by J.T. Toth
Photo courtesy of The Athletic.
With the season nearing an end, the Pirates have a chance to get valuable playing time for some of their younger players and elevate targeted prospects for their first major league experience. In essence, the season is over for the Bucs, so young guys will get 50 plus games to get their feet wet, make mistakes and as manager Derek Shelton said, “get used to the speed of the game.”
With many questions yet to be answered, Draft 412 has decided to go through each position and give our prediction on what may or may not happen when the Pirates step on the field March 28th, 2024 in Miami.
Winning teams in Major League Baseball have good organizational depth, and that depth is apparent by the bench that they have on their 26-man rosters. Draft 412 will take a look at what could possibly be the Pirates bench in 2024.
This selection is based on Nick Gonzales winning the battle for second base next season. The way Peguero is playing right now though, this may be Gonzales coming off the bench. Either way, they both can play second base or shortstop and will be a valuable bench player.
Triolo has been a pleasant surprise during his rookie season, filling in for Ke’Bryan Hayes while he was out. He is hitting .273 and his defense at third base has been phenomenal. He can also play second base, which gives him the versatility desired for any “must-have” bench player.
Ji-Hwan Bae played in 76 games to start the season for the Pirates, playing second base, shortstop, and center field before going on the IL with an injury. His 18 stolen bases were in the top 5 before his injury, and he could be a weapon as a late game pinch runner. His ability to play some outfield may make him a viable option on the Pirates' bench in 2024.
The 24-year old Williams was recently called up to the Majors and has been a good fielding shortstop, but his offense and lack of a consistent bat may hurt his chances of becoming a bench player. If the Pirates think they have enough bats in the dugout, Williams could be a late defensive replacement for O’Neil Cruz.
Draft 412 predicts Williams starts next year in AAA.
Palacios has had a nice season as a bench player and has had some big hits in 2023. He can play all 3 outfield positions, and although he isn’t the flashiest player, he could be a solid left handed bat in a pinch hit situation. He has a little bit of pop and won’t hurt you with his glove.
Smith-Njigba has been a disappointment in 2023 for the Pirates. With the lack of outfield depth in the organization, this could have been Smith-Njigba’s opportunity to stake his claim for a permanent spot on the roster. He did not look comfortable in his brief time with the Pirates and only hit .125 in 32 at bats. He is hitting .256 in AAA with 11 homers and maybe with a strong spring he can make the team as their 4th outfielder.
As stated above, this season could and perhaps should have been a big year for Cal Mitchell. But injuries and inconsistent play has led to him only getting 4 big league at bats. Only 24-years-old, Mitchell needs to have a strong spring training to have any chance next season.
The Pirates have a lot to sort out this off-season at the catcher position. Will Henry Davis catch or find a home in right field or at first base? Will Endy Rodriguez handle a major league pitching staff from behind the plate?
Jason Delay gives the Pirates a nice option on defense as a backup catcher, but his offense may relegate him to a bench spot long term. He has held his own with the bat, hitting .268 in 123 trips to the plate.
Draft 412 believes the Pirates will opt to sign a veteran catcher in the offseason to address an obvious depth need at the position.
The Pirates should bring back Connor Joe to be a bench player in 2024. He can play outfield and first base. First base is going to be a question mark going into the offseason and Joe’s versatility can come in handy. He has put up respectable numbers this season, hitting .242 with 9 homers in 99 games. He would fill out a bench spot nicely in 2024.
Tucupita Marcano will likely miss a chunk of time in 2024 coming back from a torn ACL. He is a very good bench player who can play second base, shortstop, and third base. And his left handed bat from the bench can produce at times. The Pirates probably won’t see him until June at the earliest.
Draft 412 Analysis
The Pirates could have above average bench strength in 2024 if many of these players live up to their potential. The Bucs have deep infield talent with Triolo, Gonzales, Peguero, Bae, and Marcano. The catching situation has a lot of moving parts, but Jason Delay is serviceable as a backup. Connor Joe fills the outfield/first base substitute, and hopefully Cal Mitchell or Canaan Smith-Njigba can rebound from down seasons.