Following a strong showing thus far in Grapefruit League play Bligh Madris should open the season as the fourth outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates
Entering spring training outfielder Bligh Madris may have been an after thought for many fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates. After splitting the 2021 season between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis he came to camp as a non-roster invitee.
Being in MLB camp was something that Madris had earned. While he struggled in his 10 games with Altoona last season, posting a wRC+ of just 76, he put together a strong season in Indianapolis.
In 104 games played with the Indians last season Madris hit for a .272/.352/.434 slash line to go with 9 home runs and an extra base hit rate of 9.9% in 385 plate appearances. Madris posted a 111 wRC+, 10.4% walk rate, he struck out in just 18.2% of his trips to the plate, and posted an isolated slugging (ISO) of .162.
This strong performance at Triple-A undoubtedly helped Madris earn an invite to MLB spring training with the Pittsburgh Pirates. After slugging his 2nd home run of Grapefruit League play on Wednesday afternoon, Madris is now hitting for a .333/.400/1.000 slash line this spring.
As of this writing Madris is one of 40 players remaining in MLB camp with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The team has just a week remaining until Opening Day. This leaves them just 7 days to trim their camp roster from 40 players to the 28 players they will take with them to St. Louis.
It is possible the Pirates do not take a true fourth outfielder north. Bryan Reynolds will obviously be in center field when the season begins, all signs point toward him being flanked by Greg Allen and Ben Gamel.
The Pirates could easily look to go with an all utility man bench outside of backup catcher. However, if they do take a true fourth outfielder north it should be Madris. The 26-year-old has little left to prove in the minor leagues and has been among the team’s top offensive performers this spring.
Madris’s top competition for this fourth outfielder spot would appear to be Anthony Alford. Well, this spring Alford is 1-for-13 with 9 strikeouts. Combine this with a career strikeout rate over 30% and it is easy to make the argument for giving Madris a chance to see what he can do on the Opening Day roster. This is no knock against Alford, he is a friend of the site and a former guest on the podcast, but it’s time to see what the young players can do.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Madris about his experience this spring and he had nothing but positives to say about the organization. “Love being around this team, culture is changing and it’s a lot of fun around here,” he told us. Madris added, “there’s so much transparency between players and staff now and it’s going to be what takes this organization to the next level.”
Without a doubt cultivating this kind of culture can help lead to players feeling comfortable. When a player feels comfortable a sense of confidence can then stem from this. Get a confident player with enough talent to be a professional athlete? Well, when you get that you’re going to have a player who is successful.
Even if Madris does not head north with the Pirates it seems like a safe bet that he will make his MLB debut this season, maybe even early in the season. Hell, if Madris does not make the Opening Day roster it would not be a surprise to see him be the first Triple-A player the Pirates go to when they need a bat this season.
No matter what happens between now and Opening Day keep an eye on Madris, because he is a player Pirate fans should get to know well this season.