Jared Triolo had a strong September that impressed the Pittsburgh Pirates, but what will his role be in 2024?
Jared Triolo impressed the Pittsburgh Pirates and fans alike in his final stretch of the 2023 season. He batted .350/.458/.567 throughout his September call-up with a .440 wOBA and 178 wRC+. Triolo did strike out 21 times, but he also walked a dozen more times and showed an improved ability to drive the ball.
In his first brief promotion, Triolo had just an 84.8 MPH exit velocity, a 30% hard-hit rate, and a 2.5% barrel rate. Throughout the month of September, he upped those numbers to a 90.4 MPH exit velocity, 38.5% hard-hit rate, and 12.8% barrel rate.
It is a relatively small sample size, but keep in mind Triolo has yet to have a bad season in the minor leagues. His lowest single-season wRC+ in every year of his professional career thus far is 110, which means at his very worst so far, he’s still been 10% better than the league-average batter. That was in 2019, as well.
Triolo is quite versatile. He’s primarily a third baseman, but if it weren’t for Ke’Bryan Hayes, he would be the best defender on the team. In just 309.1 innings at the hot corner, Triolo had +4 defensive runs saved and +3 outs above average, which comes out to +13 DRS and +10 OAA in 1000 innings. But he also played strong defense at second base with positive remarks in both OAA and DRS, as well as first base. Plus, Triolo has played a handful of games at shortstop in the minor leagues.
Triolo’s future role may seem like an easy answer. He could be the Pirates’ long-term utility infielder. Triolo can play anywhere you need on the infield dirt. Middle infield, corner infield, wherever there’s a need, Triolo can fill it. But given how good Triolo was in September, and if the measurable improvements he made to his game stick going into 2024, a utility infield role seems like his abilities are being under-utilized.
As of right now, I see Triolo potentially filling one of two roles going into 2024. I think he will either be the Pirates’ starting first baseman or second baseman. Of the two options, I would rather see the Pirates let Triolo take over the keystone, and this is for a couple of reasons. For one, the Pirates would be getting a significant defensive upgrade over either Liover Peguero or Nick Gonzales.
The second reason is that this frees up the Pirates’ trade opportunities. Given how thin this year’s free agent market is for middle infielders, the Pirates should be gauging interest on young players like Peguero or Gonzales. A potential package of these two might bring something back, given how much of a seller’s market it is.
The third reason is that finding a first baseman will be easier than another second. A handful of potential everyday first base options like Carlos Santana, Rhys Hoskins, Jeimer Candelario, Donovan Solano, and Josh Bell are currently on the market. Even the platoon/part-time options like Brandon Belt, C.J. Cron, Garrett Cooper, and Ji-Man Choi represent more decent options. Depending on how it pans out, the trade market may also have some interesting options.
I do understand the devil’s advocate side of this argument as well. If you put Triolo at first base, you can let the young guys take over at second base and not have to worry about searching either the trade or free agent market for a first base. But in my opinion, I feel letting Triolo take over second base and finding a veteran first baseman is the best option.