P2Daily: Pirates Outfield Picture Is Cloudy, And Crowded

On the Pirates’ MLB.com website, they have seven outfielders listed on the team’s roster, which doesn’t include one who is on the 60-day injured list, and another who is listed as an infielder but probably projects better in center field.

Beyond Bryan Reynolds, Ben Cherington has a lot to sort through when it comes to starting to put together the outfield for next year’s team.

Looking past Reynolds, the Pirates have a lot of lefties, and players whose upside isn’t the highest, and fit more as depth/platoon contributors.

Jack Suwinski would be the closest to getting his name penciled into the lineup, after hitting 19 home runs last year, but he has some major home/road (.982/.395 OPS) and lefty/righty (.511/.795 OPS) splits to work through before he can truly be looked at as an everyday player.

The outfield picture looks even more lefty heavy, and cloudier, when you factor in Ji-Hwan Bae and Canaan Smith-Njigba into the picture.

Bae got a 10 game audition this past year, and while he originally came up as an infielder, he played more in the outfield (six games) than at second base (four games). His speed and upside as a defender plays better in the outfield, and he was even able to push Reynolds to left field for a game.

Smith-Njigba was acquired in the Jameson Taillon trade, and showed great contact skills in the minors (.277/.387/.408, 118 wRC+ with Indianapolis in 2022), before breaking his wrist in his second game in the major leagues, missing the rest of the season. Having a player that makes consistent contact could help, as the Pirates struck out the third most times this past year.

Miguel Andujar was brought in last, after being DFAd by the Yankees, and played left field when he didn’t DH. He’s the rare righty in the outfield right now for the Pirates and even he has a lot to prove before you can safely pencil him in as an everyday player.

The biggest issue with the current construct of the outfield is the overwhelming amount of lefties they have in the picture. Of the players currently listed on the 40-man roster, only Reynolds and Andujar aren’t left-handed hitters.

However they go about it doing it, getting some clarity, and more balance, seem like the top priorities this offseason when it comes to the outfield.

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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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docdon385

Signing a high profile right handed hitting outfielder is very unlikely given the Pirate history. If they sign anyone, it most likely will be another Gamel or Allen type that will just take up time and chances from the younger guys.

My personal preference would be to convince Cruz that many if not most of the best players in major league history as well as currently have been outfielders (Clemente, Aaron, Mays, DiMaggio, Bonds, Mantle, Judge, Trout, etc.) and make him the permanent right fielder. He’s fine at short but is built for the outfield given his arm, size and speed and the Pirates have a lot of guys who can play the infield. After all right field is where Clemente played so that might help convince him that it would be an honor to play there and protect the Clemente wall.

Move Reynolds to left and put Bae in center. Forget about the left/right split for Bae. He’s a contact hitter so it makes little difference. He hit .289 last year in Indy but actually was better against lefties .325 versus righties .274. If Andujar or maybe Gorski develop into good major league hitters, and neither is even close to a sure thing, it would make for some nice problems.

1979andCounting

If Cruz’s dad can’t sell him on RF in honor of Paul O’Neil, then I don’t think the HOFers will sway him. I think he’s just going to sink or swim at SS……and it really could go either way.

Last edited 3 months ago by 1979andCounting
Anthony

I’d start platooning him at short with Castro and see how he likes it!

madlock5

I don’t know if Ben C is listening. But, I like the idea of sending Bae to Seattle for some pitching. They could see him as a low cost option that could start right away at 2B and allocate funds elsewhere on a contender without an unlimited budget.

They’re one of the rare teams that could deal pitching. I didn’t research it thoroughly but Brash or Flexen look like they could help the Pirates but might not make their rotation. Brash has better stuff but is wild and may wind up in the pen (although a guy in Seattle’s pen could easily be a starter for us like Oviedo is).

Trade from depth (2B) for help in other spots. Currently, I don’t see the pitching in the organization as enough to contend with in 2024-2026. Happy to be wrong on that but that’s how it looks to me.

john.benedict

No disrespect mad dog but I hope he’s not listening
Pirates have 3 untouchables, developed and ready to contribute

Bae is one of them. Having a Ben Zobrist type player (more speed less power) opens arteries to line ups shelty couldn’t mess up and he can screw up a one car funeral

Endy, switch hitting flexible backstop that has MVP talent written all over him

Lastly, Preister is the closest thing to Doug Drabek since Doug Drabek
How sad is that.

Peace out

madlock5

That’s a perfectly valid opinion. I think Bae could be quite good too. I should explain a little better.

One, Bae is good. He could get a quality arm or arms back. I think we could get something of genuine quality that we couldn’t get for Marcano or Castillo or Castro (or our outfield prospects either).

