The Pittsburgh Pirates have been one of the more active teams in baseball this offseason, giving one of the worst lineups in baseball nearly a complete overhaul.
When looking at the projected Opening Day lineup compared to the one in 2022, Bryan Reynolds and Ke’Bryan Hayes are the only holdovers, with Jack Suwinski, Oneil Cruz, and Rodolfo Castro joining the team midseason.
Offseason additions Ji-Man Choi, Carlos Santana, Austin Hedges, and Andrew McCutchen round out the potential 2023 lineup, giving the Pirates a very strong veteran presence as they enter the key parts of their current build.
With the added experience, and knowing the team last year lost 100 games, it would be easy to say that they improved overall, right?
I took a look at each players Offensive and Defensive Runs Above Average (Off and Def) as well as Wins Above Replacement (WAR) from Fangraphs, and stretched them out over a per-162 game average to compare how last year’s Opening Day lineup compared to this year’s projected starting nine.
The biggest difference is the defense, seeing an improvement of nearly five runs per 162-games played. Most of that is due to Suwinski taking over right field for Cole Tucker, just in that is an improvement of over 30-runs (-28.80 Def/162 for Tucker, 5.96 for Suwinski).
While Hedges is known as one of the better defensive catchers in the league, and helped the teams overall Def rating, Roberto Perez himself was on a really strong pace. If he was able to stay healthy and keep on the path he was on, he was on a 10 run saved pace higher than what Hedges did in 2022.
The question with Hedges was if his defense was going to make up for the complete lack of offense. His -25.8 Off mark not only brings down the overall mark but also makes the projected lineup just a half a run better than one that featured Yoshi Tsutsugo (-46.98 Off/162) and Tucker (-57.60 Off/162) as well as Hoy Park and Ben Gamel.
Perez was off to a fantastic start, on pace for a 4.63 WAR/162, which would have been the best on the Opening Day lineup. He played in only 21 games, so that would have been a hard mark to maintain over a full season.
When it comes to WAR/162, the Pirates are set to feature five players that present upgrades from a year ago: Choi, Castro, McCutchen, Suwinski, and Santana.
The biggest key for the Pirates would be progress. They are going to be counting on some of the younger players in the lineup to take that next step forward and improve on their own marks from a season ago.
Should Reynolds play the entire season in Pittsburgh, a bounce-back to his 2021 form would go a long way as well. Hayes posted a -6.8 Off and still had a 3.0 WAR. If he starts finding open spots with his high exit velocity numbers, he could be in for a big breakout year.
The Pirates should also have some of their top prospects, including Endy Rodriguez, up in the majors this year, potentially boosting their output later on in the season.
Most projections have been high on the Pirates and do see most making the necessary steps forward, but of course we will have to see how everything plays out on the field.
Highlight of the Day
Pirates Prospects Daily
By Tim Williams
**I looked at the 80th/20th percentile ZiPS projections to focus on the range of possibility for the Pirates’ lineup.
**John Dreker has scouting reports on the nine international players who the Pirates signed on Tuesday. Be sure to bookmark the International Signing Tracker to follow every move the Pirates make this year.
**Endy Rodriguez and Henry Davis rank among the top ten catching prospects for MLB Pipeline.
**Missed yesterday? Anthony looked at whether infield prospect Dariel Lopez can be an exception to the Greensboro effect.
Song of the Day
Pirates Prospects Weekly
In my column this week, I looked at the 80th and 20th percentile ZiPS projections to see the range of possibility for the Pirates’ 2023 lineup.
Our latest Roundtable will hit the site on Thursday at noon.
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.