in the 30-80 range are interchangeable, it’s splitting hairs at that point). Swanson is a relatively safe prospect; I prefer Kiley McDaniel’s work to most scouts, so I’ve been referring to him for these grades so far and will continue to do so. Anyway, according to Kiley, Swanson’s risk is a two on a scale of 1-5. His relatively low risk factors into his FV rating of 55, so there actually is a lot to like here. Scouts rave about Swanson’s terrific makeup so he could become a 60 FV down the line, but if he slides to a 50 FV, having an average major league shortstop is still a really terrific thing for any team.
I really liked this pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks; in fact, I like a lot of what they’ve been doing lately (even though I feel like it’s on accident) and there is a pretty large infusion of youth going on in Arizona at the moment. Obviously they were going to get a young player, that much is obvious. I’m not commending them for taking a young player in the MLB First Year Player Draft. However, they have Archie Bradley at a 60 FV. Braden Shipley is a 55 FV. Aaron Blair is a 55 FV. These are all starting pitchers with pretty high ceilings that are nearly Major League ready (with the exception of Bradley who has debuted). Simply put, Arizona has some very talented pitching, but are a little light on impact position players outside of Brandon Drury. Dansby Swanson is a pretty polished player with a high floor and shouldn’t spend a ton of time in the minors; what I’m trying to say is he’s nearly Major League ready. And he should be pretty reliable. His 75% production projection per Kiley McDaniel is .280/.350/.430 with about 12-15 homeruns. Young pitching is very volatile; Swanson reduces Arizona’s volatility factor by a quite a bit, raising the floor for the future considerably while keeping the ceiling the same.
For quite a while, Brendan Rogers was the consensus #1 pick with everything else looking murky beyond that. And truthfully, it still could have gone either way yesterday; Rogers and Swanson are nearly interchangeable. They are both shortstops with 55 FV, and Rogers’ 75% production projection was an almost identical .280/.350/.460 with 15-18 homeruns, which grades out as average power, but is pretty above average for shortstop. So, you may be wondering why Arizona took a seemingly better hitter over a seemingly inferior hitter and the answer lies in Rogers being a prep shortstop. He’s far away from the majors, a good four years if everything goes correctly, which makes the risk attached to him naturally go up. Although his risk is a three, the difference between a two-risk, and a three-risk is actually somewhat decent. If a two is a 40% risk, a three is a 60%. Like I mentioned before; Swanson is closer. And college-experienced. It makes him a better pick for the Diamondbacks because there is less risk attached to a nearly-identical player who is closer to the big leagues. Arizona keeps hinting that they do want to contend pretty soon with a pretty large infusion of highly-volatile, albeit talented, players. Think of this year’s Astros, or probably more accurately the Mets who are loaded with young pitching and have young position players like Wilmer Flores and Juan Lagares. This is a team that’s a couple years from potentially being a big threat, and Dansby Swanson just made them look a whole lot more believable.