The Pittsburgh Pirates have acquired outfielder/first baseman Connor Joe from the Colorado Rockies. What could he bring to the table for the Bucs?
Sunday evening the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired outfielder/first baseman Connor Joe from the Colorado Rockies. In exchange for Joe, the Pirates sent right-handed pitcher and 2020 third-round draft pick Nick Garcia. Joe was a former first-round pick by the Pirates in 2014 and is now returning to the organization that drafted him nearly a decade ago. So what is the now former Rockie bringing to the Bucs?
Joe did not have a great season with the bat last year. He slashed .238/.338/.359. While Joe had a healthy on-base percentage and walked at a 11.8% rate, his slugging percentage was 23rd lowest among batters with at least 450 plate appearances. His .121 isolated slugging percentage also ranked bottom 30. On the plus side, aside from a great walk rate, he also only struck out 20.8% of the time. Overall, he ended the campaign with a .314 wOBA and 87 wRC+.
Although his 2022 season was unimpressive at best, there are some things that could make him better in 2023. Joe had a decent 2021 and carried that over into the first half of 2022. In 2021, he batted .285/.379/.469 with a 115 wRC+. Then in the first half of 2022, he slashed .262/.367/.382 with a 102 wRC+. In total, this was a 592 plate appearance stretch in which he had a .784 OPS, .347 wOBA, 107 wRC+.
Joe is also a decent hitter against left-handed pitching. He owned a .259/.349/.395 line when it came to facing southpaws last season. However, when he stepped to the plate against right-handers, he only batted .226/.332/.339. While he walked more against righties (12.1% compared to 11.2% vs LHP), he also struck out less against left-handers (18.9% to 21.8%).
As a defender, Joe had +5 Defensive Runs Saved, albeit with -1 Outs Above Average in left field. While his overall outfield defensive numbers are below average, his worst work came in right field where he had -5 DRS and -4 OAA. Joe also saw plenty of time at first base where he graded out as a well above average defender. He racked up +3 DRS and +1 OAA.
But there are some concerns with Joe. The first is that he had a .747 OPS at Coors Field and .646 OPS when he was guest. There was also a large discrepancy in home/away OPS last season at 1.035/.723, respectively. Joe’s average exit velocity and hard hit rate also saw a large decrease from 88.2 MPH/39% to 85.3 MPH/33.8% (league average exit velo and hard hit rate are 88.4 MPH and 35.8%). Plus with a 4-degree decrease in launch angle, Joe’s ground ball rate went from just 33.3% to 46.4%.
If Joe can get his power back that he displayed in 2021, this could be a really under-the-radar grab by the Bucs. He hits LHP well and plays a solid left field and first base. Joe draws a ton of walks and doesn’t strike out much either. It’s a strange trade, but one that could give the Pirates a decent platoon bat who can play multiple positions to an average or better degree.