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.

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Atlanta Braves v Pittsburgh Pirates / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages
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Connor Joe

Connor Joe could make a big impact in 2024, one larger than many fans realize. Joe showed off a good amount of improvement in the second half of the year, enough to make his future outlook very promising. At the very least, he could be a very good semi-regular, if not a full-time regular. Joe set very extraordinarily high expectations in April after finishing the month batting .288/.387/.575 with a .406 wOBA and 156 wRC+.

Sure, while he was still expected to hit well, he came crashing down to Earth hard in May and June. Throughout the next two months of the year, he batted for a meager .209/.291/.331 triple slash, .278 wOBA, and 70 wRC+. He struck out more often, walked less frequently, and hit for less power.

Many fans forget that Joe was good in the second half of the season, as they mostly remember the hot April start and steep May/June decline. Throughout his final 214 plate appearances of the season, which lasted from July 1st onward, Joe batted .259/.355/.427 with a .343 wOBA and 113 wRC+. His isolated slugging percentage of .168 was league average on the dot. Meanwhile, he cut his strikeout rate to just 17.3% and upped his walk rate slightly to 11%.

Joe made a change in his approach, which I went more in depth with here. The simple answer is Joe sacrificed some power for a more contact/patient approach. He was swinging more frequently in July-September compared to earlier months but was making more contact. The only thing is that he wasn’t making as much hard contact. He had an 89.4 MPH exit velocity from the start of July through the end of the year, but that is still above average.

But that approach worked for Joe, and a 113 wRC+ is good. He ranked ahead of Luis Robert Jr., Luis Arraez, and even Jose Ramirez in July through the end of the year. Heck, Joe even out-hit Paul Goldschmidt after the start of July, outranking him in all three triple-slash stats, wOBA, wRC+, and had a lower strikeout rate. Both tied in fWAR at +1.1, but Joe appeared in 15 fewer games and had 123 fewer plate appearances.

Joe does not absolutely need a platoon partner. He actually hitright-handed pitching better than left-handed pitching in July through September. He had 121 plate appearances vs RHP, batting .267/.355/.467 with a .355 wOBA, and 122 wRC+. But he was still decent against left-handers with a .250/.348/.375 line, .323 wOBA, and 100 wRC+. He may benefit more from it, but it is not an absoulte need.

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