Anchors Aweigh: The Fantasy Impact of Pittsburgh’s Resurgent Outfield

All three of the Pirates starting outfielders are off to strong starts.

The Pittsburgh Pirates season so far has very much been a rollercoaster affair, with some extreme highs, like being 12 games over .500 on April 29, and lows, such as a seven-game losing streak from April 30 through May 7.

Despite that losing streak, there’s still plenty to be encouraged by moving forward. The Pirates are still in first place, albeit in a tie with the Milwaukee Brewers, as of the beginning of play on Tuesday. Mitch Keller seems to have taken the next step forward in becoming both a real-life and fantasy ace, while the club has received quality production from the likes of David Bednar, Connor Joe, Vince Velasquez, and Colin Holderman.

But the most encouraging, and promising, thing the Pirates have going for them is their outfield, something that’s been a constant this season despite the highs and lows.

Jack Suwinski is in the midst of a breakout year at the plate, while Bryan Reynolds and Andrew McCutchen are both turning in strong bounce-back campaigns that can be described, in a word, as resurgent.

Suwinski, Reynolds, and McCutchen will likely be key moving forward, not just for the Pirates but for fantasy managers as well. For as much value as the trio has brought on the field, they’ve brought similar elite or above-average value to fantasy teams this year.


Jack Suwinski


By nature of a .233 batting average and a .361 on-base percentage, as well as a 30.6% strikeout rate and a 16.3% walk rate, Jack Suwinski is obviously going to have more value in fantasy leagues where on-base percentage is part of the scoring.

And while the strikeouts have not been ideal and potentially a constant moving forward, if recent trends have anything to do with it, it’s hard to deny Suwinksi’s fantasy impact this year, regardless of the scoring format.

Jack Suwinski’s Recent Strikeout Rates

The 24-year-old has provided decidedly above-average power and speed production early on, with seven home runs and five stolen bases in 147 plate appearances so far.

Perhaps most importantly, especially considering the strikeouts, he’s making all sorts of loud contact.

Suwinski is sporting a 15.6% barrel rate as of the start of play on Tuesday and owns a .367 xwOBA. His .475 xwOBAcon is identical to the xwOBAcon numbers of both Freddie Freeman and Randy Arozarena and checks in ahead of each of the likes of Shohei Ohtani, Christian Yelich, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Rafael Devers, Juan Soto, Bo Bichette and Julio Rodríguez. Small chance you may have heard of them.

And while the strikeouts are high, Suwinksi is more getting beat (whether looking or swinging and missing) on pitches inside the zone than offerings outside of the zone. His 16.1% chase rate is very much elite, like 98th percentile elite. His in-zone contact rate isn’t quite elite. At 74.5%, it’s tied for the 25th-lowest among all batters with a minimum of 100 plate appearances. The strikeouts are still not ideal, but it’s a slightly different story than if Suwinski was constantly offering at pitches in the dirt.

But even with the punchouts, Suwinski has started to establish himself as a middle-of-the-order presence for Pittsburgh. After starting the year mostly hitting in the bottom half or bottom third of the lineup, he’s hit in the first five of Derek Shelton’s batting order more often than not since April 17.

Jack Suwinski Since April 17

That should only lead to more RBI and run-scoring chances for Suwinski, especially considering hitting near the top of the Pittsburgh lineup usually means hitting near Reynolds and McCutchen.


Bryan Reynolds


We’ve been here before with Reynolds and strong seasons. He hit .302 with a .390 on-base percentage, 24 home runs, and five stolen bases in 646 plate appearances during the 2021 campaign.

His 2022 season wasn’t quite as productive, but still decidedly very good for fantasy purposes with a .262 average, a .345 on-base percentage, 27 home runs, and seven stolen bases in 614 trips to the plate, adding a .349 wOBA in the process.

However, he did all that with just a .329 xwOBA while his strikeout rate jumped to 23%, a career-high for the outfielder in a full season. His ground ball rate also rose considerably to 43.7% while his barrel rate dropped to 7.9%.

