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Pirates Left Side Of The Infield Could Push The Pace for Pittsburgh in 2023

Except for a few years glimmering with hope, Pirates fans have had a bad three decades grueling years of watching games at one of the most beautiful ballparks in America, PNC Park. Only problem? The Pirates have consistently floated around the bottom of the standings. Last year, Pittsburgh scrounged up 62 wins to go with 100 losses. Last place in the NL Central, sharing the same record as the team they’ll open the 2023 season against, the Cincinnati Reds. Sadly enough, some Pirates fans were pumped that the team only lost a hundred games.

You can blame the sadness on one thing or another, but at this point, the most significant finger points to owner Bob Nutting being stingy with his money. He’s turned the Pirates into a rotating door, usually getting rid of a player right after you started believing in them. Not even Andrew McCutchen was safe, getting shipped out to the Giants a few years back. The only good part of that trade? It sent Bryan Reynolds to Pittsburgh, currently a cornerstone of the Pirates lineup, but even he’s up in the air after an insulting contract offer.

For the first time in a long time, Pirates baseball almost feels like it has a different vibe this year. Will Pirates fans be let down? Almost certainly. It’s just how it goes. The Pirates’ incompetence has turned Pittsburgh into a football and hockey city. The Steelers and Pirates have been rather successful in recent memory. Every Yinzer can still smell the air of those Stanley Cup Parades in 2016 and 2017, a truly unbelievable time to be alive in the 412.

The Pirates seem to be trending in the right direction, at least for the time being. As all Pirates fans know, it can fall off a cliff at any second. The clubhouse and farm system are loaded with young talent, but that’s the trophy for being awful all these years.

Oneil Cruz

While many view Oneil Cruz as an Outfielder in the long term, he has the potential to be one of the best Shortstops in baseball. Last year, Cruz led the National League in Errors Committed with 17, not something you want to see from your everyday shortstop. Cruz also looks to polish up his plate approach in the new year, having some discipline problems at times last year. The Dominican-born shortstop struck out 126 times in 361 Plate Appearances.

When he wasn’t striking out, Cruz was hitting lasers. Last season, Cruz broke the Stat Cast record for the hardest-hit ball. He ripped a single with an exit velocity of 122.4 miles per hour. An absolute missile, just showing you the potential Cruz has at the plate. Cruz gathered 77 hits and 17 home runs last season in his 87 games for the Pirates.

Even in the field, Cruz was breaking records, also having the Stat Cast record for the hardest ball thrown to first base. A 97.8 Miles Per Hour throw on a routine put out. The freak of nature stands at six foot seven, 200 pounds, and the 24-year-old could put the league on notice this year if he can start to put it all together.

Ke’Bryan Hayes

Sitting at the hot corner for Pittsburgh, Ke’Bryan Hayes has mostly been known for his glove in his 256 games played for the Pirates. Last year, Hayes finished second in the Gold Glove Award voting, losing a controversial vote to the Cardinals’ Third Baseman, Nolan Arenado who has won the award 10 years running. Hayes led the MLB in Defensive Runs Saved with 24 and Defensive Outs Above Average with 18. This is nothing new to Pirates fans, though. Cruz has been old reliable at third base in his time in Pittsburgh.

The only question surrounding Hayes game is his hitting. He’s struggled to find a consistent groove at the dish, something the Pirates need desperately. In his 505 at-bats in 2022, Hayes gathered 123 Hits to go with seven Home Runs. Hayes bulked up in the offseason though, looking to hit more bombs in 2023, something that could be the kick this Pirates offense needs to get going. The lifting seems to be paying off, as Hayes has hit four Home Runs in Spring Training to go with 10 RBIs.

Bracing For Disappointment Reguardless

A Pirates fan getting their hopes up is like a Tom & Jerry Cartoon. We run to PNC Park to see them play, just to be hit over the head with a frying pan by Bob Nutting. Nobody will stop Pirates fans from dreaming though. Go ask your grandparents how electric Pirates baseball was in the 70’s. They’ll tell you all about it. Seeing just a simple playoff appearance would be so great for baseball in the city. Playoff baseball at PNC Park? Hopefully one day soon.

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