Pittsburgh Pirates: A Look At The Options For First Base

What are the Pittsburgh Pirates' options at first base going into this off-season?
Mar 20, 2023; Clearwater, Florida, USA;  Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins (17)
Mar 20, 2023; Clearwater, Florida, USA; Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins (17) / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
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We already discussed Jared Triolo in detail when looking at the options for second base, so we will just give a brief summary here. Triolo has been an underrated prospect in the Pirate system for years. He’s a great defender and has consistently been an above-average hitter in the minors. While his first promotion was rough, he did well in his second call-up, albeit with the help of a batting average on balls in play above .500. Triolo saw time at both corner infield positions, as well as second base, all three of which he looked great in during his brief time in the MLB.

The next best option is Connor Joe. The outfielder/first baseman is coming off a relatively solid season with the bat, hitting .247/.338/.421. Joe managed a .174 ISO, as well as a 10.6% walk rate. His strikeout rate was slightly worse than average, but a still manageable 23.3% rate. Joe ended the year with a .332 wOBA, and 107 wRC+. 

Joe’s defense over at first base wasn’t horrible either. He was about average with -2 defensive runs saved and +1 out above average. He spent more time in the outfield grass, where again, he was about average with -3 DRS but +1 OAA. He may not win a Gold Glove, but he can hold his own at the position.

If the Pirates were to stick Joe at first base full-time, they’d need to find him a platoon partner. Joe hit very well against left-handed pitching, slashing .265/.365/.452 with a 122 wRC+. He had just a 20.4% strikeout rate, as well as an 11.4% walk rate. However, when facing a right-hander he hit just .235/.319/.401 with a 95 wRC+. While he still walked at an above-average 9.5% rate, he struck out about a quarter of the time (25.1%).

In the minor leagues, the Pirates have Malcom Nunez and Matt Gorski, but neither are what you’d consider the next great Pirates’ first baseman. The system certainly isn’t deep in first base talent, granted not too many systems are. As of right now, there is only one first baseman on FanGraphs’ top 100 list.