Bryan Reynolds In 2021 And 2022

It was a down year across the board, but Reynolds has only improved this year. Improved not just on his 2022 production, but his 2021 season as well. And while a .287 batting average and .335 on-base percentage might not suggest that, his quality of contact metrics have taken a significant step forward pretty much everywhere. Really, the only thing that’s down this season is Reynolds’ walk rate, but that’s just fine considering his strikeout rate has dropped as well, and (perhaps most importantly) he’s making so much elite contact.

The outfielder is currently producing a .350 wOBA so far, with a .401 xwOBA, a 54.9% hard-hit rate, a .574 xSLG, and a .312 xBA. The last four stats are all in the 90th percentile or better league-wide.

So far, Reynolds is walking just 6.7% of the time, but his strikeout rate is only 18.0%, which would be a career-low if the season ended today. Elsewhere, his 38.9% ground ball rate would also be a new personal best if it were suddenly the end of the season.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Reynolds is sporting a rather elite xwOBAcon. It’s currently at .467. Like Suwinski, it’s right up there with some of the game’s best.

xwOBAcon Leaderboard

Plus, like many around the league, Reynolds is running more. His six stolen bases are already one away from a career-high and it isn’t unreasonable to expect a 20-20 season at this rate from the veteran, or something close to it from a home run and stolen base production standpoint. It’s an added bonus fantasy-wise for the 28-year-old, who also has a chance to only get more productive as the season goes on given his strong underlying metrics and the gap between some of his actual and expected stats.


Andrew McCutchen


Like Reynolds, McCutchen was reasonably solid in 2022, both from a real-life baseball standpoint and a fantasy baseball standpoint, hitting .237 with a .316 on-baes percentage, 17 home runs, and eight stolen bases in 580 plate appearances for the Milwaukee Brewers.

However, he managed just a .309 wOBA and a .325 xwOBA on the season. It was the first time his xwOBA dropped below the .340 mark in a full season in any of the last eight years. The 37-year-old’s wRC+ also fell below the 100 mark for the first time in his career.

Now back with Pittsburgh, the organization for which he made his Major League debut, previously spent nine seasons, and made five All-Star teams with, McCutchen is having his best season at the plate in years.

Below is Andrew McCutchen’s 2017 season in which he hit 28 home runs and stole 11 bases for the Pirates en route to a .279 batting average and a .363 on-base percentage.

And below here is McCutchen this season.

It’s an eerily similar set of numbers. And the similarities don’t stop at the surface-level metrics either. McCutchen has a .266 average and a .365 on-base percentage so far in 2023. Even his BABIP in the two seasons, .298 and .305 respectively, aren’t all that far off, separated by just a few percentage points.

The outfielder has a chance to top the 15 stolen base mark for the first time since the 2014 campaign, which certainly doesn’t hurt when considering his rest of season fantasy upside. McCutchen has already stolen five bases in 2023, and with an 81st percentile ranking in Statcast’s sprint speed metric, he should have no trouble tripling that number, if not surpassing the 15 stolen base mark.

While Reynolds was drafted reasonably high in drafts, per NFBC he had an ADP of 86.88 from October 1, 2022 through April 1, 2023, McCutchen – like Suwinski – wasn’t so highly drafted.

Pirates Outfielders ADP Data*

*All ADP data via NFBC.

Either way, regardless of where each was taken in drafts this spring if some or all of the three are on your fantasy roster, there’s a good chance they’ve been instrumental in your success this season, as they have with the Pirates in real life. The trio will be crucial to the National League Central club’s ability to stay in the playoff hunt this summer, and could very well prove to be similarly key in deciding many fantasy baseball playoff races as well.

Ben Rosener

Ben Rosener is baseball and fantasy baseball writer whose work has previously appeared on the digital pages of Motor City Bengals, Bleacher Report, USA Today, FanSided.com and World Soccer Talk among others. He also writes about fantasy baseball for RotoBaller and the Detroit Tigers for his own Patreon page, Getting You Through the Tigers Rebuild (@Tigers_Rebuild on Twitter). He only refers to himself in the third person for bios.

One response to “Anchors Aweigh: The Fantasy Impact of Pittsburgh’s Resurgent Outfield”

  1. Mario Mendoza says:

    what about Connor Joe?

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