Two, he doesn’t have a starting spot currently. It looks like they’ll start 2023 with Castro in the majors and Gonzales at AAA at 2B. If Gonzales hits at AAA, then he’ll get a shot in the majors (leaving Bae as an outfielder).

Three, we need pitching. We have Contreras and Keller in the majors and will probably start with Priester, Burrows, and Ortiz in AAA. Are they all going to both stay healthy and succeed? Probably not.

After that, Mlodzinski was just OK in Altoona and Nicolas slightly better. It’s hard to count on them to be quality major league starters down the road. I like Jared Jones but he was all the way down in A ball.

The arms aren’t there for a contending run. We’re not going to sign them as free agents either. The last thing teams want to give up is quality pitching prospects. If you offer someone who could be an everyday player from day one, then you might get something like that back.

That’s not really how the Pirates operate though. Ben C probably thinks the arms are there. I think they’re not and that we’re an injury or two away from it being very clear the arms aren’t there for a contending run. Got to get them somehow.

john.benedict

Mad dog,

Maybe your jumping the gun a bit, this team has zero intentions of winning next year, I’m hoping they just compete more and they should, the players ae better
I fear its another year of musical positions, while they have try outs for
two corner OF spots, right side of IF, 2 Starters and 2-3 RP
Do you how many players will filter through not including the half dozen on the 60 day. Too many to care about winning sadly

Anthony

I like you John!

madlock5

As a generalization, I hope we don’t block our younger outfielders with a mediocre veteran or veterans.

It’s not that I’m certain Suwinski, Mitchell, Swaggerty, Smith-Njigba, and Bae (if he counts) will be good. There’s a chance for each of them though and we’ll never know unless they get the at bats in the majors.

It’s also based on the idea that whoever that veteran signing is that they’ll be one-and-done and probably won’t be very good anyway (and even if they are then it’s just an extra win or two for a noncontender in 2023).

Last edited 3 months ago by madlock5
leefieux

Does Richie Zisk have anything left?

PirateRican21

Trading for someone like Hunter Renfro would do wonders. But I won’t hold my breath. His trade value is actually low, due to one year of control for an arb estimated salary of nearly $12 million. A rule5 guy might get it done if Milwaukee wants to trim payroll, but I don’t see BC adding that much salary.

Last edited 3 months ago by PirateRican21
Anthony

I feel like there has to be better value out there.

AttyMike

Cherington’s selection process involves every MLB team. Whatever players they don’t want, that’s the pool of candidates that are available to the Pirates. It so nice of all the others teams vet players for us like that.

EightMenOut

Unless we trade some left handed outfield prospects for some right handed outfield prospects, there isn’t going to be more clarity or balance happening during the off season. There are reasons to be optimistic or pessimistic, but a number of players have shown they can hit AAA pitching well, they are mostly young and one can expect improvements, and there are a number of them, so it seems the odds are in our favor right now regarding the outfield.  It does mean we could really use a good right handed hitting first baseman for balance, that would seem to be a great off-season pickup, and hopefully through free agency, since given the payroll we don’t need to sacrifice prospects to get better at first base.

skliesen

Plan A is some guy named Judge. He could clear up RF and middle of the order RH power hitter pretty well I suppose.

Plan B is sign a replacement level RH Ben Gamel type for MLB level chump change and suffer through an extended period of crappy play to make it appear to Nutting he got good value for his money.

leefieux

Ben Gamel is a lefty bat, tho. Not that I am Judge-ing your comment.

skliesen

We don’t need a veteran LH OF bat. What I was implying was a RH version of Gamel.

And I am Judging yours, Lee. 😎

leefieux

Just making a joke. Sorry.

postal911

As an organization, we need to be aiming higher then the “ben gamel’s” of the world. We need to start moving forward instead of getting 1 year filler type guys.

postal911

It would be great to add an established legit mlb outfielder instead of running these questionable options out there. ……but we know how this will go. A “ben gamel” type will be added and we will be pulling names out of a hat each day to see who starts where.

EightMenOut

Starting Pitching, First Base and Catcher are bigger needs to add a “legit” player. The outfield last year only had Reynolds and prospects that lacked AAA experience or who had performed poorly in short stints in the majors, therefore the additions last year in the outfield that are unlikely to happen this year.

k1rainey

Agreed. My first priority is a 1B that can hit and field. Even with Nunez as a prospect he can’t field well and that will be essential with Cruz. And one more real threat in the lineup will help tremendously. Second a 10+mm starting pitcher. After that I’m ok with a cheaper catcher and a moderate boost to the bullpen. So if I’m not going to throw a lot of money at an OF I’d rather give the successful and young AAA prospects chances to tryout again next year. It’s not ideal but might be the most we can ask.

RAS TN

Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs…maybe quite a few meatballs…

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