Jared Triolo is coming off a fantastic 2022 campaign, but what does 2023 hold for the Pittsburgh Pirates infield prospect?
Jared Triolo is one of the Pittsburgh Pirates most underrated prospects. Since the Bucs drafted him in the second round of the 2019 draft, he’s consistently been a quality hitter, posting a 110 wRC+ in each of his minor league appearances. Triolo had another good season in 2022, which included a blistering hot summer. Now that the Pirates protected Triolo from the Rule 5 draft, adding him to the 40-man roster, what could the 2023 season hold for the infielder?
In 495 plate appearances, Triolo slashed .282/.376/.419 for Double-A Altoona. Triolo upped his walk rate from 8.9% last season for Greensboro to 12.7% while whittling down his K% from 19.9% to 17.6%. He also swiped 24 bases, making it the second year in a row he’s stolen more than 20. While he hit for less power as his isolated slugging percentage fell from .176 to just .136, he was still a good hitter overall with a .795 OPS, .356 wOBA, and 121 wRC+.
But Triolo got off to a poor start to the season. At the end of May, Triolo had registered just an 88 wRC+ up to that point. But something clicked when June rolled around. For the last three months of the season, Triolo batted .293/.391/.487, walking at a phenomenal 14.1% rate and striking out in just 15.7% of his plate appearances. The power issues that plagued him at the start of the season were no more, as he put up a .194 isolated slugging percentage and smacked nine home runs with 14 doubles in just 312 plate appearances. When everything was said and done, he had a .385 wOBA and 140 wRC+. What’s even more impressive is he had a .994 OPS after the all-star break.
While Triolo has been a good hitter at each stop in his minor league career, his defense is his calling card. He’s an outstanding defender at third base and shortstop. He started to see time in the outfield this past season, which, while not his most accustomed position, he did play a fair amount in college. Triolo himself hasn’t ruled out playing the right side of the infield, either. He hasn’t played any second base or first base, but given how well he plays third and short, he’d more than likely hold his own and then some.
Triolo will likely be one of the Pittsburgh Pirates first big promotions. He might even start the year on the 26-man roster. He’ll be entering his age-25 campaign, so he’s more than old enough to see the major leagues. Given how well the summer treated Triolo, you can’t rule out the possibility of him breaking camp with the team, especially given he is now part of the 40-man roster.
Once Triolo makes it to the major leagues, then what? He’s not pushing Ke’Bryan Hayes off of third base or Oneil Cruz off of shortstop, but second base is undecided. It’s not that the Pirates have no options at second base, but quite the opposite. Aside from Triolo, Rodolfo Castro, Ji-Hwan Bae, along with Diego Castillo, Tucupita Marcano, and Hoy Park are all options. But given how much Castro struggled defensively (could open the year at DH) and Bae being more accustomed to center field than Triolo, the third base prospect has a decent chance of making the transition to second base and opening the season there.
But the Pittsburgh Pirates do have Nick Gonzales as well. If Nick Gonzales eventually hits his way to the major leagues, where does that leave Triolo? It could depend on the situation over at first base. If Ji-Man Choi is hitting relatively well, it would be hard to seep playing time for Triolo, even if both deserve it. The outfield could also be an option, but if Jack Suwinski, Ji-Hwan Bae, and Bryan Reynolds are producing, are you going to let Triolo take their playing time?
While it might seem like a good problem to have, you can’t guarantee things are all going right. Even then, Triolo has a ton of positional versatility. Think back to 2014 when Josh Harrison started to break out. The Pirates made playing time for Harrison back then, playing him everywhere but first base and center field. Triolo has the added benefit of the ability to play both of those positions.
Triolo’s athleticism and versatility make him potentially the next Ben Zobrist-type player. Even if Triolo only bats for a 100-105 wRC+, his versatility will make him a valuable member of the squad. If the Pirates want to go bold, they should start him at second base, move Bae to center field, and move Castro to DH. Once Nick Gonzales arrives, the Pirates have more than enough options on where and how to play Triolo.