Pittsburgh Pirates: Two Players Making the Most of Winter League Action

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Outfielder Edward Olivares

In the Venezuelan Winter League, Edward Olivares, whom the Pirates acquired in a trade with Kansas City on December 15, is carrying a hot bat. Granted, this league tends to be an offensive haven; three of the eight teams currently have an OPS greater than .800. By comparison, the only MLB team to exceed that mark in 2023 was the record-breaking Braves (.845).

Still, Olivares boasts a .341/.406/.495 line through 23 games (101 plate appearances). His batting average ranks 15th in a league that features Yasiel Puig and Ronald Acuna, Jr. among the top sluggers. Olivares has also shown off his speed, swiping five bases in as many attempts.

In a sense, this hot streak is an extension of the end of Olivares's 2023 season with Kansas City. Olivares spent much of the past three seasons bouncing between the Royals and Triple-A Omaha, but over the final month of the MLB season, he hit six homers (half of his season total) and racked up a 1.047 OPS. He ranked in the 83rd percentile in strikeouts, and according to Statcast’s expected home runs by park feature, he would have surpassed his home run total in every park except two: PNC Park and Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

This brings me to two major flaws in Olivares’s game: pull hitting and fielding. He loves to pull the ball up the left-field line, which is not always a recipe for success at PNC Park, which tends to favor lefties. Additionally, Olivares has been a below-average fielder in his pro career, but his arm strength ranks in the 90th percentile among Major Leaguers, according to Statcast. PNC Park’s shallow right field combined with Olivares’s cannon could dissuade opponents from running, but I don't love the idea of Olivares trying to read a ricochet off the towering wall in right. Olivares’s glove is certainly a liability, but his bat could merit a chance in an outfield platoon or at DH.

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