A former Pirates first round pick who is off to a surprising start

Former Pittsburgh Pirates' first round pick Sammy Siani is off to a surpisingly hot start to the 2024 season.
Los Angeles Dodgers v Pittsburgh Pirates
Los Angeles Dodgers v Pittsburgh Pirates / Rick Stewart/GettyImages

In 2019, the Pittsburgh Pirates took Sammy Siani with their first-round competitive balance pick. At the time, Siani was ranked as a top 50 draft prospect by both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America. Both cited his potential to have an above-average hit tool with solid speed and the chance to stick in center field. However, Siani never seemed to be able to find his footing for the first handful of years.

Siani's best season was in 2021 when he hit .215/.376/.390 with a .370 wOBA and 116 wRC+ in 258 plate appearances. While Siani walked a ton with a 20.6% walk rate and had a respectable .175 isolated slugging percentage, he also struck out more often than you'd like to see with a 24.4% K%. Regardless, it wasn't a bad season overall, and he would get the bump to Greensboro the following year.

But Siani wasn't able to make it past Greensboro in both 2022 and 2023, batting a poor .217/.328/.338 with a .316 wOBA, and 89 wRC+. The power Siani displayed in 2021 had dissipated and he put up just a .121 ISO between the two seasons. His walk rate took a dip to 13.3% while his strikeout rate skyrocketed. Siani went down on strike three about a third of the time with a 33.7% K-rate.

After two poor seasons and never showing much even in his solid '21 campaign, there weren't many expectations for Siani entering 2024. But he got off to a strong start, hitting .324/.401/.563 with a .441 wOBA and 173 wRC+ through his first 82 plate appearances of the year. He was hitting for more pop, going yard four times. He also only struck out nine times with 11 walks.

Lowering the strikeouts was a big step forward, but Siani also was lifting the ball more frequently. His groundball rate shrunk from 46.4% in '22 to 43.1% at High-A in 2024. Meanwhile, his flyball rate went up by nearly 10%, from 27.8% to 38%. He was hitting fewer line drives, but getting the ball off the ground more frequently definitely helped him hit for more power to open the year.

Siani's recent success at Greensboro earned him a promotion to Double-A Altoona. He went 1-4 in his debut with a triple, a good start for the still 23-year-old former first-round outfielder. But is this hot start to the year just a fluke, or is it something to pay attention to?

In my opinion, a player's hot start is always worth paying attention to. This is particularly true given the Pirates' limited top outfield prospects. It would be a nice development if Siani can maintain his impressive performance as he continues to play at Altoona, potentially re-establishing himself as a promising prospect.

Siani has definitely made some changes to his swing. He's much more upright in the box in his stance and holds the bat closer to his shoulder when he loads up to swing. It also looks like he may have slightly lowered his leg kick. 

We will see what happens. Obviously, it's a small sample size, so take it for what you will. Hopefully, Siani doesn't just go on a 2021-Matt Fraizer run just to never repeat anything close to it again in any subsequent season. In Siani's defense, he will have a much longer look at Double-A this year than Fraizer did in 2021. 

Again, it would be a massive revelation for the Pirates if Siani truly figured it out.

Hopefully, he continues to show why he was a top-50 prospect in the 2019 draft class. Only time will tell, but hopefully, Siani can continue to hit well and potentially force himself into the Pirates' future plans.