Pittsburgh Pirates: Way-to-Early Look at End of 2023 Roster

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 03: Oneil Cruz #15 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrates with Miguel Andujar #26 after Cruz's walk-off walk during the ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park on October 3, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh won the game 3-2. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 03: Oneil Cruz #15 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrates with Miguel Andujar #26 after Cruz's walk-off walk during the ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park on October 3, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh won the game 3-2. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit
Prev
5 of 10
Next
NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 17: Ke’Bryan Hayes #13 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during the fourth inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on September 17, 2022 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 17: Ke’Bryan Hayes #13 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during the fourth inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on September 17, 2022 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images) /

Third Base

No one is moving Ke’Bryan Hayes off of third base. He’s arguably the best defensive player at the hot corner currently. The third baseman had +24 defensive runs saved, the most among all position players. He also had +18 outs above average, making him the third-best defender behind just Jonathan Schoop (+27) and Dansby Swanson (+20). UZR/150 also painted him in bright light at +6.8.

But Hayes turned in just a .659 OPS, .294 wOBA, and 88 wRC+. Despite that, Hayes does have the potential to be a whole lot better. He had a solid 8.6% walk rate and 21.8% strikeout rate, both of which are above average. Hayes was also in the top 85th percentile of exit velocity and 84th percentile of hard-hit rate. He’s the first batter in the Statcast Era (since 2015) to step to the plate at least 550 times and have fewer than 20 home runs while having both an exit velo and hard-hit rate in the 85th percentile or higher.

Where Hayes struggles is getting the ball in the air. He had just a 5.2-degree launch angle, leading to a 49.4% ground ball rate and 3.9% barrel rate. Hayes doesn’t need to become Kyle Schwarber and have a launch angle approaching 20 degrees to be productive. Toronto Blue Jays stars Bo Bichette and Alejandro Kirk have similar hard hit rates and exit velos to Hayes with a launch angle in the 8-9 degree range. If Hayes can make just a slight adjustment to have a slightly higher launch angle, he could be the Pirates’ most productive batter next year.

The Pirates could also utilize Jared Triolo at third base. Triolo turned in yet another quality campaign at Altoona, posting a .795 OPS, .356 wOBA, and 121 wRC+. It’s the third season in a row he has had a sub-20% K-rate and 110+ wRC+. He also had a scorching hot second half of the year and plays a great third base. But he is also an option in the outfield and shortstop.

Both Castillo, Park, and Marcano could serve in a reserve role at third base, and Miguel Andujar could fill in, but mainly in an emergency role. On the active roster, though, you’re probably looking at Hayes, followed by Triolo, then Marcano.