Pittsburgh Pirates: Potential Impact of Injury on Travis Swaggerty’s Future

Indianapolis centerfielder Travis Swaggerty hit a leadoff home run to start the game against Iowa at Principal Park in Des Moines on Tuesday, May 4, 2021.20210504 Iowacubs
Indianapolis centerfielder Travis Swaggerty hit a leadoff home run to start the game against Iowa at Principal Park in Des Moines on Tuesday, May 4, 2021.20210504 Iowacubs /

Pittsburgh Pirates top outfield prospect Travis Swaggerty will miss the rest of the 2021 season after undergoing shoulder surgery. Will this impact his long-term future?

The Pittsburgh Pirates lost what could be one of the more important pieces of their next competition ready core for the rest of the 2021 season. Outfielder Travis Swaggerty, who underwent laboral shoulder surgery earlier this month, will be out for the next 5-6 months recovering. But could this hurt his future with the team?

Swaggerty started off the year, skipping Double-A entirely and moving up to Triple-A. He looked pretty solid at Indianapolis, hitting .222/.333/.439 with a .344 wOBA and 109 wRC+. Swaggerty got very unlucky in his first 43 plate appearances, only having a .200 batting average on balls in play despite a line drive rate south of 30% (26.7%), a well above average ground ball rate (36.7%), and solid flyball rate (36.7%).

Swaggerty has always had the raw power potential to be a slugger, but never showed it. That was until the start of this season. 3 of Swag’s 9 hits were home runs. He had a .220 isolated slugging percentage, which was over 100 points higher than his 2019 mark of .116. Plus he was walking at a 12.5% rate, and only striking out 16.7% of the time.

Swaggerty starting to barrell up the ball more often, showing well improved plate discipline, while being the elite level defender was an extremely promising way to start his 2021 season. But the biggest thing he’ll lose this year is almost another year of development.

With the 2020 minor league season being canned, we never got to see what Swaggerty could do against live pitching in a real game for an entire year. This season, based on the way he was hitting, he could have reached the Majors at some point this summer.

Luckily for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Swaggery’s shoulder injury wasn’t for his dominant arm. The injury shouldn’t affect his outfield throwing arm, which has gotten rave reviews from scouts. Currently, he’s considered a 60-future grade fielder with a 60-grade arm on FanGraphs.

Although we won’t see the outfielder this year he’s still a highly touted prospect in the Pirate farm system. FanGraphs ranks him as the 122nd best prospect in baseball, coming in with a 50-future hit grade, 45-future game power grade, and 60 current and future raw power grade.

Not having the chance to watch Swaggerty in the outfield at PNC Park is a loss for both the organization and fans, but this injury shouldn’t take the wind out of his sail. Many top prospects who didn’t get to play in 2020 are going to come up a year or two later than they usually would. Plus, since the Pittsburgh Pirates aren’t contenders this year, they don’t need to have him in the line-up everyday in the Major Leagues at this very moment.

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Sure, losing almost an entire year of development hurts, but Swaggerty should still be a major part of the future plans of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Until he proves otherwise, he’s still the Pirates’ best outfield prospect. But that injury could change that. This may give the opportunity to guys like Hudson Head or Canaan Smith-Njiba to rise faster through the system. However, so long as there are no set-backs, his debut will likely be in early 2022, rather than early 2021.