Pirates Prospects Daily: Outfield Picture Still Offers More Questions Than Answers

It might feel odd saying this, especially with the Pirates having (at the moment) a former All-Star center fielder, and a player who finished in a tie for the most home runs by a NL rookie, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to the outfield picture in Pittsburgh.

Of course it could only get more complicated if a trade comes around, but even now, for a team with eight outfielders listed on the 40-man roster, along with another infielder that could factor in, there seems to be a lot more questions about the group than answers.

What We Know

Until told otherwise, Bryan Reynolds is the star of the team. The biggest question is whether or not he will continue to play center field. How the Pirates feel about Ji-Hwan Bae will go a long way in determining that, but what we do know is that most analytics were not kind to Reynolds in center field this past season. 

He slid over to left field for a game late in the year, with Bae playing center. That’s a plan they could go to in 2023, and it might even boost their defense.

Jack Suwinski was one of the better stories in the league last year, hammering 19-home runs that put him in a tie with NL Rookie of the Year Michael Harris III.

However, not only did he struggle against lefties (not an overwhelming surprise), he oddly was almost unplayable on the road (.395), making it a question in just how much of a role he can take on over the long term. He does, however, possess some of the best power on the team, and is one of the better fielders as well.

What Needs To Be Found Out

An ideal starting outfield would probably be Reynolds-Bae-Suwinski from left to right field, but that isn’t likely to happen. One of the biggest issues heading into the offseason was the lack of right-handed outfield options. They added Miguel Andujar at the end of the season, and have since thrown Connor Joe and Ryan Vilade into the mix as well. 

This seems to be setting up a lot of potential platooning that will go on, with any two of those three taking on the majority of the work against lefties.

Who Will Step Up?

He’s never been too flashy a hitter, but Cal Mitchell has improved at each stop throughout the minors. He did have some good stretches in his time with the Pirates, but ultimately struggled. Mitchell is limited defensively, so it will be hard to work him into the fold, especially after the Pirates added Carlos Santana and Ji-Man Choi to crowd the DH mix..

Getting some sort of production at the major league level from Travis Swaggerty would be huge as a former first round pick. He’s strong defensively, and flashed some solid pop in Triple-A this past season, but still looks like he projects better as a bench outfielder than anything else.

There are a lot of options out there for the Pirates, but it seems more like a scenario where they are going to want to see what sticks against the wall among the group. Things obviously get a lot more complicated should Reynolds get traded, but in the meantime, how the outfield shapes out will be one of the bigger things to watch throughout Spring Training, and the regular season.

Highlight of the Day

Pirates Prospects Daily

By Tim Williams

**The Spring Training and World Baseball Classic dates have been announced.

**Six Pirates saw playoff action on Wednesday. John Dreker has the latest Pirates winter league reports.

Song of the Day

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.

Support Pirates Prospects

Related articles

join the discussion

Subscribe
Notify of
55 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
NMR

I think he needs a swing change, but really oughtta have CSN equally mixed with Cal and Jack on corner duty.

Really bad injury timing for Canaan last year, out of sight out of mind now it seems.

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

Still hoping they get his raw power to play more.

PS. Check yo tweeter DMs

jaygray007

cutch!

i been sayin this!

The Gunner

A 50 year old McCutchen would perform better than most of trash the new regime has put on the field in recent years

John Dreker

Everyone has to be honest

jaygray007

thanks john.

John Dreker

Signing McCutchen would help, just sayin

leefieux

Why? He is no longer a viable fielding option.

NMR

Sure he is, come on man.

leefieux

C’mon man…..check the stats. You’re living in the past. I have buddies who are Phillie Phans and they cringed whenever he had to play the OF. Of course, given the propensity of our fearless leaders to put infielders in the outfield, Cutch may actually BE viable compared to them. My bad. 😆😆😆

NMR

Speaking of stats, are you aware that Oneil Cruz was a worse defender than Cutch?

Shame on me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember any calls to turn Cruz into a DH.

This concept of whether a dude “can” or “can’t” play a position is the wrong framing. Cutch can play an outfield corner, Cruz can play shortstop, and Ryan Doumit could catch. What matters is how *well* they play them.

Nobody is arguing that Cutch is a plus defender, by any means, but he absolutely can still field a position. Just like Cruz.

