JOSE OSUNA, FIRST BASEMAN
|Born: December 12, 1992
Height: 6′ 2″
Signed: Int. FA, Pittsburgh Pirates, 2009
How Acquired: Int. FA
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Osuna was one of several Latin American outfielders at the lower levels of the Pirates’ system who showed the potential to develop into good prospects. While the others (Willy Garcia, Luis Urena, Gregory Polanco) are tall, lean players whose skills were still very raw when they reached the GCL, Osuna was already strongly built and had much better current hitting ability. He was originally a pitcher, but signed with the Pirates as a hitter after his velocity dropped. He always had a good approach at the plate, as he seldom chases bad pitches. He moved to first during the 2011 season. He doesn’t run well and was awkward around the bag for a while after moving to first, but by 2015 he was playing the position very well. He’s not so good in the outfield, but he does have a strong arm.
Osuna was one of the better power hitters in the VSL in 2010, leading the league in HRs at age 17.
Got off to a very fast start in the GCL and, although he cooled off a little, he continued to hit well all summer. He had almost as many walks as Ks, which is impressive for an 18-year-old who hits with power. He fanned just a little more than once every nine ABs. He played left field initially, but moved to first about halfway through the GCL season, probably to make way for the other, faster outfielders. He had two errors in twenty games, so the move at least wasn’t a disaster. He got into two games at State College at the end of the season. BA rated him the 5th best prospect in the GCL.
The Pirates moved Osuna to West Virginia, where he was the regular first baseman. For most of the season he didn’t hit especially well or poorly, except for a blistering hot July when he hit 336/366/645 with nine HRs. His power needed time to pick up, as he didn’t hit a HR until well into May. He doesn’t have great bat speed and so much of the time hits the ball to the opposite field. He didn’t strike out a lot, but his walk rate dropped well below where it had been previously. He had a reverse platoon split, posting an OPS of .673 against LHPs and .817 against RHPs.
Osuna’s hitting fell off considerably at Bradenton, especially his power. He had a more conventional platoon split than the year before, with a .698 OPS against LHPs and .628 against RHPs. He struggled severely on the road in the extreme pitchers’ environs of the Florida State League, posting a .528 OPS. He hit fairly well at McKechnie Field, at .798.
Osuna returned to Bradenton and improved significantly. This time he hit only slightly better at home, so McKechnie didn’t account for the solid numbers. Another factor in Osuna’s favor was that he was still young for the level, at 21. He had a moderate platoon split, with a .888 OPS against LHPs and .774 against RHPs. Osuna spent a month on the disabled list, starting at the beginning of May. He had a strong second half, putting up an OPS of .821 in July and .929 in August. After collecting only 13 extra base hits in his first 42 games, he had 23 in his last 55.
Osuna was eligible for the Rule 5 draft, but wasn’t selected, which is an indication that putting up solid offensive numbers isn’t enough for a prospect who’s limited to first base. He then got caught in a numbers game. The Pirates’ current front office seldom if ever has left a non-utility player at the same level for three years, unless it was in AA or AAA. They also moved Osuna primarily to right field because Edwin Espinal moved up from low A to play first. Osuna put up numbers that were marginally worse than 2014. When Broxton moved up to AAA at the end of May, though, the Pirates promoted Osuna to Altoona and he became the starting left fielder. He eventually moved back to first when Josh Bell moved up to AAA. Osuna hit almost exactly the same at Altoona as he did at Bradenton, although with weaker plate discipline.
Osuna was eligible for the Rule 5 draft again and again wasn’t selected. The Pirates sent him back to Altoona to open the season and he continued hitting exactly as he had the previous year, i.e., reasonably well but not enough to establish himself as a prospect given his position. At the end of June, the Pirates promoted Osuna to Indianapolis. He hit very well in July (289/333/544) and August (321/362/477), showing more power than previously, before going 3-for-20 in September. He crushed LHPs on the season, posting a .932 OPS against them while managing .735 against RHPs. He saw time in the outfield corners at both levels, but mainly played first. The Pirates did not call him up in September.
The Pirates called up Jason Rogers rather than Osuna, even though Osuna is nearly five years younger and was significantly out-hitting Rogers. Osuna would have been a free agent shortly after the World Series, but the Pirates forestalled that by adding him to the 40-man roster. He isn’t likely to make the team out of spring training, but could appear in a platoon or pinch-hitting role at some point.