P2Daily: Ji-Hwan Bae Reminder Of Other Ways To Impact Offense

Under the bright lights for the very first time, you probably wouldn’t blame a young player making his debut to go above and beyond to try and make a good impression. At times, that also means getting away from what it was that got him there.

That wasn’t an issue for Ji-Hwan Bae, the latest of the Pittsburgh Pirates prospects to make their major league debut this season.

The 23-year-old drew a walk the first time he stepped to the plate, and then immediately stole second base. Later on in the ninth he picked up his first hit, and again, stole second. He ended up on third before Cal Mitchell struck out to end the game.

Speed is easily Bae’s greatest tool, stealing 30 bases with Indianapolis before his promotion and has 91 in 314 career minor league games.

You can see the respect that the Chicago Cubs had to give to him immediately, as Erich Uelmen threw over to first on several occasions before Bae still stole second.

Bae being able to distract the pitcher almost worked, as Oneil Cruz nearly walked the Pirates off with an opposite field home run, only for it to be caught at the warning track.

The Pirates haven’t been overly aggressive on the base paths this season, stealing just 83 in 151 games — four of those came on Friday night.

It’s been a little bit different deeper in the organization, as the minor league teams are a lot more aggressive taking extra bases. The four full season teams combined to steal 661 bases this season in 539 games (1.22 steals per game) this season. There were 11 prospects to record at least 20 stolen bases, led by Tsung-Che Cheng (33) and Bae (30).

Team Stolen Bases Games SB/G Record
Indianapolis 154 145 1.06 74-71
Altoona 162 137 1.18 71-66
Greensboro 137 128 1.07 58-70
Bradenton 208 129 1.61 67-62

While stolen bases is somewhat of a lost art, teams are still are taking advantage of their continued success taking extra bases. Of the top 10 teams in the category, six have winning records. It should be noted that four of the top five teams in stolen bases all have losing records but teams like the Guardians, Dodgers and Yankees all rank among the league’s best.

The Pirates are going to have a lot of players coming up within the next few seasons very capable of the base paths, and while their lack of aggressiveness in the majors could have to do with the current personnel, adapting to those set to join the big league team soon could help close the gap a little faster when it comes to potentially competing.

Player Stolen Bases Minor League Team
Tsung-Che Cheng 33 Bradenton
Ji-Hwan Bae 30 Indianapolis
Sergio Campana 29 Bradenton
Liover Peguero 28 Altoona
Jase Bowen 25 Bradenton/Greensboro
Sammy Siani 25 Greensboro
Jared Triolo 24 Altoona
Matt Gorski 21 Greensboro/Altoona
Andres Alvarez 21 Altoona
Juan Jerez 20 Bradenton
Jared Oliva 20 Indianapolis

It’s easy to get lost in the long home runs, especially at the rate that Cruz has been sending them over the fence. Bae’s debut showed other ways to impact the game that can consistently put more runners in scoring position for the power hitters to drive in.

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Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.

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JoeNastasi

Put Bae in CF & leadoff, move Reynolds back to LF

Anthony

When I was looking at Bae a few weeks ago, I was hoping to see more extra base hits, maybe something like 50+ instead of 37. However, if we add his 30 steals that’s effectively 67 XBHs, only 4 fewer than Endy using the same methodology. I know some SBs likely followed walks, errors, fielder’s choices, etc., but if the goal is to create runs, it starts with getting on and taking bases.

MB21

Two things struck me from this article. 1) Bae stole a little less than one base per every three games. Over 162 game season, that is more than 50.

2) Over four years in the minors Bae only played in 314 games. That is less than two full MLB seasons (though sadly nobody plays 162 anymore). This shows how inexperienced some of these players are when they reach the majors. In Bae’s case it also shows the exorbitant number of runs he scored, particularly in relation to the number of hits recorded.

leefieux

With the new throw over rules in effect next year, Bae should be given EVERY opportunity to win the 2nd base job AND lead off.

The question then becomes, where to play Castro? DH? If you DH him, do you give up on Mitchell, because neither he nor Castro will wow you in the field.

AdministrativeSky236

2nd base defense and speed in general are becoming more valuable with these changes. Finding ways to use that to our advantage could be very helpful!

emjayinTN

Not too long ago we had Neil Walker at 2B, then we went to multi-positional guys with speed and less power such as Josh Harrison, Adam Frazier, and Newman who has 39 games at 2B this year.

Bae has the unique skills of a leadoff hitter and hits LHP’s (.865 OPS) just as well or better than he hits RHP’s (.763 OPS). He played most of his games at 2B at AAA, but the second most played defensive position was CF where he played about 20 games iirc. Not known for power, but had 23 doubles, 6 triples, and 8 HR’s to make-up his .429 Slugging %. This is or should be our 2B going into 2023 with Castro available as a Utility player.

tventimiglio

I have too think that Castro could play 1B.

PirateRican21

Good point about the rule change, I floated the idea of moving Castro to 1b, but someone has to move him off 2b hopefully Bae is able.

emjayinTN

I too have been talking about Castro working at 1B because I see him as the best IF Utility player playing 3B, 2B, SS already, and he could also impact the club at 1B also. As a switchhitter with power, he’s a keeper, as is Ji-Hwan Bae. Maybe a few weeks in the Fall at Pirate City or in the DR dedicated to basics of playing 1B, positioning, throws to 2B, etc.

Bae and Castro are guys who help a team in many different ways.

Anthony

I was thinking the same about Castro being a switch hitter, then I noticed that he’s much much better from the right side of the plate.

emjayinTN

Very interesting article in Baseball America about the reasons why there are more SB’s in the minors than in MLB. For instance, in the Majors thru Aug 20, Jon Berti was the leader with 30 SB’s while there are 77 players in the minors with 30 or more steals. Why?

Pitchers can only throw over to first 2 times. If they throw over the 3rd time and do not get the pickoff, the runner gets 2B. So, many pitchers only throw over to first once.

Bases are slightly larger, therefore a 4 or 5 inch lesser distance.

Pitch Clocks – with runners on it is 18 seconds, and 19 seconds at AAA. So, when runners see the clock getting down to 1 second, they just take off because pitchers have been afraid to be called for a late pitch, which is an automatic ball.

TNBucs

That’s going to shift slightly how catchers are evaluated. Calling games, blocking pitches, framing will of course still be important, but pop time and arm strength and accuracy will become even more important. It’s a good time to have good depth at catcher (though there’s never a bad time).

jeffw3000

I did not think the bases would make much difference with steals, but apparently they have, and it is hard to ignore them as the reason. The pitch clock has been in the minors for some time, so I really do not think that has made a huge difference with steals, but could have a slight affect. I think the rule regarding pickoff attempts could contribute to steals, but you cannot point to that specifically, because it was only used in Low A, while the increase in steals has happened at all levels except the Rookie leagues.

You have to point to the increase in the size of the bases as the main reason for the increase in the number of steals, since they increased significantly at all levels except Rookie leagues. The Rookie Leagues are the only level where the base sizes were not increased.

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