Williams: Travis Swaggerty is One Step Away From the Majors

When we last saw Travis Swaggerty, he was in High-A Bradenton with a .728 OPS.

Now, Swaggerty has moved up two levels to Triple-A Indianapolis, while Bradenton has moved down a level to Low-A.

It’s almost like Travis Swaggerty is in possession of the Reality Stone, taking revenge on all of the pitcher friendly parks in the Florida State League, while turning his expected stop in the Eastern League into bubbles popping in the air.

Or, maybe he just improved a lot during the 20 months since we’ve last seen real minor league baseball.

The Pirates need a long-term center fielder, and the 2018 first rounder has above-average defense, and plus speed, with 23 stolen bases in Bradenton in 2019. He soared into the first round in 2018 after a power display at South Alabama. He’s yet to display the same power in pro ball, although that was a lifetime ago. With no games in over a year and a half, Swaggerty has had plenty of time to adjust his swing and approach.

Now, the top option in the system to be the center fielder of the future is one step away from the majors, skipping over a level in the process.

In the Prospect Guide, we gave Swaggerty the ceiling of an above-average MLB center fielder. Is the push he received a sign that he’s made a big move toward that ceiling in the downtime? Is he a possibility for the majors by the end of 2021? I guess we’ll find out when games resume.

Indianapolis Indians Roster Highlights

MLB Depth in 2021 and Beyond

I think the Pirates will see a lot of depth from the veteran players on this roster throughout the year. As far as long-term help for the majors, Miguel Yajure and Cody Ponce are the biggest prospects to watch for rotation help. Yajure is the best option on the team, outside of Swaggerty, to be a starter in the majors. Nick Mears and Braeden Ogle are guys to watch on the reliever side.

As far as catching depth, the Pirates now have four catchers at the level, with the addition of Christian Bethancourt. I’m wondering what kind of playing time we’ll see from Jason Delay, who has the defense to be a backup in the majors.

Last Chances?

Keep an eye on Will Craig, Kevin Kramer, and Cole Tucker in the infield. The position player group one level below has a strong group of infield prospects, which means the former high draft picks in Indianapolis might be in an “up or out” situation this year. The good thing for all of them is that the long-term at first, second, and shortstop is still open for them to go up.

Surprising Placements

I don’t want to use the word “sleepers” when guys move up a few levels, but there needs to be some way to indicate situations where guys like Dylan Busby and Connor Kaiser go from uninspiring numbers in A-ball to being on the Triple-A roster. Are they roster fillers? Have they finally shown their former third round values? Kaiser was a third round infielder in 2018 with good raw power, and can play both middle infield spots. Busby was a third rounder in 2017 with plus power who can at least handle third base, but has had some serious swing and miss issues.

Contrarian Value

Cam Vieaux doesn’t throw with a lot of velocity, but a lefty with good control, a mix of four average pitches, and starter experience could end up a nice change of pace in today’s 97 MPH-right-hander dominated environment.

Lower Levels

I’ll have similar looks for Altoona, Greensboro, and Bradenton in the upcoming First Pitch articles this week.

First Pitch returns to its old midnight spot, tonight!