2. Which Utility Infielder Will Earn a Starting Job?
With Oneil Cruz returning from injury, the left side of the Pirates’ infield might be the best it’s been in years. The right side? A murky land of questions.
Barring an outstanding (or horrific) spring showing from either player, Connor Joe and Rowdy Tellez may make up a lefty-righty platoon at first base. Joe handles left-handers better, posting a .261/.356/.429 line. Tellez’s average and on-base percentage are fairly consistent across the board, but his slugging against righties is .464, compared to .386 against lefties. If either one is carrying a hot bat, Joe could still slot into the outfield while Tellez mans first.
Second base, like in years past, is shaping up to be a battle. In a surprising move, Ji Hwan Bae cracked the Opening Day starting lineup in 2023, but his lackluster fielding (six defensive runs saved below average) and light hitting made him something of a liability in the infield last year. Liover Peguero, Nick Gonzales, and Jared Triolo each took a turn in the revolving middle-infield door. Triolo and Peguero ended the year heading in two very different directions. Triolo posted a 1.025 OPS over the final month of the season, while maintaining above-average defensive numbers. Peguero limped to a .548 OPS over the same span. Gonzales, a former first-round pick, struggled consistently and may be attractive trade bait.