Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Three Late Round Picks Off to Strong Starts
By Noah Wright
Most college picks come out of the NCAA, but Aaron Shackelford is one of the few occasional picks to come out of the NAIA. Even though he was coming out of a small school, you still can't help but raise an eyebrow when you look at his college numbers. Shackelford hit 36 home runs in fewer than 250 plate appearances with a .415 batting average and a slugging percentage over 1.000 throughout his last college season.
The infielder was the Bucs' 14th-round pick back in 2019. Last season, Shackelford posted some respectable numbers. He spent most of his time at Altoona, where he batted .239/.315/.499 with a .351 wOBA and 117 wRC+. Although Shackelford struck out 28.9% of the time, he had an above-average 9% walk rate, hit 26 home runs in 443 plate appearances, and had a .259 isolated slugging percentage.
Shackelford spent the last week of the '22 season at Triple-A Indy, where he is once again. The slugger's numbers so far are very impressive. It's only been 97 plate appearances, but he is batting .303/.443/.526 with a .431 wOBA and 150 wRC+. While his 25.8% strikeout rate is still a tad high, it is an improvement of 3.1% compared to his time at Altoona. He's still hitting for decent power with a .224 isolated slugging percentage and is walking at a whopping 18.6% rate.
Now like with Bowen, be a little skeptical of his numbers. Shackelford has a .408 batting average on balls in play. Unlike Bowen, he isn't a BAbip merchant. His BAbip in 2021-2022 was just .265, and his career mark is .291. Even though his strikeout rate has improved, he is still below average altogether.
Shackelford has spent most of his time at second base this year. However, first base is the position he has the most innings logged at throughout his entire career. Third base is a third position he's seen a handful of games at. He even took up right field a couple of times last season for the Curve.
I definitely think that Shackelford would be a better option on the Pirates' bench over Miguel Andujar, despite some red flags. He has versatility and power potential on his side. His strikeouts and BABIP are a tad worrying, but he has improved the former this year. There's definitely a chance this is the next guy the Pirates call upon if Andujar doesn't start putting something together. He's definitely made his case so far this year.