Despite Setbacks, Travis Swaggerty In Position To Validate Draft Status

College players don’t always have the highest upside in a draft, but they come with the benefit of a higher floor than prep players.

The extra time at college allows for the players bodies and skillsets to further develop and you can get a much clearer idea at what they may offer at the next level.

When the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Travis Swaggerty out of South Alabama University back in 2018, they took a player that was a naturally gifted centerfield with speed, but with power that was developing.

After being drafted, Swaggerty signed quickly and jumped right into professional ball, playing in 52 games to close out the 2018 season, mostly at Rookie League.

He got the push up to High-A Bradenton to start the 2019 season where he didn’t really light the world on fire offensively. He posted a .265/.347/.381 slash, with nine home runs and 23 stolen bases. In all total he registered 32 extra-base hits, and the analytics were kind to him, giving him a wRC+ of 120 for the season.

Swaggerty also showed a good, not great approach at the plate. He posted a 10.9% walk rate but struck out over 20% of the time (22.1). It is a number that you could probably live with as long as the walks remained.

After the 2020 year was canceled, Ben Cherington gave the former first round pick maybe the most aggressive assignment of anyone else in the system, pushing him all the way to Triple-A Indianapolis, skipping Double-A altogether.

The aggressive push was maybe a precursor of the Pirates potentially giving him a shot to make his major league debut at some point in 2021.

Unfortunately, a freak accident sliding back to first base led to season ending surgery and pushed back any potential debut until 2022.

It was truly a shame that the injury occurred, as it looked like whatever Swaggerty was doing over the offseason was working and he was finally tapping into some of that power potential.

It was only 12 games and 48 plate appearances, so it was an incredibly small sample size to look at the numbers, but they were still impressive.

Swaggerty had a .439 slugging percentage at the time of the injury, nearly 60-points higher than what he registered with Bradenton.

The strikeout rate was a little high, but his walks were up from where they were in 2019. Again, a lot of that has to do with the limited number of at-bats, but there was no doubt that Swaggerty responded to the aggressive push to Triple-A out the gate.

Here’s a couple of at-bats that stick out during his brief time in Indianapolis.

This is his second at-bat of the season, the first one was a home run hit on a fastball up and in on him.

After taking the first pitch for a called strike one, Swaggerty works the count in his favor to 3-1, which included laying off on a close fastball and a tempting curveball, and eventually lines a single the other way for a base hit.

The second clip shows Swaggerty working a seven-pitch walk, fouling off two pitches during the plate appearance. It was the exact kind of thing you would want to see out of a lead-off hitter to open an inning.

The final video is just a single pitch at-bat showing Swaggerty’s aggressive and awareness of the situation. With runners on first and second and one out, Swaggerty gets an opportunity to extend the lead.

He takes a first pitch fastball on the outer half and hits it hard the other way, scoring Anthony Alford from second and extending the lead to 3-0.

While his professional career hasn’t really taken off like most would have liked, especially for a top-10 pick, there’s still plenty of time for Swaggerty to become a contributor to the Pirates. He’s been dealt some unfortunate circumstances between the pandemic shutting down the 2020 season, and the freak injury sliding back into first. Even this Spring he has been held back due to an injury to his throwing shoulder that has limited him to just hitting.

While there are certain implications when a player is drafted in the top-10, the MLB Draft is much a crapshoot as any other sport.

When looking at the last 15 players selected tenth overall starting the year before Swaggerty (2003-2017), you can see how you just never know what the future might bring.

Looking at Wins Above Replacement (WAR), players selected there ranged from -2.0 (Michael Choice) to 38.2 (Madison Bumgarner).

Just looking at position players (10 of the 15 were), they averaged as a collective group 1.72 WAR per 162 games played. According to FanGraphs, and it can range from year-to-year, that would put him in the range of a good role player, right under a starter.

So, although ideally you get more out of the tenth overall pick, history has shown what the average is for a player taken in that position.

Swaggerty’s biggest asset is his glove, with most outlets seeing him as at least an above average defender. That alone puts him in a position to be at least a fourth outfielder, and if he can pick up where he left off last year at the plate, could find himself as a starter.

Coming in at 15th on our prospect rankings, Swaggerty may not have the upside at this point as others around him, but it is his relatively high floor that helps boost his value.

THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS

Pittsburgh Pirates 2022 Top 30 Prospects

Williams: The Pirates Have a Nice Convergence of Prospects

WTM: An Embarrassment of Riches

Potential Sleeper Prospects From the Dominican Summer League

Despite Setbacks, Travis Swaggerty In Position To Validate Draft Status

Unique Skillset Gives Dariel Lopez Breakout Potential

Under the Radar: Sleepers Just Outside of the Pirates Top 30

Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.

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