On Wednesday morning in Venezuela, Jose Osuna was named the Venezuelan winter league Rookie of the Year. Osuna saw some playing time in the league during the previous two off-seasons, but he didn’t play enough to lose his rookie eligibility. He had a breakout winter this year and will also get some consideration for the MVP award, which will be handed out later this week. Osuna received 46 of a possible 50 first place votes, easily winning the ROY award.
I was recently able to talk to someone who saw Osuna a lot last year with Bradenton, then got to see him this year in Altoona and during winter ball. I asked about the changes he saw in Osuna from last year to now and he said the biggest difference is that Osuna doesn’t expand his strike zone in big spots anymore. One of Osuna’s biggest issues was being selective at the plate. He tended to go after the first strike he saw, even if it wasn’t a good pitch to hit. He makes consistent contact, but he would make a lot of weak contact on tough pitches to hit. He doesn’t strikeout a lot or walk much, but that was due to his ability to make contact and lack of plate patience, so the overall results weren’t there.
This year, Osuna began to look for his pitch more often and when runners were on base, he wasn’t chasing pitches as much. When he was locked in, he was only going after pitches in his zone. That led to better results and he carried that new selectivity at the plate into winter ball, where he hit .330/.395/.519 in 59 games. While I only asked about his success at the plate, I was told that Osuna has greatly improved his defense at first base this year. It should be added that he played more left field than first base in winter ball and had a handful of highlight reel plays.
Osuna will likely start the 2016 season back at Altoona because Indianapolis seems very crowded at this moment. He could experience something similar to 2015, moving up to Indianapolis when a space opens up and that could be first base when Josh Bell gets promoted to Pittsburgh. Osuna will have to continue to be more selective at the plate and not revert back to the old ways, trying to do too much to get to the next level. If he hits enough, the Pirates will find a place for him in Indianapolis.