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Pirates All 40: Can Jack Suwinski’s Good Outweigh His Bad?

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Jack Suwinski had some moments during the 2022 season that suggested he could be an integral part of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ rebuilding effort.

At other times, Suwinski showed why the Pirates had little expectation of him making an impact at the major league level last season. He began the year with Double-A Altoona and wound up making his big-league debut on April 26 mainly because of a twist of fate.

Overall, Suwinski finished with a .202/.298/.411 slash line and 19 home runs in 106 games. His 98 OPS+ placed him just 2% below major-league average.

The home runs tied Atlanta Braves center fielder Michael Harris II for the most in the National League. Harris wound up winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award.

Suwinski also had the sixth-highest homer total ever by a Pirates’ rookie. The record is 26, set by Jason Bay during his NL Rookie of the Year season in 2004 and matched by Josh Bell in 2017.

Furthermore, Suwinski hit a pair of walk-off home runs in June. That made him the first Pirates hitter to have multiple game-ending homers in the same month since Wally Westlake in September 1947.

The walk-off June 19 against the San Francisco capped a three-run home run game.

However, there were also stretches where Suwinski looked completely overmatched. He went 0-for-29 from July 5-14 then was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis, where he stayed until being recalled on Aug. 29.

Suwinski also went 25 at-bats in a row without a hit from Sept. 11-20.

Perhaps an even more disappointing stat is Suwinski struck out 102 times in 398 plate appearances.

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Of course, no one really expected to see Suwinski until the second half of the season – if at all – in Pittsburgh in 2022. He made his major league debut in the season’s first month only because center fielder Bryan Reynolds was placed on the COVID-19 injured list and Altoona was playing in Akron, which meant Suwinski could quickly make it to PNC Park for the game that night.

Suwinski was one of three minor-leaguers acquired from the San Diego Padres during the 2021 season in a trade for Adam Frazier.

In the field, Suwinski was OK as he finished with two defensive runs saved and led the team with seven outfield assists. He started 46 games in left field, 34 in right field and 10 in center field.

The left-handed hitting Suwinski seems quite suited for PNC Park, but his road output was alarmingly low. He hit .283/.373/.609 in 56 games in Pittsburgh but .112/.211/.184 in 50 games away from home.

Suwinski’s 16 home runs at home were a Pirates’ rookie record and two off the PNC Park record set by Brian Giles during the ballpark’s inaugural season in 2001.

It wouldn’t be accurate to say Suwinski is a lock to be in the Pirates’ opening-day lineup. A poor spring training could put the 24-year-old at Indianapolis to begin the season.

However, Suwinski’s power stroke seemingly makes him a good fit to at least be the long end of a platoon in left field with Miguel Andujar.

 

John Perrotto is a columnist for Pittsburgh Baseball Now and has covered the Pittsburgh Pirates and MLB since 1988.

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