Pittsburgh Pirates Grapefruit League: Drew Maggi Impresses in Hot Start

Pittsburgh Pirates Photo Day
Pittsburgh Pirates Photo Day / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

Non-roster invitee Drew Maggi has impressed many after a surprising hot start down in the Grapefruit League. Could this early spring training success lead to the 33-year-old journeyman making the Opening Day roster?

Before answering that question, let's rewind and see Drew Maggi's journey back to the Buccos: Drew Maggi was a former 15th round pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2010 MLB Draft and unfortunately never made it to the big leagues. Following the draft, Maggi clawed his way through the minor leagues for four seasons, finishing his Pirates career with the Altoona Curve in 2014. That season, the 25-year-old posted solid numbers overall, hitting a .280/.382/.340, with 3 homeruns, 25RBIs, a 111 wRC+, and stole a whopping 37 bases across 110 games.

While in the Pirates farm system, Drew Maggi became a super utility player with plus fielding ability, solid plate discipline, exceptional base stealing ability, as well as great speed and athleticism. Unfortunately, Maggi rarely hit for power, only hitting 9 combined home runs across four minor league seasons, and he was not resigned by the Pirates after the 2014 season.

Maggi signed with the Angels in the offseason, and bounced around the Dodgers, Indians, and Twins farm systems for five seasons before being added to the Twins 40-Man roster on September 18th, 2021. In Triple-A St. Paul, the 32-year-old Maggi hit a .252/.354/.456, with a career high 16 homeruns and 50RBIs, as well as a career worst 30.8 strikeout rate. Even when many wrote him off as a career minor leaguer, Maggi officially became a Major League player! Unfortunately, he was demoted back to Triple-A St. Paul two days later and didn't make his MLB debut.

After signing a minor league deal with the Phillies in 2022, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded for Maggi in exchange for cash considerations, and finished out the season in Triple-A Indianapolis. With the Indians, Maggi put together an unimpressive outing, hitting .219/.276/.323, with 8 RBI and 8 stolen bases across 105 plate appearances. Maggi struck out 28.6% of the time at the plate and didn't hit a single homerun with either team.

Fast forward to present day, Maggi is back where it all started and was one of the non-roster invitees brought to spring training this season. After all these years, he was welcomed home to Pirate City. At 33-years-old, Maggi is one of many veteran players in Pirate camp who are competing for an Opening Day roster spot.

Maggi has taken advantage of this golden opportunity by hitting well early this Spring. In 9 at-bats, Maggi has hit .556/.600/1.000, with a home run, 3 RBI, and a stolen stolen base. Earlier this month on March 2nd, Maggi hit his first home run of the Spring to end the 9-0 shutout against the Yankees. Granted, this is all in an extremely small sample size, but it's still impressive nonetheless. If Maggi continues to rake this spring, could he make the Opening Day roster and fulfill his lifelong dream?

If certain variables play out, it's definitely possible for Maggi to make the Opening Day roster. The Pittsburgh Pirates are in desperate need of utility players, primarily someone who is flexible across the infield and isn't a liability as a fielder. Maggi could be that guy.

In his entire minor league career, Maggi has been a quality fielder and has experience at almost every position, excluding center field and catcher. With the Opening Day infield projected to be Ke'Bryan Hayes at third base, Oneil Cruz at shortstop, Rodolfo Castro at second base, with Ji-Man Choi and Carlos Santana splitting time at first base/designated hitter, these infielders will need rest days throughout the season. That is where Maggi's position flexibility could come in handy as a super utility player.

While Ji-Hwan Bae and fellow Non Roster Invitee Chris Owings seem to be the clear favorites for the backup utility role, the Pittsburgh Pirates could still take a shot on Maggi and see how he does in that role. After all, crazier things have happend in baseball and Maggi's story is one of true resilience.

He refused retirement in order to fight for a chance to make his dream become a reality. When the world told him to give up, he stood even taller and persevered; that's true grit. Even if Maggi doesn't win the backup job, he should be given a chance to make his MLB debut with the Pirates sometime this season, and get to experience what it's like to play in PNC Park after all these years. I can only imagine how much that would mean to him. What's the worst that could happen?

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