2020 Will be a Vital Season for Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect Travis Swaggerty


If the 2020 season is able to be played, it will be an important one for the Pittsburgh Pirates 2018 1st round draft pick Travis Swaggerty.

In the 2018 MLB Draft, many people believed the Pittsburgh Pirates got a great value with their 1st round pick. With the 10th overall pick in the draft, the Pirates selected outfielder Travis Swaggerty. Prior to the draft, many people believed Swaggerty was one of the five best prospects in the draft.

Swaggerty quickly signed, and made his professional debut later that summer with the short-season West Virginia Black Bears. With the Black Bears, Swaggerty would waste little time making his impact and he looked like one of the best player’s from that year’s draft.

Swaggerty had 158 plate appearance in 38 games for the Black Bears. In these 158 plate appearances he hit .288/.365/.453 with a .165 ISO, 140 wRC+, and a 10.1% extra base hit rate. While he did strikeout 25.3% of time time, he countered this with a strong 9.5% walk rate.

His performance with the Black Bears earned Swaggerty a nod as a New York-Penn League All-Star. Swaggerty’s strong performance also led to the Pittsburgh Pirates making the aggressive decision to promote him to the full-season Low-A West Virginia Power for the final 16 games of the season.

With the Power, Swaggerty would struggle mightily. The first time pro hit just .129/.225/.226 with an .097 ISO and a wRC+ of 35 in 71 plate appearance. However, his walk rate remained strong at 9.9%. Additionally, he was victimized by a batting average on balls in play of .159. Any time a batter has a BAbip that is nearly 150 points below league average, that is the sign of some horrible luck.

In 2019, Swaggerty made another jump. He spent the entire season with the High-A Bradenton Marauders. With the Marauders, Swaggerty hit .265/.347/.381 with a .116 ISO and a 120 wRC+. He saw his strikeout rate drop to 22.1% and his walk rate rise to 10.9%. These result led to the former 1st round pick being named a Florida State League All-Star.

Now, it’s onto what 2020 could hold for Swaggerty. The Louisiana native will turn 23 in August, and there are a few things the Pittsburgh Pirates front office will want to see from their top outfield prospect.

First off, you would like to see Swaggerty’s strikeout rate drop a few ticks. Ideally, you would like to see it be 20% of lower. Second, Swaggerty will want to continue to carry a strong walk rate.

Most importantly, you want to see an increase in power from Swaggerty in 2020. While he was an All-Star with Bradenton last season, his slugging percentage and ISO were both below league average. The same goes for his 7% extra base hit rate. If Swaggerty is going to reach his full potential, an increase in power is a necessity.

FanGraphs ranks Swaggerty as the 4th best prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system, and the 61st best prospect in all of baseball. FanGraphs grades his raw power as a 60, his speed as 65, his arm a 60, and his fielding a 55. For reference, a 50 grade is considered average.

If there is a 2020 season, you want to see Swaggerty start flash more of this raw power the way he did with the West Virginia Black Bears in 2018. There are reasons for optimism, though, following Swaggerty’s strong finish to the 2019 season. During the final two months of the season Swaggerty slugged .469 to go with a .141 ISO and a 9.4% extra base hit rate. While the ISO and extra base hit rates are still a tick lower than you would like to see, they’re both big steps in the right direction.

While it is unknown where Swaggerty will begin the 2020 season, Double-A Altoona would make sense. Swaggerty came to the Pirates as an advanced college hitter, he is already 22, and has full season at High-A under his belt already. A return to Bradenton, especially after he posted above league average offensive numbers with the Marauders a year ago, makes no sense for Swaggerty.

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Right now the Pittsburgh Pirates starting center fielder for the 2020 season is slated to be Jarrod Dyson, who was signed to a one-year contract in Spring Training. As the team looks for their long term answer in center field, there has to be a lot of hope within the organization that it will be Swaggerty.

Swaggerty’s current ETA for the MLB level is 2022. With a big 2021 season, Swaggerty could speed up this timeline. If he puts together a strong season for Double-A Altoona in 2020 and reaches Triple-A Indianapolis by the end of the season, he could be in position to reach Pittsburgh during the summer of 2021. In order to do this, he needs to rediscover his power stroke if/when the 2020 season begins. This makes the 2020 season a vital one for Swaggerty.