The Indianapolis Indians has some of the most recognizable names in the system on the roster to begin the 2022 season.
Of course, there is Oneil Cruz, the site’s top ranked prospect, but also Rodolfo Castro who made his big-league debut last year as well as Mason Martin, who owns maybe the most power in the entire system.
That’s not to say Ji-Hwan Bae isn’t a well-known name, but he may not be the first prospect to come to mind, despite being 19th in our rankings.
Before the season started, I wrote about the struggle that may come finding playing time for Bae, as both positions he plays the Pirates have depth at the upper levels and the majors.
Second base, while there is no clear cut at the major league level, have no shortage of options now, including Spring Training standout Diego Castillo. Center field is manned by Bryan Reynolds.
Even at the Triple-A level, Travis Swaggerty’s calling card is his defense, so the Pirates ideally would want to give him as many looks in center field as possible.
Bae took advantage of an opportunity when it presented itself, with Castillo making the major league roster and Swaggerty unfortunately having a set back with his throwing shoulder limiting him to batting DH only.
Playing in five of the team’s first six games, Bae split time at both positions, with three at second and the other two in center field.
Even though he didn’t play in the team’s final game on Sunday, Bae closed out opening week tied for the team lead in hits (it took a three-hit Sunday by Mason Martin for Bae to not stand alone), registering at least one in each contest throughout.
On the week, Bae finished 7-of-17 (.411) with a double, RBI, two stolen bases and three walks (posted a .500 OBP). He could have had a few more hits, nearly legging out several infield hits and getting called out on bang-bang plays. Hunter Owen was also called out for interference on the base paths on a slowly hit ball that Bae had already beat out, which ended the inning.
Looking back at the hits Bae got, it was impressive body control, recording four opposite field hits throughout the week. His first hit of the season highlighted that, taking a 1-2 fastball that was tailing away from him the other way past the shortstop.
Here is also a look at some freeze frames showing Bae’s body and bat positioning right at the point of contact as he drives the ball the other way.
Ji-Hwan Bae had a really great opening week. Tied for the team lead in hits with seven. Also faced LHP nearly as much as he did RHP and fared well (3/4 hit split). They pitched middle/away a lot and he showed great bat/body control to go the other way. #LetsGoBucs pic.twitter.com/XUy4Tpy5gF
— Anthony Murphy (@__Murphy88) April 10, 2022
Bae, a lefty himself, saw a lot of southpaw pitchers throughout the week, (and struck out less and walked more against them than he did against righties. That’s coming with an even split of 10 plate appearances against each.
Even though he has batted in the nine-hole at points during the season, Bae is once again showing he could be a legitimate lead off type of hitter at the next level, picking up where he left off last year.
As far as where he’s going to play, if he keeps hitting and finding a way on base, he’s going to force his way somewhere on the field.
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS+ posts
Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.