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Sunday, December 4, 2022

P2Daily: Defense Can’t Be Overlooked In Offseason Plans

As the Pittsburgh Pirates start to look to put together their 2023 roster this offseason, one thing to keep in mind is playing better defense behind their pitching staff.

Obviously they are going to want to improve on an offense that scored the fourth fewest runs in baseball, but something else to keep in mind is how that impacts the defensive side of things.

The Pirates rank among the worst when it comes to Outs Above Average (OAA) on Baseball Savant. Their team -20 OAA ranks 26th in all off baseball, and that’s with one of the best defenders in the game in Ke’Bryan Hayes.

Bryan Reynolds has the seventh worst OAA among all qualified outfielders with a -7 mark. While he has made some fantastic players with his length and incredible arm, Oneil Cruz also sits at an -8 OAA.

Outside of Hayes, the only other Pirate with a positive OAA among qualified fielders is Jack Suwinski at a +1.

The offense needs to get better, absolutely, but the defense can’t be ignored as well. Whether it’s bringing in from outside the organization or taking an extra focus on what they have internally, any wins added by the offense taking the next step forward, will be taken right away on the defensive side.

Bryan Reynolds Moved From Center

It was a move that you almost had to figure was coming, but didn’t really want to acknowledge. Reynolds played great in center field in 2021, but has really taken a step back in 2022.

Reynolds playing center field up to now was really ‘we didn’t have an ideal candidate until now’ move, but the Pirates are hoping that guy is going to be Ji-Hwan Bae. He’s already shown that his speed can be a game changer offensively, he will now look to make his mark in the field in center field.

Bae started seeing time in the outfield last year, and while his speed takes away some of the margin of error, there is still some room to grow overall.

As for Reynolds moving to left, long-term I always thought this was the better move for him. Easier on the legs, maybe extends the career a bit more, which could help him at the plate (he did go 2-for-4 with two walks). As they said on the broadcast as well, it does help having two centerfielders playing at PNC Park. With Bae’s speed and Reynolds experience, that could play in the Pirates advantage next year.

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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.

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Scrappy2499

If Cruz is not going to be acceptable at SS defense wise and he is not comfortable or unable to track balls in the outfield, then why not 2b? Although his size and power would be great for 1b. He would make a pretty darn good 2b.

1979andCounting

I have been noticing Andujar’s AB posture and lo and behold, a great photo of him is above.
I don’t think that crouch maximizes his EV. I’ve heard that referred to as “sitting in the chair” and it isn’t taught as a desirable power position. I mean if he can hit for average from there, ok, but aren’t we looking for a power bat in the DH position? Geesh….can’t we just find some natural hitters who are past Babe Ruth league techniques?

AlOliver16

I’d leave Cruz at SS until he becomes a detriment to a contending Pirate team. Defensive stats are not a great indicator in small sample sizes, and we can see what he needs to work on by watching him play. I think he could improve his defense. Cruz struggles in the outfield. I don’t think he tracks the ball well, and both the pirates and Cruz realize this. That’s probably why he doesn’t want to play there and why the pirates aren’t forcing the issue.

James_Robert5

I would not be so quick to move Cruz

Tatis, Correa, and several others improved from near the worst to nearly best

Last edited 1 month ago by James_Robert5
ArkyWags

Another thing to keep in mind is how the shift ban hurts Cruz.

Catch_22

How would that hurt Cruz and not the other 29 SS’s?

ArkyWags

What I’m getting at is a bunch of teams have stretched guys at second and short in recent years because you could hide them a bit with shifts. That’s going to be more difficult for every team now. I didn’t really think that was a big mystery there.

By almost every metric, Cruz looks like a poor shortstop. Maybe he gets better, but achieving a passable grade got tougher without the shift.

Last edited 1 month ago by ArkyWags
skliesen

I say teach the best hitters to play better defense. Much better choice than playing best defenders and trying to make them better hitters.

AdministrativeSky236

Offense and defense are the two big facets of the time, but i would argue that defense and baserunning are two easier areas to show improvement over the offseason

Anthony

Bae HAS to be in this lineup 5-6 times per week. I wonder where the baseline offense numbers need to be for Swaggerty to still be an all-around productive player. His defense would be a huge improvement in center, then moving Reynolds to left.

JoeNastasi

Move Cruz to CF in winter ball this year.
He has the athletic ability, the speed & the Arm would be a major defensive weapon.
He’s no SS & it was a major mistake keeping him there the last 2 years.
It’s time to start building stars at 1 set position & quit worrying about having 13 guys with position flexibility & dear lord please stop overlooking 1B. Opening Day start with Andujar, but Opening Day start working on his replacement in the minors.

skliesen

I say your dead wrong on Cruz. And dead right about the rest of your comment.

