In 2016, the Pirates broke a trend and drafted a college player named Will Craig out of Wake Forest with their first round pick. In 2018, they did it again. This time it was South Alabama's Travis Swaggerty.
Swaggerty is a prospect the Pirates hope will be greater than the sum of his parts. None of his traits are especially eye-popping, but he does everything at an average to above-average level - making him a well-rounded prospect. I have him as the #3 prospect in the Pirate's organization.
His speed, which is his main weapon, allows him to steal some bases from time to time (23 this season) and cover some ground in the outfield. His Achilles heel has been striking out - he does it too often. This season in Bradenton, Swaggerty struck out 25% of his at bats. That's an improvement over last year when he was at 29%. For a guy who doesn't generate a ton of power, I'd like to see him exercise a little restraint at the plate and focus on getting solid contact. I've seen him over-swing on some of his strikeouts - suggesting that he wants the big play over simply getting on base. If the Pirates can turn him into a line drive hitter who is satisfied hitting 15 - 20 home runs a year, I think you will see his .265 batting average from this year improve.
Swaggerty has been exclusively a center fieldier since joining the Pirate organization, and he has potential to be a good one. Like I said above, he has the speed to cover the gaps, and he has a reliable glove (.991 fielding %) and a solid arm (7 outfield assists).
He is, of course, blocked at the major league level by Starling Marte. But, with the 30-year old Marte being a free agent after the 2021 season, the development of Swaggerty will likely determine whether or not Marte completes that contract in Pittsburgh or if he becomes a trade candidate next season. Rumors swirled this season that Marte was on the trade block, but those proved to be nothing but rumors as the Pirates elected to keep their longest-tenured player.
No matter what the plan is for Swaggerty in Pittsburgh, Neil Huntington has some time to decide. Swaggerty will likely start 2020 in AA Altoona. If he plays well there, he may earn a quick promotion to Indianapolis, but even the fastest route likely puts him at two years away from Pittsburgh.