Jose Osuna Making His Claim for a Spot on the Pittsburgh Pirates Bench

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Putting together yet another strong Grapefruit League performance, Pittsburgh Pirates utility man/pinch hitter Jose Osuna is making his claim for a spot on the team’s bench

Every spring there are certain things that people can expect. Rain will fall, flowers will bloom, the weather will start to turn, and Jose Osuna will mash in the Grapefruit League. As he looks to claim a spot on the Pittsburgh Pirates bench, for the fifth time in six seasons Osuna is raking in the Grapefruit League.

This spring, Osuna is slashing .304/.385/.391 with a pair of doubles in 23 at bats. In his Grapefruit League career, Osuna has slashed ,322/.392/.575 with 11 doubles and 11 home runs in 174 at bats.

Unfortunately for Osuna, this spring success has not always translated to the MLB level. Osuna has 623 career plate appearances at the MLB level. In these 623 PAs, he owns a .246/.285/.435 slash line with a 86 wRC+ and an 11.3% extra base hit rate. While Osuna has hit for quality power at the MLB level, his inability to get on base at even a league average clip and his poor defense have always held him back.

That said, a lot of Osuna’s poor defense has come as an outfielder. While he has been responsible for -10 defensive runs saved in his career as an outfielder, his -1 DRS at first base and 0 DRS at third base are league average.

Osuna will likely never be an every day player, but he can be a strong bench bat for a MLB club. This is something that Osuna proved last season.

Entering 2019, Osuna needed to improve as a pinch hitter. He would go on to do just that. In 30 plate appearances as a pinch hitter in 2019 Osuna went 10-for-29 with a sacrifice fly, three doubles, and a National League leading five pinch hit home runs.

As Osuna competes for a bench spot, he has outperformed much of his competition this spring. Either Luke Maile or John Ryan Murphy will join Jacob Stallings with catching duties, so that is a battle of its own. After these two, there are four remaining bench spots.

Free agent signings Guillermo Heredia and JT Riddle will claim two of these spots. Heredia as the team’s fourth outfielder, and Riddle as a back up middle infielder/center fielder. This leaves two spots, with the competition likely being between Osuna, Cole Tucker, Erik Gonzalez, and Jason Martin.

Despite a strong showing thus far this spring, with Heredia signed as the fourth outfielder Martin appears ticketed for Triple-A Indianapolis to start the season. Tucker has had as good a spring as anyone, giving the Pirates a tough decision, with him being better off playing every day at Triple-A over having a bench role at the MLB level, Tucker will also likely start the year with Indy.

This leaves Osuna and the out-of-options Gonzalez, both of whom can play multiple positions and both of whom appear to be safe bets to make the Opening Day roster. And, in Osuna’s case, a big part of his claim is his performance so far this spring.

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Batters that are strong pinch hitters are a valuable commodity in baseball. This is especially true in the National League. Osuna proved to be that in 2019, and that, combined with another strong Grapefruit League performance, should help him claim a spot on the Pirate bench come Opening Day.

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