After riding a high batting average on balls in play last season, Pittsburgh Pirates utility infielder Jared Triolo appears due for regression in 2024
During the 2023 season, super infielder Jared Triolo made his MLB debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Overall, Triolo posted strong numbers. In 209 plate appearances, the 25-year-old hit for a .298/.388/.398 slash line with a 116 OPS+. 118 wRC+, and a 2.1 WAR.
Despite these strong numbers, there are reasons for concern about Triolo entering 2024. He had two stints with the Pirates, re-joining the club in September after being optioned back to the minors in August.
So, why should fans be worried about Triolo's ability to duplicate his success in 2024?
Prior to re-joining the Pirates in September, Triolo had struggled in the majors. In his first 137 PAs in the majors Triolo hit for a .273/.350/.314 slash line. Those numbers may sound strong, but the lack of power was glaring.
Triolo owned an isolated slugging (ISO) of just .041 in these PAs, this was a result of having just 3 extra base hits (1 home run, 2 doubles) in his first 137 MLB PAs. He walked at an 8.8% clip, but struck out in 30.7% of his trips to the plate. Overall, Triolo had an 87 wRC+ in his first 137 PAs, putting him well below the MLB league average wRC+ of 100.
One could argue that the most concerning part stat for Triolo during this stretch was his batting average on balls in play (BABIP). League average BABIP is .300, a BABIP well above .300 indicates that a hitter is the beneficiary of good luck/poor defense, and that their results are not sustainable. In his first 137 PAs, despite his below league average wRC+ and lack of power, Triolo's BABIP was .405.
After re-joining the Pirates as a September call-up, Triolo had 72 PAs with the Pirates. In these 72 PAs his numbers improved substantially. Triolo hit for a .350/.458/.567 slash line with a .217 ISO, 16.7% walk rate, and a 29.2% strikeout rate in September. However, once agian, Triolo benefitted from an unsustainably high BABIP (.458).
A big reason Triolo's high BABIP came as such a red flag were his contact rates. His 5.9% barrel rate, average exit velocity of 86.6 MPH, and 33.6% hard-hit rate were all below league average. A hitter with a high BABIP is always a red flag, a hitter with a high BABIP and poor contact rates screams regression is due to happen.
Right now, it is hard to envision a scenario where Triolo does not start the season in the majors. Triolo has nothing left to prove in the minors and is a plus defender at third base and second base. He can also play shortstop and first base. His defensive flexibility alone makes Triolo valuable to a MLB club. The key for him in 2024, however, will be trying to find offensive success without having to rely on an unsustainably high BABIP.