Last edited 14 days ago by NMR
leefieux

Did I ever say that I am an Oneil Cruz fan, at least the 2022 version? You’re preaching to the choir.

NMR

Fair enough my friend!

AdministrativeSky236

Didnt mackey just report this?

John Dreker

Yes, it was sarcasm. A well timed article by Anthony. Article will be up momentarily

SouthernBuc

May I suggest an article from Anthony discussing Nutting selling the team to a multi-billionaire who is a big Pirate fan? I am not a superstitious person but I am willing to try it out to see if Anthony possesses 2 more wishes.

Tim Williams

AdministrativeSky236

Ah lol i just thought it was a well timed comment

roberto

I hope folks realize that this is not the Cutch of 2015. Curb your enthusiasm.

leefieux

Not even close!

PirateRican21

Talking about taking a roster spot that could be used by one of the many unproven outfielders, talk about bad outfield defense, but hey, he will sell tickets for a month or so.

ArkyWags

I certainly don’t think he’s the guy of 2015, but he’s got some left in the tank to help.

SouthernBuc

I hope you are right. Poster player for on field and off field professional, great reunion… but my goodness.. what if he needs released? I will be cheering him on.

Also.. a tad worried about whose at bats he may be taking.. but that is for another day.

ArkyWags

I think at this stage Cutch is stretched as an everyday guy and we saw that in Milwaukee. But he’s mashed lefties for sure the last few years so I’m comfortable he can continue with that. The nice thing is he provides options and reasonable depth, as opposed to Greg Allen and Jake Marisnick.

bucsws2014

Cutch didn’t mash lefties last season. Still a slightly better than average offense, which is an upgrade, and hopefully a return to PNC bumps up those numbers a tad.

ArkyWags

Didn’t last season, but he did in previous ones. And he was still better against lefties than righties last year. At this stage, he’s a depth player and they’ve done far worse with depth players in recent years.

SouthernBuc

Totally agree although for some odd reason I was intrigued by Allen and wish he would not have been injured.

But for the record his lefty smashing did not occur last year. In a few write ups the ‘experts’ said that is why some teams were not as quick to sign him for that platoon role.

Dang.. I feel like I am raining on Cutch.. one of my all-time favorites.

Last edited 14 days ago by SouthernBuc
AdministrativeSky236

When he ops over .900 the glory days will be back

SouthernBuc

Despite the breaking news, I was against signing Cutch. My 2 concerns were: 1) this would be the year he is truly done but there will be some requirement to give him more ABs than needed.. .what happens if he needs released? 2) I want to remember peak – MVP – taking us to the playoffs Cutch.

I gave him a standing O in Atl when he came as a visitor, if they ever start retiring non-HOF #’s in Pittsburgh he gets one of my first votes (Sangy gets my first for the 2 of you who might care), and I don’t doubt he is a standup guy and could help our young team… but I still vote no on this signing.

ArkyWags

If he crashes and burns here, will you forget MVP Cutch? Nothing is preventing you from doing that except your own mind!

SouthernBuc

Never said I would forget and in fact that would be the memory. I just think it can be hard to move on from a team legend and it can be awkward for him and the team.

I am totally cheering for him and hope my scenario is folly. I was just putting my thoughts out there.

Zack

I hope Suwinski has the everyday RF job, and he gets an extended run to see what he can do. At this point he seems to have the most upside.

His 1.8 fWAR over 372 ABs would have made him worth what 2.6 over 550? If he improves marginally, he could be a 3 win player, which would be huge for this team.

roberto

The issue is that Suwinski has nearly as big a split as Vogelbach.

Zack

I’m hesitant to give credence to splits in his situation. If it repeats, then he becomes a great platoon.

SouthernBuc

I get splits need to have time (year or two) to be more tried and true and I fully support giving young players a chance to adjust and improve which won’t happen if he never hits against lefties but my general concern is just how bad he seemed to look against lefties. Without doing my homework, Mitchell looked much more comfortable against lefties, but I know the eye test can be extremely flawed.

