DFA Miguel Andújar, Promote Jared Triolo
The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Miguel Andújar after he was desiganted for assignment by the New York Yankees last September. Not only was Andújar formerly a high-ranking prospect for the Yankees in the late-2010s, but he made an outstanding first impression in 2018, batting .297/.328/.527 with a 129 wRC+, 27 home runs, and 47 doubles in 606 plate appearances. Andujar was a major negative contributor on defense with -21 defensive runs saved and -7 outs above average, but his season was good enough to finish behind two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani in American League Rookie of the Year voting.
However, Andújar would run into multiple injuries throughout the next few seasons. From the outset of 2019 up until the Pirates claimed Andújar, the former ROY candidate appeared in just 105 games and had 359 plate appearances. Andújar not only lost his starting third base job to Gio Urshela and Josh Donaldson, moving to the outfield more regularly, but his bat managed just a 56 wRC+ in the few occasions when he was healthy.
Andújar looked okay with the Pirates, collecting a hit in six of his nine games, but the 2023 season hasn’t been nearly as kind to him. After an outstanding start against the Washington Nationals, the left fielder has just a single hit in his last 27 plate appearances. He has also struck out five times to oppose a single walk, and in the instances when he is making contact, he has an exit velocity of 84 MPH. His mediocre defense only compounds his poor performance. He’s already made some blunders in right field and has a -18.6 UZR/150.
Pirate utility prospect Jared Triolo should be the man who replaces Andújar. Triolo was a second-round pick by the Pirates in 2019. 2022 was arguably the best season of his minor league career. Triolo batted .282/.376/.419 with a .356 wOBA, and 121 wRC+ at Altoona. His 17.6% strikeout rate marked the third season in a row he had a sub-20% strikeout rate, and his wRC+ also marked the third time he has had a wRC+ of at least 110.
Triolo seemed to find his groove in June. From the start of June through the end of the year, Triolo batted .293/.391/.487 with a .385 wOBA and 140 wRC+. Although Triolo isn’t known for his power, he had a strong .194 isolated slugging percentage. His plate discipline became even better, with a 14.1% walk rate and 15.7% strikeout rate. He was also one of the Pirates’ best prospects after the All-STar Break, in which he had a .994 OPS, .424 wOBA, and 165 wRC+ down the stretch.
Triolo is considered an outstanding defensive third baseman and arguably the Pirates’ best defensive prospect. He also isn’t slow and swiped over 20 bases in 2021 and 2022. Triolo’s athleticism and defensive ability can play pretty much anywhere the Pirates need him to. He has seen a handful of games at shortstop and started to take up the outfield last season. In Spring Training, he played a few innings at first base and has previously stated he would play second base if he was required to.
The Pirates opted to protect Triolo from the Rule 5 Draft, placing him on their 40-man roster. Although Triolo opened the year on the injured list after undergoing hamate surgery, he’s returned to action, collecting nine hits and three walks in his first 31 plate appearances of the year.
Once Triolo is fully back to speed, the Pirates need to seriously consider promoting him. The team is lacking depth up the middle, and Andujar isn’t a great answer in the outfield. Triolo is 25 years old and doesn’t need much more minor-league seasoning.