Spring Training can cause a lot of outliers in performance. Former Pirate Jose Osuna might just be their best pre-season hitter, even if he never translated that into regular season success.
Spring Training is now in full swing. With that, Pittsburgh Pirates players are getting ready for what should be an exciting season ahead of them. Because spring training has many variables you don’t see during the regular season, like Low-A prospects pitching and microscopic sample sizes, you can get some pretty weird statistics. Because of that, one of, if not the Pirates’ greatest pre-season player of all time, is Jose Osuna, and today, I want to shine a spotlight at the odd pre-season career of this spring training warrior.
Osuna is not a popular name in Pirate lore. He mostly served as a platoon/bench bat from 2017 through 2020. Across 705 plate appearances, Osuna batted just .241/.280/.430. Osuna walked just 4.8% of the time with a wOBA below .300 at .299 and wRC+ below 90 at just 83. But he did do a few things right. He hit for his fair share of power, with 24 home runs and a .189 isolated slugging percentage. He also didn’t strike out much with a strikeout rate of 17.9%.
As an up-and-down bench/platoon player, Osuna’s major league career didn’t last long, at least his tenure with the Pirates. In 2021, he headed overseas to Japan, where he had mediocre numbers in his first season with the Yakult Swallows but did solid this past year. He batted .272/.315/.440 with 20 home runs in 529 plate appearances. Nothing over-the-top impressive, but better than anything he did in the major leagues.
But Osuna would give glimmers of an all-star in Spring Training. His best pre-season came back in 2017 when he batted .407/.492/.759 with five home runs in just 65 plate appearances. He had ten strikeouts and walks and got an extended look in the big leagues for his spring performance. That year, he had just a 76 wRC+ in the regular season.
The following spring, Osuna put on another clinic with the bat, slashing .327/.370/.673 with five more home runs in 54 plate appearances. He wasn’t as good as he was in 2017, but he still registered an OPS well over 1.000 and a slugging percentage above .650. But this time around, he only walked three times to oppose 11 strikeouts.
Over the course of 214 total spring training plate appearances, Osuna was a .324/.393/.564 batter with 11 home runs. That kind of production is about on par with Juan Soto for his career. He was a spring training beast but could never translate that into MLB success.
Osuna is the poster boy for spring training results mattering little or not at all. However, there’s no doubt that Osuna had fun in March. Maybe someday, after a few years in Japan, he’ll return to the United States. Even if he doesn’t make a career in the MLB, he’ll always have spring to show what he can do.