ArkyWags

Agreed on all accounts. I think they’re still in a position this year to give Jack some runway with lefties. The team isn’t contending and why not see what you have. So I wouldn’t reduce him to a platoon bat just yet, but I think it’s a distinct possibility. And it helps they got Joe in case Jackie Swings proves to be hopeless against lefties.

roberto

Data support your eye test. Cal had a modest reverse split.

Zack

I agree with you on how he looked last year. Especially considering we could see a tangible improvement (and changes) with Cruz as the year progressed.

ArkyWags

Best case, he’s likely a decent fielding version of Garrett Jones.

Catch_22

Is that really best case?

ArkyWags

You’re expecting better than a three win player? Or are you saying that’s aiming too high?

NMR

Within reasonable probability, absolutely.

Catch_22

GI Jones that can play good OF defense is a 3-win player.

I’ll take that best case every single time.

NMR

Bingo!

I really think this thing where we reflexively feel like we’re giving up something by putting a hitter in the best position to succeed is the offensive corollary to the Huntington Era pitching dogma where they were slow to convert marginal starters into good relievers.

It’s not a slight to go out and find a lefty masher to pair with a dude like Suwinski, and the club will be far better for it.

Zack

There was a time I hoped Jones was going to be a cornerstone. I have this habit of getting optimistic with Pirates players 😅

b mcferren

How is it that we have $7mil for Carlos Santana but we don´t have $7mil for Cutch???

roberto

Needed a 1B/DH. Didn’t need a pure DH.

Zack

Uhhh did you see the news that just broke????

b mcferren

its always nice to remember where you heard important news broke

thank you Zack

Zack

Pretty cool for the news to break while we are commenting on an article about the Pirates OF haha!

PirateRican21

For what I’ve seen from Bae in CF I have to say that he’s a better 2B, Reynolds will be in CF and I’m ok with that, a platoon for Jack makes sense and Joe seems to not only hits lefties but is a good fielder. The best option for RF is Cruz, this team needs to improve their infield defense especially since they are encouraging the two seamer and the shift is gone. The problem is that we don’t have a good defensive SS, hell we don’t even have a back up SS. Would love to see what it would take to get Kim from the Padres, maybe Brubaker and Castro? Anyway a infield of Hayes, Kim, Bae and Santana would be a vast improvement and makes this team a whole lot better.

ArkyWags

Maybe Brubaker, but the articles flying around sound like they’re talking with the Marlins about Pablo Lopez. Although who hasn’t, right?

One thing continues to bother me with the off-season. I’m glad they made some moves, but I would have preferred a commitment to a better defensive alignment (Cruz to RF, Reynolds to LF). Especially with the shift ban, we may see how this effects Cruz in the infield. This could have been done fairly cheaply, like getting someone such as Kiermaier to play center and maybe trading for Rojas out of Miami. Of course, this team had a million holes and chose to spend their dollars elsewhere. But if they’re looking for any small advantage to capitalize on (as they should be), this one seems to be overlooked.

Catch_22

I don’t understand where Bae is regarding as a strong defensive CF’er. He’s played like 30 games in his entire career in center.

He was groomed to be a utility player in the minors and that’s what he is, a utility player.

As for Reynolds, analytics for the most part liked his defense in ’21. Last season wasn’t good, but he can rebound. He shouldn’t take a backseat to Bae.

If I had to guess, they would run Suwinksi, Reynolds and Joe from left to right. Although Jack and Joe are pretty interchangeable.

NMR

Not tryna snipe you buddy but the three main defensive metrics across two full years in CF have only ended with UZR in ’21 being positive. The other five combinations of metric and season, all show him giving up more runs than he saves.

Scouting reports had him fringey in CF, and that’s what we’ve seen. I agree that you don’t push him off for an infield convert that doesn’t even have the arm for the left side of the infield, but this is one of those situations – like Cruz – where if they really care about competing they cannot settle on marginal. Just find good goddamn fielders and quit trying to fit square pegs in round holes, they not gonna have runs to waste.

Last edited 14 days ago by NMR

Share article

Pirates Prospects Daily

Latest articles

Pirates Prospects Weekly

MONDAY: First Pitch

TUESDAY: Article Drop

WEDNESDAY: Opinions

THURSDAY: Roundtable

FRIDAY: Discussion

SATURDAY: Pirates Winter Report

SUNDAY: Pirates Business

Latest comments

55
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x