Pittsburgh Pirates: How New Additions Complement the Roster

Tampa Bay Rays v Houston Astros
Tampa Bay Rays v Houston Astros / Bob Levey/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Pirates have made a handful of new additions to the roster that complement the rest of the players.

Over the past few months, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been active in the market. For once, they're actually adding major league talent that can make a positive impact on the team. The lineup is in much better shape than it was a year ago. Gone are the likes of Cole Tucker, Josh VanMeter, and Yoshi Tsutsugo, and in are a slew of veterans who bring something to the table that can significantly help the Pirates. Nevertheless, there are many ways the new additions can complement the roster.

The first way that the new additions to the lineup can improve is through getting through the line-up more often. As Earl Weaver once said, "Your most precious possessions on offense are your 27 outs", and on-base percentage shows how often you don't make an out. Last season, the Pirates had a .291 on-base percentage.

This was the third-worst mark in baseball. The league average OBP was .312, and the Pirates only had four batters with an average or better OBP through at least 300 plate appearances. That included Bryan Reynolds (.345), Ben Gamel (.324), Kevin Newman (.316), and Ke'Bryan Hayes (.314).

The Pirates biggest offensive additions this year include Ji-Man Choi, Carlos Santana, and Connor Joe. Choi registered a .341 OBP, which would have been the secod best on the Pirates last year. Joe posted a .338 mark, and Santana had a .316 on-base percentage. Santana replaces Newman's ability to get on base but does it with the ability to crush over 18 home runs. 

But Santana and Choi complement each other very well and could significantly boost their production by working off of each other. Choi is a career .247/.350/.454 batter against righties while Santana has hit .276/.377/.443 batter against lefties. A few other things of note regarding Santana and Choi is that Santana was the most shifted on batter last year and was considered above average in all of Baseball Savant's expected stats. Choi was also significantly better when the shift was off and is coming off surgery to fix the issue that plagued him in the second half.

Let's say that the Choi/Santana platoon bat in front of Rodolfo Castro. That gives Castro a significant amount of more chances to drive in runs. It gives Castro a 35% + chance to step to the plate with a man on base. It helps keep the line moving and gives more batters the opportunity to hit, like Reynolds, Oneil Cruz, and Jack Suwinski.

Not only do Choi and Santana complement each other, but Connor Joe can complement Jack Suwinski. Suwinski took some lumps last season slashing .202/.298/.411 with a 100 wRC+, but the splits against left-handed pitching and right-handed pitching were noticeable. Suwinski had an abysmal 47 wRC+ against southpaws, but when he faced righties he had a strong 122 wRC+.

Joe, however, owned a .744 OPS against left-handers. He had a 98 wRC+ against southpaws, which is slightly below average, but playable to where you could feel comfortable with a platoon between Joe and Suwinski. Last season, however, he outdid his career numbers against left-handed pitching posting a 133 wRC+.

The latest position player addition that helps complement the roster is Austin Hedges. Hedges might not improve the lineup, but with the amount of young pitching coming up through the system, Hedge's ability to handle a pitching staff is invaluable. Last season, Hedges racked up +8 Defensive Runs Saved, and +4.4 framing runs in just 839.2 innings behind the dish. He also allowed just one passed ball.

Hedges is an elite defender, but looking at the 40-man roster, his defense could be an integral part of the pitching staff's ability. The 40-man roster includes three pitchers who haven't even tossed a major league pitch. In total, there are 11 pitchers who have pitched no more than one season in the big leagues. 

The last player we'll look at today is Rich Hill. Hill is coming off a solid season with the Boston Red Sox. He'll slot in the rotation, likely behind Mitch Keller, Roansy Contreras, and Johan Oviedo. However, this adds a significant boost to the rotation depth. Now with Hill on hand, the Pittsburgh Pirates can put either Vince Velasquez or JT Brubaker to the bullpen, adding an insurance policy to the starting rotation.

The new additions to the Pirate roster serve an important purpose. Each complements another player or another part of the roster. The synergy that this could create improvement on the field for the Pirates in 2023.