Pirates Offensive Future Starting To Take Shape

The next wave of Bucs position players on display in 2019

Matt Koll
May 20, 2019 - 12:01 pm
Josh Bell & Bryan Reynolds

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a somewhat tumultuous 2019 for the Pittsburgh Pirates. One filled with injuries, blowouts and somehow, at least for now, a winning record.

Through all the ups and downs one thing has stuck out to me.

It hasn’t so much been the bullpen struggles or the winning despite a -39 run differential to this point or the unheard of amount of injuries they’ve endured through the first couple months.

To me, I see the next wave of Pirates position players coming into view.

It starts with the obvious and really the key to the offensive future of this team: Josh Bell. He’s enjoying his breakout season, tied for the league lead in RBI heading into action Monday.

Related: Neal Huntington On Josh Bell, Use Of The Opener

Whether the Pirates can become real contenders or not over the next 3-4 years (and beyond if given a new contract) has a lot to do with #55 and his ability to drive in runs and hit balls over the wall consistently.

But as we move forward this season I see controllable youth taking over.

Adam Frazier, 27, was named the starting second baseman heading into this season and while he hasn’t lit the baseball world on fire, he isn’t a free agent until 2023 and seems like he still has room to grow offensively.

Cole Tucker was forced into MLB action this year due to injuries and while his bat isn’t quite up to speed, that smooth glove work at shortstop certainly plays and is a refreshing sight after seeing shaky infield defense to start the season. You can see the potential there, he’s only 22.

After debuting last season and only mustering up a .209 batting average, Kevin Newman has returned from injury and has been more than serviceable at the plate. His .340 average and .839 OPS in his admittedly small 47 at-bat sample size have been a pleasant surprise and might be giving credence to the idea that he was just worn out by the end of the season last year when he was called up after having collected over 470 plate appearances in 109 games at AAA.

While he may not be the future at shortstop with Tucker there, he looks like he can at least be a serviceable backup at both short and second base in case Frazier’s production starts to fall off. He also got in some work at center field during his rehab assignment this year for added flexibility.

The third base position has been somewhat stabilized by Colin Moran after the great disappointment Jung Ho Kang has been this year. The 26-year old Moran may not be the future, but he’s come through in some big moments at the plate. The real third base show should come at some point later this season in 2015 first round pick Ke’Bryan Hayes.

We caught a glimpse of his potential in Spring Training when he blasted three homers with a 1.155 OPS.

In the outfield, 24-year-old Bryan Reynolds has widely exceeded expectations. To me, he looks like a younger version of Corey Dickerson. He’s not very flashy, but looks like a savvy baseball player who gets the most out of his talent and athleticism. He’s got a quick swing that just finds holes in the defense, with some added home run pop as well.  

His emergence should make the decision on whether to re-sign Corey Dickerson, who will become more and more pricey, that much easier. They shouldn’t.  Let the kid play. He should join Marte and Polanco as we continue the roller coaster ride watching those two.

Jason Martin is another young outfielder in waiting who got his first taste of MLB action. It will be worth monitoring his progress moving forward.

After getting off to an incredibly slow start and being the victim of some bad luck as the advanced metrics say, Elias Diaz went 8 for 17 in this last series against San Diego.

As Cervelli gets older, continues to get hurt and slash just .179/.269/.236, Diaz looks better and better in taking over behind the plate.

One bat that is being blocked right now but may arrive sometime soon is Will Craig’s, a first/third baseman with 11 home runs in AAA Indianapolis right now.

We’re seeing the development of the new core in Pirates baseball. The page has officially turned now from those Wild Card teams of ’13, ’14 and ’15.

Gone are names like Alvarez, McCutchen, Walker and, even more recently marking the last of that group to move on, Mercer and Harrison.

In are names like Bell, Reynolds, Tucker, Newman, Moran, Diaz and soon Hayes. In Reynolds case, the fruit of McCutchen's departure. 

We’re seeing the transformation this year. Who knows what this group will bring.

While members of those teams have been leaving one by one of the past couple years now, 2019 feels like the real termination to how the lineups of the “glory days” looked in this decade.  

The Pirates youth movement and offensive future is upon us.

They’re all locked in for multiple years.

I'm all for seeing as much of them as possible. Let’s see what it yields.

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