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Pirates All 40: Maybe Connor Joe Will Get His Own Bobblehead

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This is one in a series of stories looking at members of the Pittsburgh Pirates 40-man roster.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have enough outfielders on their 40-man roster – nine in all – to stock three complete outfields.

That could create a logjam. However, it shouldn’t prevent Connor Joe from being on the 26-man roster when the season begins.

The Pirates acquired the first baseman/outfielder from the Colorado Rockies on Dec. 18 for minor league pitcher Nick Garcia. Though the Pirates added a more notable right-handed hitting outfielder when they signed Andrew McCutchen as a free agent last Friday, there still seems to be a role for Joe.

The 30-year-old could serve as a backup at all four corner positions. He could also spell Jack Suwinski in right field or Ji-Man Choi at first base when the Pirates face a left-handed starting pitcher.

The Pirates, for their part, would like to have the version of Joe who played well for the Rockies over the first two months of last season.

Joe reached base safely in 35 straight games from April 29-June 9, which ended up being the second-longest streak in the major leagues in 2022.

When the streak ended, Joe’s seasonal slash line was .267/.364/.410 in 53 games with five home runs. He then hit just .206/.311/.304 in 58 games with two homers over the rest of the season.

Joe finished his first full major league season at .238/.338/.359 line and seven homers in 111 games. He started 43 games in left field, 25 as the designated hitter, 17 at first base and 16 in right field.

One big positive was Joe’s 11.8 walk rate, which ranked 10th in the National League among players with at least 450 plate appearances.

The Pirates went into the offseason looking to improve their on-base percentage. They are encouraged by that walk rate and the fact he had a .379 OBP in 63 games in 2021 as a rookie with the Rockies.

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If Joe’s name is familiar, it is because the Pirates selected him in the supplemental first round of the 2014 amateur draft from the University of San Diego. After Joe made it as high as Double-A Altoona in the farm system, the Pirates traded him to the Atlanta Braves during the 2017 season to reacquire utilityman Sean Rodriguez.

Joe eventually landed in the major leagues two years later for an eight-game stint with the San Francisco Giants as a Rule 5 Draft pick.

Rodriguez was so popular with Pirates’ fans that he had his own bobblehead promotion in 2018 at PNC Park to commemorate his walk-off pinch-hit grand slam the previous season.

Joe might never gain that kind of honor. Still, he could have his uses in 2023.

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