Travis Swaggerty has looked like a completely different player this spring, and should be rewarded with an Opening Day roster spot
Every year there are players across baseball who enter spring training on the outside looking in when it comes to making their team's Opening Day roster, but, due to their performance, work their way onto the Opening Day roster. For the Pittsburgh Pirates, Travis Swaggerty has had that type of spring training.
A former top 10 overall pick in the MLB Draft, Swaggerty's career has been slowed in recent years by injuries. Had it not been for a shoulder injury that limited him to just 12 minor league games, Swaggerty would have made his MLB debut during the 2021 season. While he made his MLB debut last season, he received just nine at-bats in the majors and battled a concussion while at Triple-A. Don't forget that the COVID pandemic canceling the 2020 minor league season cost Swaggerty an entire season of development as well.
This spring, Swaggerty has looked every bit the part of a former first-round pick with a big reason being that he is healthy. Swaggerty appears to be the healthiest he has been since at least spring training 2021, leading to great results at the plate and in the field.
In Sunday's 8-0 Grapefruit League loss against the Baltimore Orioles Swaggerty had just one trip to the plate. However, he did what he has done all spring and got on base when he drew a walk. With this walk, he now has a .444 on-base percentage this spring.
Swaggerty now has 27 plate appearances in Grapefruit League action. He has hit for a terrific .400/.444/.760 slash line. His 3 home runs are tied for the team lead this spring, and he has struck out just six times.
Now, as we always say, it's difficult to put much stock into spring training stats and that is not what is going on here. Yes, Swaggerty's results at the plate have been great but they're not hallow stats. His results are not solely coming from him legging out ground balls, beating up on minor league pitching, or benefitting from the wild Florida winds.
Swaggerty has looked confident at the plate. He has consistently put together strong at-bats showing a great eye and patience at the plate. The left-handed hitter has consistently hit one line drive after another. These are the things you want to see from a hitter at any point in time and it's what's building the belief that Swaggerty may be turning a corner as a hitter, while contributing to him having earned a spot on the Opening Day roster.
Sooner or later the Pirate front office needs to make some sort of decision on Swaggerty. Do they potentially see him as an every day player? A fourth outfielder? Whatever they may view him as, the only way to find out what Swaggerty will be in the majors is to give him a legitimate look. With what he has done this spring he has earned that opportunity.