The 2018 MLB Draft is underway. The Pittsburgh Pirates 10th overall pick in the first round has come and gone. The Pirates have selected Travis Swaggerty with their first selection of the day.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have selected outfielder Travis Swaggerty from South Alabama, and the junior doesn’t turn 21 until August. He is the fourth top prospect on Fangraphs, 11th on MLB Pipeline, and 11th on Baseball America. Once Austin Meadows officially graduates, Swaggerty becomes the Pirates top outfield prospect and top positional prospect. The outfielder, according to The Board, would rank 71st on Fangraphs top 100.
Swaggerty stands at 5’11” and 180 pounds, throwing and hitting from the left side. He played center field for South Alabama and added some power this year. After hitting .361/.487/.567 with 19 stolen bases in his sophomore year, the Pirates tenth overall pick hit .296/.455/.526 with nine stolen bases this past year.
While the on-base and slugging went down, his walk rate went up from 17.6 percent to 19.49 percent and his isolated power went from .206 to .230, demonstrating a better approach and the added power. Furthermore, his strikeout rate went down from 16.10 percent to 13.72 percent.
Last summer with a wood bat and playing for the US Collegiate team, Swaggerty hit .328/.449/.406 with 11 walks and 18 strikeouts. The outfielder stands open in the box and has a quiet load and he gets some loft to his swing. MLB Pipeline lists him as a 60-grade runner with 50 power, making Swaggerty a potential one or two batter. In their write-ups at Fangraphs, prospect writers Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel write that,
"“Swaggerty just needs to dial in the swing mechanics and an approach that takes best advantage of his tools, which are arguably tops in the class.”"
Swaggerty is an athlete and with the speed and ability to reach base, and given the potential he hits for more power going forward, the Pirates could have a one-two punch of Austin Meadows and Travis Swaggerty at the top of the order. Calming down and being more comfortable with the new swing should help going forward.
There is some concern here, especially if the swing isn’t dialed in. That could lead to an increase in swing and miss, which would limit his tools, especially the speed. Fangraphs has his variance as high, which makes his ceiling high but his floor low. So there’s the potential that at best Swaggerty could be an All-Star or it could make his best be a replacement player. But, he’s still one of the better college bats in the draft.
All in all, with Austin Meadows soon graduating off the prospect lists, impact bats, especially of outfielders, is thin. Ke’Bryan Hayes and Cole Tucker represent the next crop of hitters, but both are only in Double-A and Tucker has struggled. By adding Swaggerty, the Pirates are adding an athletic center fielder who tapped into some more power this year, and he should be on track to join the Pirates outfield around 2020 or 2021 when he’s 22 almost 23 or 23 almost 24. For now, if he signs, Swaggerty will be around the Pirates third or fourth best prospect once Meadows graduates.
*Numbers from the Baseball Cube