Pinch hitting and coming through in the clutch are not easy to do, but Joshua Palacios has excelled at both for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season
Every year there are players who emerge seemingly out of nowhere to solidify themselves as solid major league contributors. For the 2023 Pittsburgh Pirates, no player has embodied that more than outfielder Joshua Palacios.
Palacios was acquired by the Pirates in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. After starting the season in the minors Palacios joined the Pirates in May. He was sent back to the minors in July, but returned following the trade deadline.
Overall, Palacios has had a much better season than anyone could have expected. Palacios has put together a season that has thrust himself into the conversation for an Opening Day roster spot in 2024.
Palacios is hitting .236/.278/.418 on the season. He owns an 83 wRC+ and an isolated slugging (ISO) of .181. Now, these numbers are nothing special nor are they that of a starter at the major league level. They are, however, more than good enough to be a fourth otufielder in the majors.
Even in todays's baseball with the universal DH a key component to being a good bench player is to be able to be a good pinch hitter. Being a good pinch hitter is a lot easier said than done, but Palacios has been a terrific pinch hitter this season.
Entering play on Sunday, Palacios was hitting .364/.391/.682 with a .318 ISO and a wRC+ of 185 as a pinch hitter. Palacios once again stepped to the plate as a pinch hitter on Sunday and drew a walk. A walk that put the go-ahead run on base for the Pirates.
Palacios has also proven to have the "clutch gene."
With runners in scoring position, Palacios has hit for a .281/.338/.500 slash line with a .219 ISO and a wRC+ of 122. In what FanGraphs classifies as "high leverage" situations, Palacios has hit for a .290/.313/.581 slash line with a .290 ISO and a 134 wRC+.
Pinch hitting and hitting with runners in scoring position/in clutch situations are two of the most challenging things to do in baseball. Well, neither of those situations have posed a challenge for Palacios this season. His ability to come through in these situations are two big reasons why Palacios has been able to put himself in position to crack the team's Opening Day roster in 2024.