The Pittsburgh Pirates have been addressing their first base position in the early part of this offseason.
Earlier this month, the Pirates added Ji-Man Choi in a trade with the Rays. On Tuesday, they claimed Lewin Diaz off waivers from the Miami Marlins.
Choi and Diaz are both left-handed hitting first basemen, and neither stand out as full-time starting options. The Pirates have needs at first base and DH, so it’s possible that both could end up playing on the same team.
What’s interesting is that these two first basemen are complete opposites.
Diaz excels defensively, but has struggled offensively. Choi is the opposite, struggling on defense, but doing well offensively. The difference between the two on defense can be the equivalent of a full win. Offensively, we haven’t seen much from Diaz, while Choi can hit enough to justify his role as a starter.
Chances are that Diaz is a standard waiver claim, with no guarantee for the roster. That said, it looks like there’s a clear issue with his swing in the last year.
Diaz saw a massive decline in his barrel rate in 2022, along with a continued decline in launch angle to pair with his increase in ground balls. He made less hard contact, and saw his power drop from 2021. Diaz seems to have more power than Choi, although Choi gets on base more often. Between the two, the Pirates might be able to get a 1-2 WAR first baseman.
It would be interesting if the Pirates could figure things out with Diaz. He just turned 26-years-old, and has five years of control remaining. That said, nothing the Pirates have done would warrant any kind of optimism that they could get Diaz on the right track. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t take the flier on him. It just means we probably shouldn’t be locking him into the 2023 lineup just yet.
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Pirates Prospects Daily
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Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.