As the Pittsburgh Pirates Affiliates began to roll out their rosters at the beginning of the month, just ahead of the May The Fourth Be With You Opening Day, I had some questions about Ben Cherington’s choices concerning roster assignments; most notably the decision to start Travis Swaggerty off in AAA. At that point I put my faith in Cherington, as I have been in agreement with the majority of his trades, acquisitions and other roster decisions and moves up to this point.
Yes, I have been critical of Swaggerty’s potential with bat since his time in then High A Bradenton, but I also hadn’t seen given him an extended look-unlike the coaching and development staff who have had eyes on him for months on end-in almost two years. However, I also never saw Ke’Bryan Hayes making the leap he did concerning his offense development from 2019 to today, and as always I am happy to eat crow when my analysis may be off on a player; especially when it benefits the Pirates.
After his first game of the season, many made comments about Swaggerty’s eventual call up, as Cherington was forced to field questions on the topic; and while it was exciting to see this type of performance from one of the Pirates Top Prospects, even the most staunch supporter of Swaggerty realized his approach at the plate would have to continue before this discussion was rooted in anything other than pure emotion.
Then came the much anticipated Indianapolis Indians Home Opener. After 619 Days, baseball had finally returned to the Circle City; welcomed by another leadoff homer from the bat of one Travis Swaggerty.
As the bulk of the Pittsburgh Pirates outfield continued to struggle- adding veteran Ben Gamel to the mix in the interim-the calls for Swaggerty have gotten even louder at times. However, outside of those two homers, I am not sure a lot of Pirates Fans know exactly how he has performed, with some even complaining that he was in the Designated Hitter spot in Friday Night’s contest with the Mud Hens; not thinking that it could be a scheduled off night in the field, and the part of his game that needs continued reps at is the box.
In his other 36 plate appearances there have been other clear positives, as his walk rate and strike out rates both sit at 13.2%, and his ISO is at a career high of .188. Also take into account an unfriendly .200 BABIP, and you can see the room for improvement. Nevertheless it doesn’t change the fact that as I write this he is batting .219, with a barely above league average 101 wRC+.
Luckily for him there are still four months plus left in the Minor League Season, and he is only 23 years old, so there is plenty of time for him to progress in his development, mature into a consistent hitter and make it to PNC Park at some point in the future.
All you need as Pirates Fans is what the great songwriter Axl Rose encouraged us to have in late 80’s…Patience.