A look into the Bucs' talented new trio

December 17th, 2023

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A lot of Pirates moves were made official on Friday: First baseman/DH was signed to a one-year contract, outfielder was acquired from the Yankees for international bonus pool money and outfielder  was acquired from the Royals for infield prospect Deivis Nadal.

Let’s dive a little deeper into each pickup and see how they could impact the Pirates’ 2024 team.

Tellez and McKinney have each been in the Majors since 2018, but Tellez has seen much more playing time. In every season since '19, minus the pandemic-shortened '20 campaign, Tellez has played in 100 or more games. Over his 533 career games, he’s been around league average in terms of offensive production, with a .750 OPS and a 103 OPS+.

The numbers were not nearly as good for Tellez last season, but he’s only one year removed from slugging 35 homers and 23 doubles in 153 games during 2022. That home run total put him in the top 10 among all MLB batters, tied with former MVP Award winners Mookie Betts and Paul Goldschmidt.

In 2023, Tellez cut down on his chase rate (24.2%) and whiff rate (21.9%) quite remarkably. However, his K rate was in the bottom third of the Majors, and his average exit velocity dipped below 90 mph for the first time since his rookie season.

Tellez has remained firmly in the top 6% of MLB in max exit velocity, so it’s no secret what the 6-foot-4, 270-pound slugger can do when he barrels a baseball. And with an enticing short left field at PNC Park, if the Pirates can get him to launch the ball more consistently, the riverwalk could be a splash zone.

Just take a look at his home run spray chart over the past two seasons overlaid onto PNC Park’s dimensions.

McKinney does not have nearly the same kind of power potential that Tellez has, but he has more positional flexibility as a corner outfielder who has had more than a couple-dozen reps at first base.

McKinney came on strong last season when he hit .320 with four home runs in his first 15 games after being selected by the Yankees due to Aaron Judge’s toe injury, and he finished his 48 games that season with a 98 OPS+, his best mark since his rookie season in 2018. The Pirates’ scouting team may have seen something here to warrant a further look. His .726 OPS in '23 isn’t going to light the world on fire, but for a fourth-outfielder type, it’s a solid production.

Olivares is the most interesting one of the bunch to me. He’s a controllable corner outfielder who is not set for free agency until after the 2026 season. Olivares has only gotten better offensively in the Majors since he debuted in '20, and last year, he slugged a career-best .452. Only three players on the Pirates last season slugged better (min. 100 games): Bryan Reynolds, Jack Suwinski and Ke’Bryan Hayes.

Olivares also fits the contact-heavy approach the Pirates like to use with speedy threats like Ji Hwan Bae and Oneil Cruz and good baserunners in Reynolds and Hayes. But Olivares is also an asset on the basepaths. He was in the 69th percentile in baserunning run value, per Statcast, and his 28.6 mph average sprint speed was well above league average. Even though Olivares only stole 11 bases in 107 games last season, it shows he is worth the pitcher’s attention when he’s on base.

Defense is not Olivares’ calling card, but he has a strong arm, averaging 91.4 mph on competitive throws last season. So he can hold his own, especially in a smaller right field like that at PNC Park. Overall, he has some intriguing tools that the Pirates will hope to polish.