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) /
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PITTSBURGH, PA – AUGUST 03: Bryan Reynolds #10 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrates his solo home run during the ninth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park on August 3, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA – AUGUST 03: Bryan Reynolds #10 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrates his solo home run during the ninth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park on August 3, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

Outfield

Regardless of what rumors, Bryan Reynolds will be part of this outfield unless a team comes knocking with an already proven MLB player with multiple prospects in tow. Although Reynolds did have a downturn in production from 2021, he still turned in an outstanding season. In 614 plate appearances, Reynolds batted .262/.345/.461 with a .349 wOBA, and 125 wRC+. He crushed a career-high 27 home runs on top of that.

Reynolds got off to an ice-cold start in 2022, but from June onward, he was back to his typical self. In 422 plate appearances, he had a .860 OPS, .369 wOBA, and 139 wRC+, which was nearly identical to what he did in his 2019 rookie season (.880 OPS, .371 wOBA, 130 wRC+). Reynolds’ centerfield defense wasn’t as good as in 2021, with -14 DRS, a -3.3 UZR/150, and -7 outs above average.

The Pittsburgh Pirates also share the sentiment that Reynolds may not be the long-term answer in center field, giving Ji-Hwan Bae more playing time up the middle over Reynolds and moving Reynolds to left field. Bae showed off some decent fielding prowess in the outfield, and while the fielding metrics didn’t like him all that much, you also have to remember it’s less than 50 innings, so no fielding metric will be accurate in that small of a sample size.

Jack Suwinski should fill the other outfield corner. Suwinski had a decent rookie campaign, cranking out 19 dingers, which was tied with Michael Harris of the Atlanta Braves for the most by an NL Rookie. He was a league-average batter on the dot, slashing .202/.298/.411 with a .311 wOBA and 100 wRC+. He drew a walk in 11% of his plate appearances but also struck out 30.6% of the time. His offense may have been average, but his glove was well above average.

In 818.2 innings, Suwinski had +2 Defensive Runs Saved, +1 Outs Above Average, and a +8.5 UZR/150. He played an ample amount of time at all three outfield spots, but his best defensive work came in center field. Right now, I have him penciled into a corner outfield spot, but nobody should be opposed if he plays center field with Bae and Reynolds flanking him.

The Pittsburgh Pirates do have a few options for the fourth outfield spot. Cal Mitchell is one option after he put up a .734 OPS, .329 wOBA, and 112 wRC+ after his September call-up. The downside is he was not providing any defensive value with -4 DRS, -3 OAA and a -13.5 UZR/150 in less than 500 innings in the grass.

The other option is Travis Swaggerty. Swaggerty posted a wRC+ above 100 for the fourth season in a row, with a 102 mark to go with a .747 OPS and a .338 wOBA. After seeing his ground ball rate shrink to just 36.7% in 2021, it went back up to 50.2% this year, which severely limited his power and saw his ISO fall from .220 to just .146. That’s still relatively solid, though; he reached base nearly 35% of the time. If he can revert to what he did in his small sample size of 2021, he could become a regular fixture. Swaggerty did make his debut this year but played in just five games with nine plate appearances. He started in just three of those games.

Currently, I would put Swaggerty over Mitchell. If the ceiling here is a fourth outfielder, I would much rather have the better defensive option who can play all three outfield spots. It wouldn’t surprise me either if the Pittsburgh Pirates decided to shop Swaggerty or Mitchell around to bolster the pitching staff, which we’ll get into here in a bit.

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