Edward Olivares had a decent 2023 season, but could breakout and become an important piece for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season
The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Edward Olivares from the Kansas City Royals earlier this off-season. Olivares had a solid 2023 campaign, but I think he has the potential to play a significant role for the team in 2024. There are some underlying numbers that support my case, as well as park factors to consider that could make Olivares a big-time breakout candidate next season.
Olivares finished the year batting .263/.317/.452 with a .329 wOBA and 105 wRC+. He only struck out in 16.6% of his plate appearances, but he also rarely drew walks. Olivares clocked in with a 5.7% walk rate. He was also an above-average power hitter, crushing a dozen dingers in 385 plate appearances while having a .189 isolated slugging percentage.
The first thing to note is that Olivares was well above average in expected statistics. He had a .338 xwOBA, .270 xBA, and .456 xSLG%. His xwOBA was nine points higher than his bottom line. DRC+, which is Baseball Prospectus’ version of wRC+ or OPS+, has a predictive element to it. It is, after all, called ‘deserved’ runs created. Olivares was pinned at 117 DRC+. That ranked top 50 among the batters with at least 350 plate appearances in ‘23 and above the likes of Corbin Carroll, Francisco Lindor, and Ozzie Albies.
The glaring hole in Olivares’ game is his defense. Last year, he had -11 defensive runs saved and -7 outs above average in just 426.1 innings in the field. But both MLB Pipeline and FanGraphs projected him as an above-average defensive outfielder when he was a prospect.
What happened between then and now?
Well, some of it could be chalked up to Kauffman’s spacious outfield. Oliveras might play much better in PNC Park’s right field. It is 10 feet shorter down the line and 12 feet closer to home plate in right-center field compared to Kauffman. Now that’s not to say that Olivares is going to go from a poor defender to a Gold Glove outfielder because of this adjustment, but it is 22 less feet of ground he has to cover.
It’s not that dissimilar to Connor Joe in 2022 to 2023. Joe also played in a spacious outfield in 2022 for the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. In 507.1 innings in the outfield, Joe registered -4 OAA and a +6.3 UZR/150. For the Pirates last year where he played half of his games in PNC Park’s outfield, Joe had +1 OAA and +8.2 UZR/150 in 543.1 innings.
There’s no question that he has the arm to throw guys out from right and the speed to at least have average range. Olivares averaged 91.4 MPH on his throws, which put him in the 90th percentile of arm strength. In terms of sprint speed, he was in the 83rd percentile, clocking in at a run speed of 28.6 feet/second. That should be good enough to cover right field.
Speaking of adjusting parks, a smaller park is something that may greatly benefit Oliveras. There were six batted balls that ended up as doubles or triples in 2023 that would have been home runs in PNC Park. All 12 of his home runs would have been long balls in PNC Park as well.
I think there are a lot of factors working in Oliveras’ favor. He had a good year in 2023, and has some promising numbers under the hood, and moving to a smaller outfield not only should help his defense, but also his offense. I don’t think it’s totally unreasonable to expect Olivares to bat .270 next year with 18-20 homers and only about -3 to -5 DRS/OAA in 2024.