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 – SEPTEMBER 23: Jack Suwinski #65 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrates with Rodolfo Castro #14 in the dugout after hitting a solo home run in the second inning during the game against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park on September 23, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA – SEPTEMBER 23: Jack Suwinski #65 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrates with Rodolfo Castro #14 in the dugout after hitting a solo home run in the second inning during the game against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park on September 23, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

Designated Hitter

I currently have Rodolfo Castro taking semi-regular at-bats as the designated hitter. Like Suwinski and Cruz, Castro also posted average or better numbers at the dish, batting .233/.299/.427. Castro hit 11 home runs with a .194 isolated slugging percentage but also struck out 26.6% of the time. It also didn’t help his 7.9% walk rate was nothing special. But in the end, his .315 wOBA and 103 wRC+ were slightly above average.

But Castro was much better after being recalled in early August. His last 196 plate appearances saw him hit for a .797 OPS, .342 wOBA, and 121 wRC+, along with a .235 isolated slugging percentage. Castro’s defense at second base was not great, having -2 defensive runs saved, -11.2 UZR/150, and -3 outs above average, which is why I pencil him in as a designated hitter.

I would also put outfield prospect Canaan Smith-Njigba high up on the DH depth list. Castro did poorly against right-handers this year with just an 83 wRC+, but when he faced a southpaw, he had a 148 wRC+. Smith-Njigba is a lefty batter who had a .875 OPS vs. righties this year at Triple-A.

You can’t rule out Malcom Nuñez here, but I think most of his playing time will be at first base. Davis and Rodriguez may also see some time here, but mostly to stay fresh rather than be regular options at designated hitter. The Pirates may instead put Miguel Andújar here, yet another option at DH.

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