SouthernBuc

I was a little surprised that you listed Bae as the CF. I may be wrong, but I thought I read where his defense was average at best although like some others can make up for some with elite speed. A question, among the long list of outfielder prospects in the high minors or already with major league experience, does anybody outside of Swags who I am assuming still grades well, grade out well as a centerfielder? Gorski? It seems to me there are a lot of corner outfield prospects.

leefieux

If Bae is just average having just started with playing CF, that is a pretty good start. Andy Van Slyke started as a 3b man. How did that turn out? 🙂

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

Well, but average at best is the best they have at this point. Swags or Gorski would be the next best options, but they aren’t options till they are. If any of that makes sense lol

Anthony

I’m not sold on Gorski yet, could be this year’s Matt Frazier. I wonder what the baseline offensive production needs to for Swaggerty to be consider slightly above replacement, while also factoring in the defensive improvement from moving Reynolds to left (over an alternative).

AdministrativeSky236

IIRC gorski is projected to be above avg in CF

leefieux

Surprised at the Cruz stat, I keep hearing he is doing at least average at SS. Should he be kept there or move to 1b, despite the arm?

As for Suwinski, I’ve been hard on his offensive profile, but with that defense, if he can cut his K’s down below 30% and hit .240 with power, he’s a keeper.

Anthony

Cruz and Suwinski SLG the sh*t out of the ball. I don’t think most people understand that dropping their K% below 30% and propping their B% to 10% would instantly make them +4 WAR players. The impact of just getting on base and not giving up ABs and outs is completely underestimated.

Not sure if anyone saw the other day, but I calculated Cruz’s wOBA using a 15% B% and 25% K%. He would rank as the 10th most productive hitter in the game.

leefieux

I agree 100% AM. However, I am frightened that one so young thinks like me. 🙂

ArkyWags

You don’t move a guy all the way down the spectrum from short to first. If he moves, it should be to the grass.

leefieux

Just think of that arm on throws to 2b on DPs, tho. 🙂 🙂 🙂

Catch_22

Cruz can make the plays but his throws at times are Pedroesque

If Suwinski can do that, he’d be a 4-5 win player and have All-Star seasons.

robertkasperski

I posted yesterday that Walker and Wehner have talked about the throws and it is more about foot work and getting his body in better position prior to firing the cannon. His size makes it more important to have his body in position to get the throw on target especially with his cannon arm. If the position is off the cannon will really make the ball sail. All is fixable. I think Walker was saying that Cruz is putting in the work so hopefully it will pay off.

skliesen

The untimely error from last night is a perfect example of poor foot work causing a bad throw. He needs to recognize when he has time to get in proper position and when he doesn’t. Last night, if he takes the extra beat to get set properly, he throws it on line and ends the inning with Pirates leading.

I say give him time to develop this part of his game. Having his bat at SS is a HUGE difference maker. Too much of a competitive advantage to give up on this early.

1979andCounting

Footwork is important……but with Cruz it seems urgency often is the culprit and he can’t get his long body parts in sync in time. He has less than 4 seconds, he knows it, the crowd knows it, the runner knows it…….and the more pressure he is under (with a bobble like last night) then the whole mechanics of the rushed throw cannot be held together. I’m afraid he can take 100 reps every day of the off-season, and he’ll still be sending balls a-sailing when there is a clock to beat.

robertkasperski

I agree. See what can be fixed until Peguero or another player pushes him to another spot. Hoping Peguero rebounds and has a monster AAA season and they have a decision to make by June-July 2023.

emjayinTN

Agree that D can be improved going into 2023, but I would not move Bae to CF. Bae is probably our best pure 2B – fielded .979 in 57 games at AAA. Start 2023 with Hayes, Cruz, Bae, Castro as the UT IF, and ?? at 1B.

I thought they would use Andujar at 1B, but not doing so, and his .281 Slugging and .503 OPS, has me thinking he will not be a Pirate much longer. They need to find a 1B who can field and hit.

Catch_22

You have to get beyond scouting fielding %.

Kevin Newman is easily the best defensive 2bmen on the 40.

