Pittsburgh Pirates: Examining What the Opening Day Outfield Could Look Like

What could the outfield look like for the Pirates when the season begins?

Sep 16, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Bryan Reynolds (10)
Sep 16, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Bryan Reynolds (10) / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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Right Field - Edward Olivares, Billy McKinney

If Opening Day was tomorrow, there is a real shot that right field would be a platoon situation between Edward Olivares and Billy McKinney, two players the Pirates acquired via trade earlier this offseason. Platooning these two in right field can help maximize their strengths, while also preserving Andrew McCutchen's health by allowing him to DH.

Olivares has a lifetime .451 slugging percentage, .203 ISO, 6.2% walk rate, and 104 wRC+ against left-handed pitching in his career. Meanwhile, against right-handed pitching those numbers drop to a .413 slugging percentage, .145 ISO, 4.9% walk rate, and a 96 wRC+.

While his career numbers are nothing to write home about, McKinney is coming off his best offensive season since his first MLB season in 2018. In 147 plate appearances last season, McKinney hit for a .227/.30/.406 slash line with a .180 ISO, 11.6% walk rate, 101 wRC+, and a 98 OPS+.

McKinney made soem changes to his swing and approach at the plate last season that led to positive results. If these adjustments can help him carry his 11.1% barrel rate, 89.0 MPH average exit velocity, and 40.7% hard hit rate into this season, he could be a strong platoon partner with Olivares.

Defensively, McKinney would also be a boost in right field. He owns a lifetime +6 OAA and +5 DRS in right field. A big upgrade over the -9 OAA and -8 DRS Olivares has in his career as a right fielder, and a move toward attempting to maximize run prevention would be a smart move for the Pirates this season.

Platooning McKinney and Olivares in right field would also fit with the past preference of Derek Shelton to work young hitters such as Olivares into the lineup via platoon. Plus, some players are just better served in platoon roles and McKinney may fit that bill.

Again, McCutchen could factor into the right field equation as well. The Pirates wanted to use him in right field more last season but injury prevented that. So, there could also be a scenario where McCutchen is splitting with McKinney in right field, while serving as the team's designated hitter when he's not in the outfield.