Pittsburgh Pirates: Three Players Who Can Elevate the Lineup if Healthy in 2024

These three Pirates players could be major contributors to the team's 2024 line-up if they are 100% ready to go.
Sep 4, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Pirates designated hitter Andrew McCutchen
Sep 4, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates designated hitter Andrew McCutchen / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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Andrew McCutchen

The Pirates recently resigned Andrew McCutchen to a one-year deal worth $5 million. Cutch was brought back into the Pirates' plans last off-season, and for the first half of the 2023 season, it looked like he may have his best year since 2015. He still finished the season with decent numbers, but multiple injuries held back what he could have done.

The first was an elbow injury. Through the 81st game of the year, McCutchen was batting .287/.399/.455. Had Cutch kept this kind of performance up the whole year, it would have been the first time he put up an OPS above .850 since '15. He was walking at an astounding 15.9% rate with a quality 19.6% strikeout rate. On top of that, he hit ten homers with a .168 isolated slugging percentage. With a .372 wOBA and 133 wRC+, Cutch looked like he could represent the National League in the All-Star game.

But Cutch would suffer a slump in early July. The nail in the proverbial coffin would happen on July 5th. McCutchen fell down while trying to avoid an up-and-in pitch. However, he fell awkwardly on his elbow, which led to an injury list stint. Although it only took one 10-day IL stint for him to return, McCutchen was not the same batter.

Through his final 157 plate appearances, the former MVP hit just .233/.369/.341. After hitting for slightly above-average power in the first half of the year, Cutch had an isolated slugging percentage of just .109. McCutchen still walked at a hefty 16.6% rate, but his strikeout rate was upped to 22.9%. While his 102 wRC+ still made him a slightly above-average hitter, it was a 31% dropoff.

While the elbow injury didn't significantly hinder McCutchen's ability to hit the ball hard, as he maintained a similar exit velo and hard hit rate from April to June, he did struggle from lifting the baseball. His launch angle went from 13.1 degrees to just 10.9 degrees. After having a ground ball and flyball rate right around 40% in the first half, Cutch would post a GB% of 47.1% and FB% of 30.8% in the second half.

Of course, McCutchen did suffer a season-ending partial Achilles tear in early September. While it is his second major leg injury in five years, his elbow injury sapped a lot of his power. But if McCutchen's elbow is fully healed, he could provide a potential 20-home run bat.