Pittsburgh Pirates: Counting on Healthy Returns to Provide Crucial Depth

Pittsburgh Pirates v Philadelphia Phillies
Pittsburgh Pirates v Philadelphia Phillies / Mitchell Leff/GettyImages
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The Pittsburgh Pirates offense also needs to be better. While the pitching can be criticized at times, the hitting is really what led to the 2023 Pittsburgh Pirates struggles. This is especially true after their hot start to the season. A big issue that the team's offense was the absence of Oneil Cruz who was hurt in early April limiting him to just 9 total games for the 2023 season.

For the Pittsburgh Pirates to post more runs, they need start Oneil Cruz to be back in the lineup and fully healthy .

Slugging shortstop Oneil Cruz was slated to be the Pirates' biggest difference-maker in 2023 after flashing 5-tool potential as a rookie in 2022. But a foot fracture ended Cruz's sophomore season after just 32 games, robbing the lineup of his power and speed. Cruz batted .250 with 1 home run in 2023 after hitting .233 with 17 HRs and 13 steals over 87 games in 2022.

In his short career so far, Cruz has compiled 2.5 WAR with 19 home runs, 13 steals, a .237 batting average and .751 OPS over 372 at-bats. Getting a healthy Cruz back would give the Pirates an electric presence atop the order. His career 107 OPS+ shows there is potential for a real impact bat.

Speaking of infielders, utility man Tucupita Marcano has been given ample opportunity to earn a big league role but injuries hampered him in 2023. He hit .233 with 3 home runs over 202 at-bats, missing significant time. In his short career, Marcano has hit .217 with 5 HRs and 7 steals over 406 at-bats while posting a 63 OPS+. He'll need to bounce back in 2024 to solidify his place on the Pirates roster with prospects rising behind him.