Pittsburgh Pirates Center Field Prospects: Travis Swaggerty Could Arrive in 2022

I’m not saying that Bryan Reynolds will get traded.

I’m definitely not saying that.

I’m not even comfortable discussing the rumors about him more than I already have in my write up on Reynolds over at No Quarter.

So don’t think that running through the center field prospects in the system today is a way to suggest who the Pirates have beyond Reynolds in the event of a trade.

This is the start of a series, aimed at looking at the future of every position in the system. In this case, it’s “Who do the Pirates have to replace Reynolds in the event of anything?”

Let’s take a look at the top center field prospects in the system. Note that this isn’t a full list of the center field prospects, but instead the top options in the system as of our latest rankings.

Travis Swaggerty

2021 Stats: .220/.333/.439, 3 HR, 48 PA (AAA)

Swaggerty’s 2021 season was cut short in May with a dislocated shoulder. He’s the top option in the system should the Pirates need a center fielder in the short-term or long-term, and should get a shot at the majors in 2022. He’s a power/speed option who profiles well defensively at the position.

Hudson Head

2021 Stats: .216/.362/.394, 15 HR, 434 PA (A)

We have Head ranked lower than other outlets, due in large part to some swing and miss tendencies from a tall, lanky frame that leads to a long swing. He’s very athletic, and can stick in center field. The question with him is whether the bat can develop from striking out a third of the time in A-ball to an MLB starter in center. He’s got an above-average arm that could profile in right field as well.

Matt Fraizer

2021 Stats: .306/.388/.552, 23 HR, 499 PA (A+, AA)

Fraizer is almost the opposite situation as Head. His bat propelled him up the rankings in the system, but questions about his defensive ability in center field could push him out of this article, to one of the corner outfield articles. He’s working on his defense this offseason, and if it goes as well as his offensive adjustments heading into 2021, then he could emerge as the top center field option for the Pirates. A safer bet would profile him as a left fielder in PNC Park.

Lolo Sanchez

2021 Stats: .264/.372/.453, 17 HR, 437 PA (A+)

I’ve always been high on Sanchez as a future starting center fielder, and his 2021 season has me buying into his power/speed profile at the plate again. He stole 30 bases, and hit 17 home runs. He’s got the power to hit double-digit home runs in the majors, with the speed to be a 30-stolen base leadoff hitter. His defense in center field has been solid in the past, although he spent more of his time this year at the corners.

Ji-Hwan Bae

2021 Stats: .281/.360/.422, 8 HR, 372 PA (AA)

Here’s an interesting situation. Bae has been a middle infielder, but the Pirates have been transitioning him to center field. He lacks power, and would profile as a speedy leadoff hitting type who can get on base a lot with great contact skills and solid plate patience. I’m including him in this article, and will include him in the second base article as well. He might have an easier path in center field, or as a super utility player, as he won’t have to compete with Nick Gonzales at this position.

Shalin Polanco

2021 Stats: .204/.284/.338, 3 HR, 176 PA

Here’s the long-term look at the position. Polanco struggled in his pro debut in 2021, though it came in his age-17 season. He’s got the potential to be a five-tool center fielder with power from a lefty bat. At this stage in his career, he’s just a guy to track in the lower levels, though with the potential to be the best on this list in the long-term.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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