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.
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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.