It’s pretty obvious that Bae has been groomed to be the Super U guy and I think he’ll excel in that roll.

postal911

I would not be surprised if Newman was released. He offers nothing on offense. This team should not be wasting money and roster spot on a 29 yr old who has a career ops of .660. It’s time to move on. They have younger options that need playing time.

emjayinTN

Newman is going into his age 30 season, 2 years to FA. Not a building block for the future. He hit well for average, but 2 HR and another sub-700 OPS.

I was hoping BC would make a deal with somebody for him for his benefit and the benefit of a team that has to zero in and double down on the rebuilding that started in 2022.

Fielding percentage is simple Total Chances, Errors. Combined with RF what more is needed?

Castro could be the better UT IF, Bae, the starting 2B and “sometime” CF. Why Castillo at 1B? Why not Bae or Castro?

skliesen

No way should Newman’s defense move Castro to bench. Newman probably needs to be DFA’d unless he’s willing to sign a team friendly deal to be the spot starter MI vs some LHSP’s and late inning PH/defensive replacement guy.

One sure way we’ll know if Pirates are punting next season is if Newman is penciled in as a starter.

emjayinTN

This is the Pirates and they started to rebuild in 2022. We have to continue!

Check the guys with 200+ AB and .700+OPS – Reynolds 806, Cruz 748, Castro 724, Suwinski 710. 3 of the 4 are first year players who have yet to earn a first year of MLB Service. Build on that foundation.

Reynolds 27 HR one for every 20 AB; Cruz 17 HR, 1/19 AB; Castro 11 HR 1/23 AB; Suwinski 19 HR 1/17 AB.

Add Bae, Endy Rodriguez, and a 1B before May of 2023. That’s 8 including Ke’Bryan Hayes. Davis, Nunez, Gorski, and others could be up before mid-season.

Pitching will be deeper than we have seen since the playoff years, and that depth will allow the Pirates to hold guys like Burrows and Bolton at AAA for a month or two.

Anthony

The foundation you speak of needs to do more than hit for power, they’re all S and no O. They need guys that can get on base.

skliesen

Bae, Nicky Sticks, and a healthy Hayes will all supply O. Reynolds will provide both O & S. Hopefully so will Endy and Tank.

Catch_22

Bae’s exit velos are way too low for me to get excited. He’s a bench/ utility player.

Nick Gonzales is striking out almost 30% of the time as a 23 year old in AA. I certainly wouldn’t be counting on him.

Davis hit .207 with a 97 wRC+ in AA and hasn’t proven he can stay healthy. I wouldn’t count on him either.

Endy, this is someone to get excited about. His bb rate, his k rate and his power is excellent.

ArkyWags

Damn, rest of my comment timed out.

I think the rest of Davis’ offensive metrics (walk and K rate) are fine, he had some bad BABIP luck in AA. The power is there.

Gonzalez I agree with. He probably won’t make enough contact to be consistent. If the balls fall in and he makes contact enough, he’s like 2019 Keston Hiura. If not, he’s the current version. Maybe with more walks though?

Bae sounds like a good utility guy, spark off the bench type.

ArkyWags

He’s “proven” he can’t stay healthy. After one season…

Catch_22

He’s played 67 games as a pro in 2 years. I guess his k and bb rates are acceptable, but nothing to write home about.

Next year is a big year for him.

ArkyWags

Part of that is because he was drafted last year after playing a full college season. Also he’s playing in the AFL so he’ll end up with more games played this year.

I agree that next year is a big year for him. I’m less worried about him missing time and needing the reps than Nick G.

PirateRican21

He missed time the year he was drafted too, but your point is valid, is still too early for that tag.

Anthony

🤞🏻🤞🏻🤞🏻 Makes me think that Reynolds is somewhat undervalued bc he’s the only one in the current lineup that’s a complete hitter.

Last edited 1 month ago by Anthony
Catch_22

Objectively speaking, Kevin Newman gives the Pirates the best chance of winning if he’s penciled in as the starting 2bmen.

skliesen

Based on what metrics?

Catch_22

Wins Above Replacement

b mcferren

time to hire Jack Wilson as infield instructor

emjayinTN

I would prefer Jordy Mercer, another tall SS.

PirateRican21

I think I remember about Mercer is how accurate of a thrower he was!

emjayinTN

And, if you recall, he was 2nd or 3rd string behind Barmes and d’Arnaud for a long time. Once he got the chance he did not give it up. Started out as an average fielder and improved to become a VG defensive SS and team leader for the Pirates.

Really though, with Cruz, Castro, Peguero, Nunez (soon) at 1B, this team needs LA bilingual IF instructor who can get and keep their attention and continue their development at the MLB level – development does not end after AAA! A Joey Cora type.

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