Jose Osuna has had his moments with the bat this season providing a boost off the bench for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Has he done enough this season to warrant a roster spot in 2018?
With the Pittsburgh Pirates fading fast in 2017, now is an appropriate time to look ahead to 2018. Has first year major leaguer Jose Osuna done enough this season to be a part of future plans?
On the season, Osuna is hitting .242/.282/.455 with seven home runs, 13 doubles, and four triples in 209 plate appearances with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He has struck out 35 times and walked nine. He has an OPS+ of 88 which is below average. A positive for Osuna is the ability to hit for extra bases. Although offense and slugging is up in baseball, Osuna’s .455 slugging percentage is certainly respectable for a 24 year old rookie. His slugging percentage would be third on the light hitting Pirates if he had the at bats to qualify.
A big black mark for Osuna is his plate discipline. Nine walks in 209 plate appearances equals a rate of 4.3 percent. That is not nearly high enough. Osuna swings at pitches outside of the strike zone 35.6 percent of the time. Patience will be the key to determining Osuna’s success at the plate in the future. Osuna’s power is nice but not nearly nice enough to negate a sub .300 on base percentage.
There is a difference in Osuna the starter and Osuna the substitute. When he starts, Osuna is hitting .259/.304/.475 with four home runs, ten doubles, and four triples in 148 plate appearances. He has 22 strikeouts and eight walks. Although he’s much more productive as a starter, his walk rate of 5.4 percent is not much of an improvement.
Osuna the substitute is hitting .203/.230/.407 with three home runs and three doubles in 61 plate appearances. He has 13 strikeouts and one walk as a sub. Taking it a step further, Osuna has been an awful pinch hitter this season. When pinch hitting, Osuna has five hits and one walk in 45 plate appearances. He has one home run and one double.
This season, Osuna has played first base and both corner outfield spots. To be fair, he is an “okay” first baseman. To be more fair, He is an awful outfielder.
Standing at 6’3 and weighing 240 pounds, Osuna is a large man. He’s just not fast enough to get to balls outfielders should get. With better outfield options like Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Sean Rodriguez, Adam Frazier, Max Moroff, Josh Harrison, and Austin Meadows, I just don’t see a reason for Osuna to continue playing outfield for the Pittsburgh Pirates beyond this season. He was given a chance to play outfield this season and it hasn’t worked out. Josh Bell is the first baseman and will be for years to come.
Osuna has been taking ground balls at third base this season. Expect him to get a lot of work at that position in the offseason. He has the arm to play third. Lack of quickness could be a problem but if he can consistently field ground balls, there might be a chance. I’d argue that he has a better chance to be a dependable third baseman than corner outfielder.
Is there a spot for him?
Jung-ho Kang will be playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic in the offseason. That could possibly be the first step in his return to the United States. That being said, until he receives a work visa, nothing will happen. Kang is still a huge question mark for 2018.
Osuna’s chance at a roster spot in 2018 will rely heavily on the offseason plans the Pirates hold. If the team chooses to rebuild and trade assets like McCutchen, Harrison, or whomever they choose to trade, roster spots will obviously open up. If the Pirates choose to move forward with their current roster, Osuna may be the odd man out, especially if Kang returns.
Assuming Kang returns in 2018 (we shall see), the Pittsburgh Pirates would have bench spots locked up for Freese, Frazier, Rodriguez, a backup catcher (Chris Stewart has a team option at season’s end), and either Osuna, Moroff, or Meadows. This doesn’t even take into account position players the Pirates might sign in the offseason.
More than likely Osuna will be a bubble player for the 2018 roster.
Image credit – Daniel Decker Photography