Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Jake Marisnick’s outfield defense has been an invaluable and underrated asset to the team this season.
When you think of the best defenders on the Pittsburgh Pirates you probably think of Ke’Bryan Hayes and Bryan Reynolds. After all, Hayes currently leads all third basemen in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), and Reynolds was a Gold Glove finalist in 2021.
However, Jake Marisnick is probably an afterthought. The Pittsburgh Pirates the veteran outfielder to a low-cost one-year deal at the end of spring training. The 31-year-old hasn’t hit well, with only a .417 OPS in 50 plate appearances, but he was signed for his defensive ability, and so far, his defense has been invaluable to the Pirates.
Marisnick has made plenty of highlight-reel catches, but those alone don’t do him justice. Marisnick has been one of baseball’s best defensive outfielders, primarily serving a platoon role with Ben Gamel. Entering play on Monday, Marisnick was among the leaders in DRS at +5. Impressively, he has a +21.9 UZR/150. However, even those numbers aren’t enough to show just how good he’s been this year. Monday night he made yet another phenomenal diving catch going into the left-center field gap. Honestly, it may have been his best catch of the season yet.
Baseball Savant’s defensive measurements paint him in an even better light. Marisnick ranks 8th among MLB players in outs above average at +5. That’s three more than Kevin Kiermaier and two more than Byron Buxton. Buxton and Kiermaier are considered baseball’s best defensive outfielders in today’s game. It’s also more than infielders like Manny Machado and Nolan Arenado.
He also has +5 runs prevented, per Baseball Savant. His 93% successful catch rate is just one of 48 players with a 90%+ rate. That’s pretty on par with Kiermaier’s 93% rate and better than rival St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill, who sits at 88%. Marisnick’s outfield defense has been amazing this year and has saved the Pirates plenty of runs multiple times. Baseball Savant is the best tool we have to analyze defenders since it uses Statcast technology, which tracks everything quantifiable.
Let’s say he keeps playing in a platoon or 4th outfielder role for the rest of the year. If he accumulates 800 innings in the grass at his pace, he’ll have nearly 30 defensive runs saved, outs above average, and runs prevented. Sure, that might be stretching it, but only two outfielders have reached the 30+ defensive runs saved milestone in a single season since 2015. That’s the aforementioned Kiermaier and former MVP, Mookie Betts.
If you’re worried about Marisnick’s bat, don’t be. There is currently a 77-point difference between his xwOBA and his actual wOBA, and his batting average on balls in play sits at .219 compared to his career average .301 mark. Even if he hits for a 70-80 wRC+, which would be in the range of his career average, he’d easily be a 1.5-2.0 fWAR player. After all, Kansas City Royals center fielder Michael A. Taylor had a 2.0 fWAR with +19 DRS and a 77 wRC+ in 2021.