Pittsburgh Pirates: Prospects Set for an Extended Look in 2022

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 29: Roansy Contreras #59 of the Pittsburgh Pirates makes his Major League debut against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park on September 29, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 29: Roansy Contreras #59 of the Pittsburgh Pirates makes his Major League debut against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park on September 29, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /
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Pittsburgh Pirates
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 /

Outfielder Travis Swaggerty

Travis Swaggerty was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first round of the 2018 MLB draft. The left-handed outfielder showed some promise in the early part of his career. He put up a 120 wRC+ and 10.9% walk rate in 2019. But showed almost no power. He had an ISO of just .116.

However, many saw more power potential in Swaggerty and it seemed he finally reached that in 2021. However, it was in an extremely small sample size of just 48 plate appearances. Still, the Pirates’ top outfield prospect showed a fair bit of promise, hitting for a solid .220/.333/.439 line (.772 OPS), .343 wOBA, and 108 wRC+. Swaggerty blasted 3 home runs during his run at Triple-A while having a .220 isolated slugging percentage.

Now Swaggerty’s numbers were heavily influenced by some extremely bad batted ball luck. He had a strong 26.7% line drive rate and a low 36.7% ground ball rate. He had an identical 36.7% fly ball rate as well. Plus he was hitting to all fields, having a rate of at least 30% at pulling the ball, going opposite field, or up the middle. Despite that, he had a .200 batting average on balls in play. League average is usually .300, and most batters who have a similar batted ball profile in the major leagues this year like Jeimer Candelario, Nick Castellanos, Austin Riley, and Dylan Carlson, all have BABip’s around .330.

Swaggerty has consistently shown good plate discipline throughout the minor leagues. His walk rate has increased every year of his pro career so far, posting a 12.5% rate throughout his small sample size at Triple-A. His strikeout rate has been following a similar trend, sinking to just a 16.7% mark.

Everything seemed to be looking up for Swaggerty in 2021, that was before he dislocated his right shoulder, forcing him to miss the rest of the season. Had it not been for that, he would have taken over a regular role in the grass, alongside Bryan Reynolds.

Though Swags is mostly known for his defensive work out in centerfield, his offense has steadily been on the rise. He has walked more, struck out less, and was starting to show pop in 2021. Hopefully, the shoulder issue doesn’t set him too far back. Next year will be his age-24 season, so he’ll once again be looking to take over a regular role.

The Pittsburgh Pirates will likely be a bit more patient with Swaggerty given that he is coming back from a 2021 season-ending injury. That’s why I think it’s possible Matthew Fraizer gets the call over Swaggerty first. But if he’s at 100% by the end of April, he should become a major league regular sometime in May.

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