The 2022 regular season is just around the corner, so what are my predictions for the Pittsburgh Pirates for their upcoming season?
After a lockout that seemed to last forever, and spring training is now in full force, the regular season is just around the corner. The Pittsburgh Pirates home opener happens to fall on April 12th, 412, Pittsburgh’s area code. Their first game of the season will be against the St. Louis Cardinals on April 7th at 4:15 PM.
With the start of the regular season nearly upon us, I think it’s time to make some predictions about the Pirates and their season. Today, I want to share my prediction for the most valuable player, team Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, breakout position player, breakout pitcher, surprise player, and finally, the team’s record.
With that out of the way, let’s get into who I think the team’s MVP will be.
MVP – Outfielder Bryan Reynolds
Bryan Reynolds is the best and arguably obvious choice for team MVP. Oneil Cruz might come to mind as a bold pick, but you can’t deny that Reynolds is a very deserving candidate based on what Reynolds has done throughout his short major league career so far.
Reynolds was one of baseball’s most productive hitters last season. In 646 plate appearances, the switch-hitting outfielder batted .309/.390/.522 with a .385 wOBA and 142 wRC+. Reynolds posted career bests in walk rate at 11.6% and sub-20% strikeout rate at 18.4%. Reynolds upped his power output as well. He launched 24 home runs while posting a .220 isolated slugging percentage.
Reynolds put to sleep any batting average on balls in play questions he had after his great rookie season. He had a .387 BAbip back in 2019 but just a .345 mark this past season. While that’s still high, good hitters will always have a BAbip around .350. The point is that he was able to cut his BAbip down by 42 points while improving his offense output shows he made improvements.
Defensive metrics were mixed on his work in center field. He had -5 defensive runs saved and -5.6 UZR/150 but was also in the top 96th percentile of outs above average. He’s playable in centerfield, and he did show noticeable improvement defensively the last two seasons compared to his rookie season. If worse comes to worst, the Pittsburgh Pirates can always promote Travis Swaggerty and move Reynolds to left field.
But defense shouldn’t be that big of a problem. Even if Reynolds grades out as average to slightly below average, he’s a great hitter. It’s not every day you find as good of a hitter as Reynolds from center. Mike Trout was the last outfielder to make at least 100 appearances in center and have a wRC+ of 140+, and the last Pirate to do it was Andrew McCutchen in 2015.