Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Jack Suwinski had a decent 2022 rookie season, so what does his sophmore season potentially have in store for him?
The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Jack Suwinski at the 2021 trade deadline in the Adam Frazier trade. While the outfield prospect was not considered the key piece of the deal at the time, he ended up having a pretty decent rookie campaign. As we head into the off-season and look into the future, what could next year hold for Suwinski?
Suwinski posted a .202/.298/.411 in 372 plate appearances. Overall, he produced at a league average rate with a .709 OPS, .311 wOBA, and 100 wRC+. The league averages in each in 2022 were .706, .310, and 100, respectively. He was one of 13 rookies in 2022 with a 100 or better wRC+.
Suwinski provided decent power with 19 home runs and a .209 isolated slugging percentage. His ISO was the fourth-best among all rookies, with 350+ plate appearances. The only ones who surpassed him were the Rookie of the Year winners, Julio Rodriguez, at .225 and Michael Harris II at .217, and fellow Pittsburgh Pirates rookie Oneil Cruz at .218.
While Suwinski provided respectable offense, his defense shined and provided a ton of value. He worked in all three outfield positions, racking up +2 defensive runs saved, +1 out above average, and a +7.8 UZR/150. Most of his innings were logged in left field, where he played 417.2 of the 818.2 frames of his season.
At the end of the day, Suwinski turned in a +1.8 fWAR in just 106 total contests and 372 plate appearances. That’s a pace of about +2.5 through 150 games and 3.0 through 600 plate appearances. That would make Suwinski an above-average regular, per WAR. Of course, WAR isn’t the be-all-end-all, but with an average bat and plus defense at three outfield spots, he’d start on more teams than just the Pirates.
But there are some things to note. The first is that Suwinski struck out at a 30.6% rate. He did offset that somewhat with a decent 9% walk rate, but anything over 30% is a tad higher than you like to see. Suwinski’s 88.3 MPH exit velocity and 40% hard-hit rate aren’t phenomenal either and only sit around league average. His hard hit rate is 2.2% better than average, though his exit velo is 0.3 MPH below average.
But plenty of decent power hitters aren’t among the best in terms of exit velocity. Alex Bregman, George Springer, Eduardo Escobar, and Nolan Arenado each had decent home run totals and well above average ISOs but had an average exit velo below 89 MPH. But what is more important is that he made quality contact very often. Suwinski may not have been in the 90th+ percentile of exit velocity, but his 12.2% barrel rate was in the top 86th percentile. Only 24 players had a barrel rate above 12%.
If you were to compare a player to what Suwinski could develop into in 2023 with the bat, I would say what Eugenio Suarez has done in the last three seasons. Since 2020, Suarez has hit .215/.310/.448. Sure, he’s striking out 30.3% of the time, but he’s also drawing walks at an 11% rate and averages about 32 home runs every 600 plate appearances. Plus, he has a 107 wRC+. Once you factor in his great outfield defense, that’s a pretty decent player.
Suwinski doesn’t need to bat .250 to be productive. Heck, he doesn’t even need to bat .220. If he hits anywhere around .210-.215, he draws enough walks and hits for enough power that he’d still be a good hitter. He hit just over the Mendoza line last year and was still a league average batter.
It should be fun to watch Suwinski next season. He made a name for himself last year as a power-hitter with surprising athleticism and fielding ability, something not many saw coming from him. He’s projected to be part of the Pirates’ Opening Day outfield and could be a potential 30-home run threat.