By Jason Shetler
The 2018 Pirates had a fair share of surprises. From a team standpoint, they finished above .500, which most predicted wouldn’t come close to happening. Other notables were the historic second half from Trevor Williams, Richard Rodriguez in general and the acquisition of Chris Archer at the trade deadline. Another surprise that came completely unexpected was Pablo Reyes.
After being signed by the Pirates from the Dominican Republic in 2012, Reyes was viewed as a middle infielder with some offensive tools, but nothing off the charts. In addition, he was not a strong defender. Despite being in the organization for six years, Reyes was never listed as a Top 30 Pirates prospect in the MLB Pipeline rankings. Back in 2016, I did a post in regards to Reyes becoming a sleeper prospect in the Pirates system.
Reyes began this year with the Altoona Curve. He didn’t stay long there, as he received a promotion to the Indianapolis Indians on April 20th. Combined with both affiliates, his OPS was .759, while stealing 16 bases.
With the expanded roster of September call ups, the Pirates made a surprising move with the addition of Reyes. He found himself at different positions, playing a good bit of right field during Gregory Polanco’s absence. Reyes really opened up a lot of eyes in 18 September games, not just with his ability to make contact, but his pop in the bat. He put up a .483 slugging percentage, along with a 90.3 mph Exit Velocity, which was higher than the 2018 MLB average of 87.3 mph. Reyes finished the season with a 124 OPS+. Now that he will find himself in the Pirates plans for 2019, how should they use him?
The Pirates will be without the services of Polanco for at least the first half of next season, so a short term option for right field is in order. Reyes would be the most likely candidate in regards to what the Pirates have internally. However, they should have money to spend this offseason, making the decision to sign an outfielder more likely. On Wednesday, the Pirates acquired Erik Gonzalez from the Cleveland Indians as part of a five-player deal. Gonzalez will probably make the club, but he’s more of a defensive-oriented utility man, while Reyes is better offensively. During the 2014 season, Josh Harrison was a super utility type who received plenty of at-bats because of his offense, and I could certainly see Reyes being utilized the same way next year.