by Ryan Lang
Photo courtesy of Minda Haas Kuhlmann/Flicker.
Pittsburgh Pirates' centerfield prospect, Travis Swaggerty, was drafted 10th overall in the 2018 MLB draft and has been in AAA ball for the club since 2021. He is currently their 21st ranked prospect in the system.
While his stats won’t jump off the sheet, he possesses a major league glove in centerfield. He is a career .253 hitter with a .733 ops in the minor leagues. When it comes to defense, he would without a doubt be an above average center fielder and has the speed to be a stolen base threat.
Swaggerty was called up for just five games last season and only went 1-9 at the plate. However, many in the Pirates' fanbase believe he deserves an extended chance in the majors to see what he can produce over 20-30 games. His injury history might be a big reason as to why he has only played in five big league games. Many thought he was going to get a chance at some point in 2021, however he suffered a season ending shoulder injury in late May.
He has, for the most part, had an inconsistent minor league career. In 2019, he played pretty well in high A, but then missed much of the next two seasons. In 2020, the season was canceled due to Covid-19 and he injured his shoulder in May of 2021 missing most of the season. In 2022, after skipping AA and being sent straight to AAA, he played well enough to make his MLB debut and record his first big league hit. However, he was sent back down shortly after.
While he hasn’t gotten much of a chance in the past, there was a good possibility he would make the big league roster after hitting .379/.471/.690 in the spring. However, Derek Shelton went a different direction. If he can start to get back to the way he hit this spring, he has a chance to get called up this year, especially with Jack Suwinski struggling as of late.
It will be interesting to see what he is going to have to do to get the call up to the Pirates. His glove will be as competent as Suwinski’s if not better. It’s becoming evident that the front office may not believe in him. Some of that may have to do with the fact that he was drafted by former general manager, Neil Huntington. It doesn't seem like current GM, Ben Cherington, believes in him as much as Huntington did.
The Pirates could use young talent for their outfield. Swaggerty could be a good rotational guy to start when Suwinski or Bryan Reynolds need a day off. All teams in the “bigs” need to maintain depth in the outfield and right now the Pirates don’t have that. Currently they have five “outfielders” on the depth chart with the three starters, Bae and Palacios, but Bae is also the starting second baseman.
Jack Suwinski jumped from AA to the majors and still has some issues with his swing. Suwinski has seven home runs, but he is also hitting .219 with 49 strikeouts in 128 AB. Getting Suwinski some at-bats at AAA while seeing what Swaggerty can do could be beneficial for the future of the Pirates outfield.
Swaggerty is a young talent who flashes as a five-tool player, but not consistently. If he can continue to grow and produce this season, he could provide the Pirates with better depth options in the outfield by the end of the 2023 season. There is a possibility the Pirates could call up three of their top prospects this year, Swaggerty likely among them. Perhaps he can be a part of the Pirates Renaissance.