Pittsburgh Pirates: Bold Strategy to Start at Second Base

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 04: Rodolfo Castro #14 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at PNC Park on June 4, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 04: Rodolfo Castro #14 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at PNC Park on June 4, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /
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The Pittsburgh Pirates could go with a bold strategy at second base, starting Jared Triolo at the keystone and moving Rodolfo Castro to DH.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have a handful of options to put at second base to start 2023. The likes of Rodolfo Castro, Diego Castillo, and Tucupita Marcano can likely form a solid hold on the position until Nick Gonzales eventually arrives. While that trio seems the most likely to hold the keystone fort until the 2020 first-round pick is ready, the Pirates could open the year with this bolder strategy.

What if, instead, the Pirates started Jared Triolo at second base to start the 2023 season? Triolo, a third baseman by trade, also has plenty of experience at shortstop and has stated he’s willing to play the right side of the infield. Triolo is highly athletic and is considered one of the best defensive infielders in the minor leagues.

He’s a pretty decent hitter on top of that. Last season, Triolo slashed .282/.376/.419 with a .356 wOBA and 121 wRC+ for Double-A Altoona. Since making his professional debut back in 2019, Triolo has consistently been an above-average batter with a 110 wRC+ or better in three seasons. His 12.7% walk rate is also a career-best, and his 17.6% strikeout rate is the third time in a row he’s had a sub-20% strikeout rate.

While Triolo didn’t hit for much power, he got better as the season went on. After the start of June and then through the end of the season, Triolo owned a .878 OPS, .385 wOBA, and 140 wRC+. Hitting for power during the summer was no issue either, as he had a .194 ISO and nine home runs in 312 plate appearances. Even better was his second half, in which he had a .994 OPS, .424 wOBA, and 165 wRC+.

Putting Triolo at second base would push Rodolfo Castro to designated hitter, a position where he’d arguably be more valuable. Castro is a decent hitter and looked great down the home stretch. However, defense has never been his strong suit. Castro had -2 defensive runs saved, a -9.2 UZR/150, and -3 outs above average in less than 300 innings at the keystone.

The Pirates also do not have many options to start at designated hitter as of right now. If Opening Day were tomorrow, the Pirates’ best options would be Miguel Andujar and Cal Mitchell. Mitchell did look solid in September, as did Andujar, but it would be a safer bet with Castro over either.

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The Pittsburgh Pirates also see something in Triolo. They wouldn’t have protected him in the Rule 5 draft if they didn’t. 2023 will also be his age-25 season. While he hasn’t spent a day at Triple-A yet, we see plenty of prospects skip Triple-A. Jack Suwinski did so last year, and he wasn’t terrible in the majors. There’s a chance Triolo even starts the year in the major leagues, similar to Diego Castillo last season. If he does, the Pirates should see how he can handle second base.

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