Pittsburgh Pirates: Three Sleeper Picks to Watch in 2024

Don't sleep on these three Pirates players as they could be massive contributors in 2024.

Atlanta Braves v Pittsburgh Pirates
Atlanta Braves v Pittsburgh Pirates / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages
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Rowdy Tellez

Rowdy Tellez showed a ton of potential in 2022. He hit 35 home runs, had a 10.4% walk rate, only struck out 20.2% of the time, and had a 110 wRC+. But there was definitely hope he could improve upon that. He had just a .215 batting average on balls in play and was one of the most shifted on players in 2022. But with the new rules in place, he looked primed to build upon his good numbers from ‘22.

Tellez looked good through the first two months of the year. In 184 plate appearances in April and May, the first baseman was batting .244/.332/.494 with a .347 wOBA and 118 wRC+. Tellez was starting to benefit from the new shift rules as his BABIP went from just .215 to .255. His isolated slugging percentage had also risen to .250. Tellez’s strikeout rate may have taken a step back to 23.3%, but his walk rate also rose to 12.2%.

Tellez then fell off hard in June, collecting just 15 hits in 95 plate appearances with five walks. He then appeared in three games in July before hitting the injury list with a forearm injury. Tellez then suffered a finger fracture in mid-July, right when he was scheduled to return, which kept him out until mid/late August. Although he would return in August, he never got back on track, posting a 76 wRC+ through his final 63 plate appearances.

I think you can chalk up most, if not all, of Tellez’s struggles to his forearm injury. It’s too coincidental that he started to struggle the month before landing on the IL. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect the Tellez we saw in April and May of last year. But because of how much he struggled after May, I think many are overlooking the upside he comes with.