Travis Swaggerty was drafted in 2018 in the first round by the Pittsburgh Pirates and of course that comes with expectation. Some of that expectation is related to his first round selection, some of it is based on who made the selection and his, um, track record of success.
I’ve heard Swaggerty suggested as a player to watch for making the Pirates this season, by people I truly respect, and I have to say, I don’t see it. Like not even a little.
He’s not played above A ball yet, and as thin as the organization is in the outfield, that doesn’t warrant believing he’ll slide right through AA and AAA all in just a few months to make his debut in Pittsburgh.
And let me be abundantly clear, even if the implication was he could be a September call up, no. There is just nothing that leads me to believe he’s close.
And none of this for me is about him being a bust or whatever label you want to assign, it’s about a guy who probably would have played in AA last season, but lost out on that due to the pandemic. A guy who did well at the Altoona training site, whatever that really means, but in no way does that mean he’s skipping AA. It also doesn’t mean he only has to stop there for a month.
He’s played two professional seasons (Two WV short and full seasons) and one in Bradenton. His career BA is .257 and a .339 OBP in a little over 650 ABs. If this wasn’t a first round pick, you might not know his name.
Again, none of that is to say he’s a bust, or can’t get better, I expect him to improve, but those aren’t the numbers of someone poised to skyrocket through the system either. Maybe it’s because he’s listed as one of the Pirates top prospects, listed as number 7 that of course could lead one to believe he’s right around the corner. But, again, slow down, newly acquired Hudson Head is number 6 and he’s probably farther away.
Maybe it’s the Pirates obvious need for outfield help, but rushing or potentially damaging a first round pick to plug a hole on the MLB roster isn’t something I’d advise.
I’ve heard from the plethora of local ‘experts’ who’ve studied Ben Cherington’s career, especially in Boston and they love to tell me he flies people through development. I saw some of that too, but is Swaggerty like Mookie Betts? Clearly not.
Swaggerty is a real option for this team in 2022, and probably not right out of Spring. That’s realistic. Anything faster and he’ll have to do a lot more than he has to see it happen. I’m in no way saying he’s incapable, but man, somehow imagining he’s in the mix for this year is wishful thinking, and I can’t for the life of me see what it’s based in beyond hope.
I get it, at some point you want to turn the page and start to see the future begin to arrive. Rather than dwell on what we’ve lost, we can dwell on what we’re moving toward by seeing some of those players start to get their feet wet.
If they earn that, I’m all for it, but if you rush it, you and indeed the player will regret it. Especially if you’re a person who believes this club will cultivate talent and move it right away when it starts costing money. There’s a ton of evidence they extend people with regularity, but for this conversation, I’ll pretend you’re dead on. Why would you want to rush people to MLB before they’re ready? Even if they stumble and fight through it to learn on the job, you’ll burn a year of cheap control and for what? To have another player who looks like he doesn’t belong on an already bad team?
I’m probably being ignorant a bit by picking out one guy here, but this goes for other players too like Mason Martin, or Cody Bolton, maybe even O’Neil Cruz who admittedly is closer.
I just wrote the other day about the lost year of development, and while I understand players will react differently to that event, let’s not lose our minds and start expecting that the levels in MiLB are little more than puddles to leap. They’re very real steps in competition, expectation and overall development that matter. For every Bryce Harper who jumps right to MLB there are 1000 guys who take 4 years to develop, if they ever do.
Take a deep breath and understand ETAs for prospects are quite literally educated guesses at best.