Pittsburgh Pirates: Jose Osuna Has Improved Where He Needed To Most
By Marty Leap
There was one area where Jose Osuna needed to make big strides this season, and, thus far, those strides have been made
Entering the season, it was unknown where utility man Jose Osuna may fit in with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Things became even murkier when he suffered an injury in Spring Training that caused him to start the season on the injured list. Then when he was activated from the IL, he was immediately optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis.
This past offseason, I wrote an article about how Osuna could fit in with the 2019 Pirates. In the article the area where Osuna needed to improve most was focused on. This area was pinch hitting. So far this season, Osuna has made huge strides as a pinch hitter.
Osuna can play first base, third base, and the corner outfield positions. These positions are pretty locked down by the likes of Josh Bell, Colin Moran, Bryan Reynolds, and Gregory Polanco. Additionally, the team’s top two hitting prospects at Triple-A – Will Craig and Ke’Bryan Hayes – play first and third base. Craig has also dabbled in the outfield. Due to this, there will never be an opening for Osuna to play every day for the Pirates.
If Osuna is going to make an impact with the Pirates it will have to come as a bench player. The most important aspect of being a bench player, especially in the National League, is to be a good pinch hitter. However, entering the 2019 season Osuna had struggled in his career as a pinch hitter. This is something that Osuna is starting to change, though.
During his first two MLB seasons Osuna was just 11-for-75 as a pinch hitter. This included an unsavory .158 on base percentage and .253 slugging percentage. He had also struck out in 23% of his pinch hit at bats. After an offseason of hard work, 2019 has been a complete 180 for Osuna as a pinch hitter.
After hitting a go-ahead 2-run pinch hit home run in the bottom of the 5th inning on Saturday afternoon, Osuna is now 3-for-9 with a walk as a pinch hitter this season. All three of his pinch hits this season have been home runs. This gives him a MLB best three pinch hit home runs this season.
I would call that improvement.
Since returning to the MLB level last month Osuna has become a pinch hitting threat for the Pirates. He has turned into a true weapon off the bench for Clint Hurdle. When opposing pitchers see Osuna step to the plate as a pinch hitter, they have reason to be concerned.
Entering the season Osuna needed to improve as a pinch hitter. To his credit, he has done just that. With his improvement, he is turning into one of the biggest pinch hitting threats in baseball and a strong bench piece for the Pirates.