With nothing left to prove in the minors and impressive thus far in his MLB career, Ji-Hwan Bae needs to start the 2023 season with the Pittsburgh Pirates
Few Pittsburgh Pirates prospects had a stronger minor league season than utility man Ji-Hwan Bae. For much of the season Pirate fans were calling for Bae to be promoted to the majors to try and help jolt a struggling Pirate offense.
In late September, Bae was finally promoted to the major leagues by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Since being promoted Bae has been playing all over the field and impressing at the plate, picking up where he left off at in the minors.
With Triple-A Indianapolis this season Bae had 473 plate appearances in 108 games. Bae hit for a .286/.375/.429 slash line with the Indians, posting a 112 wRC+, 10.1% walk rate, and a 16.9% strikeout rate. Bae posted these offensive results while playing left field, center field, third base, shortstop, and second base for Indy.
While it’s obviously a very small sample size, Bae is off to a strong start to his MLB career. In 24 PAs with the Pirates, Bae has hit for a .286/.375/.429 slash line. He owns a 130 wRC+, has an 8.3% walk rate and a low 16.7% strikeout rate, and he’s stolen two bases while collecting three doubles.
Bae has earned the right to start the 2023 season in the majors. Not only does he have nothing left to prove in the minors, he has also hit well and impressed in his brief major league time in the month of September.
Furthermore, Bae could bat at the top of the lineup for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2023. Oneil Cruz has done well while batting leadoff, but with his power you do not want Cruz batting leadoff long-term. Cruz needs to bat second or third in 2023 to give him an opportunity to drive in runs, and having Bae at the top of the lineup could help to set the table for Cruz, Bryan Reynolds, and the rest of the Pirate lineup.
Finding a way to get Bae into the lineup should not be an issue, either. With his ability to play all over the field, plus the designated hitter position, there are plenty of options for getting Bae in the lineup of a daily basis. In fact, with the outfield being a major question mark outside of Reynolds in center field Bae could settle in as the starting left fielder or right fielder to start the season.