Pittsburgh Pirates: Four Notable Players in DFA Limbo

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 10: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Cole Tucker #3 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action against the New York Mets at Citi Field on July 10, 2021 in New York City. The Pirates defeated the Mets 6-2. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 10: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Cole Tucker #3 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action against the New York Mets at Citi Field on July 10, 2021 in New York City. The Pirates defeated the Mets 6-2. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – SEPTEMBER 02: Phillip Evans #24 of the Pittsburgh Pirates warms up prior to a game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on September 02, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – SEPTEMBER 02: Phillip Evans #24 of the Pittsburgh Pirates warms up prior to a game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on September 02, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

Phillip Evans

The Pittsburgh Pirates signed Phillip Evans in the 2019-2020 off-season. He got off to a great start to his Pirate career, 14 hits through his first 39 plate appearances, 3 of which went for extra bases (2 doubles, 1 home run). Plus, he had 5 walks to go against 7 strikeouts. But his season was cut short when he ran into right fielder Gregory Polanco.

Now nobody expected Evans to keep doing that. After all, a 158 wRC+ is MVP-caliber and the chances that Evans sustaining that were slim to none. But was it unreasonable to expect him to be a league-average bat who could play multiple positions? No, not at all.

However, Evans didn’t even reach that benchmark in his following season. Evans stepped to the plate 247 times, batting just .206/.312/.299 with a .278 wOBA, and 73 wRC+. Evans was still walking at a strong 11.3% rate but showed no power whatsoever. His ISO sat at just .093. Evans’ groundball rate skyrocketed to 55.9% while his line drive rate plummeted to just 15.5%.

Now granted, he still had a solid 88.4 MPH exit velocity, 42.9% hard-hit rate, .312 xwOBA, and 92 DRC+. By no means am I suggesting that Evans is having an outstanding year with the underlying numbers, but much better than the sub-80 wRC+ suggests. Plus he can provide depth at all corner positions.

But it’s not like the Pittsburgh Pirates can’t find a utility man who can post a 90-95 wRC+. There’s a bunch of Evans-type players out there that the Pirates aren’t going to be DFA’ing a rare commodity. When push comes to shove, Evans will likely lose out a 40-man spot to another prospect.

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