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Non-Hyped Royals Prospects: Relief Pitcher Ben Swaggerty

Ben Swaggerty has always been too old for people to care, yet he hasn't given up. That's laudable. Nevertheless, it probably won't end well. It hardly does once you fall behind life's time-clock. After a point, if you haven't done something by a certain age, you never will. Still, we do what we can.

Swaggerty's minor league career began in 2007, when he joined Idaho Falls as a 24 year old relief pitcher out of something called Tusculum College. Swaggerty destroyed the competition at that level, or perhaps just short of that, striking out 12.9 men per nine. Similar results were found out of the bullpen in 2008 at Burlington and Wilmington, and in 2009, after a tour in Wilmington, he found himself at Northwest Arkansas.

In 2009, in a partial season with the Naturals, Swaggerty appeared 26 games. Swag' was still striking people out (11.1 K/9) and for that reason, apparently, he earned a surprising award of the team's Pitcher of the Year. Sure, he had the strikeouts, but he also had a non-shiny ERA (4.33) and no saves. Could they not find anyone more deserving than a part-time middle reliever with some control issues? Anyway, congrats to Swaggerty.

In 2010, Swaggerty remained at NWA, and had a bit of a setback season. His strikeout numbers dipped a tad (8.9 K/9) which is disturbing because that's his primary trick. The walks also went up, which suggests either a new approach that didn't work out, or a very ill-timed off year. You'd want a 27 year old in his second season at AA to take a step forward, rather than a step back.

Swaggerty has a path to the Majors now. He's spent enough time in AA that he's reasonably polished and it certainly helps that he's a reliever. The Royals will be terrible in 2011 and bad teams have a way of plowing through bullpen bodies. Swaggerty's certainly been able to miss bats in his four minor league careers, but he's also walked enough guys and given up enough hits that he keeps allowing runs despite averaging over a strikeout an inning. Really, anything's possible for Swaggerty, and in part his fate will be decided by how interested he is in continuing to slog along. He's a decent bet to see five or six organizations in the next five years. He's two injuries and a lucky month at the Major League level away from becoming an eventual millionaire. With worse luck, he'll wake up as a 33 year old someday with only memories and a nagging elbow injury to show for his time as a baseball player.