Following the trade of Starling Marte, the Pirates will be searching for their center fielder of the future.
Jared Oliva, their seventh-round pick out of Arizona in 2017, isn’t a frontrunner for that role. However, he has done enough the past two years to be in the discussion.
The 24-year-old Oliva has hit .274/.348/.403 in his two and a half pro seasons. He has stolen 30-plus bases in each of the last two seasons. He spent 2019 at Double-A Altoona and wrapped his campaign with an .886 OPS in the Arizona Fall League, along with 11 more steals, giving him 47 in 58 attempts last year.
What future role Oliva might have will be determined by the one tool he has yet to show: power.
“I’ve found a way to get on base, work my walks, use my speed, but now it’s kind of what’s the next step in my baseball maturity?” Oliva asked. “I guess that would be the power.”
Oliva has focused on his power by fine-tuning his mechanics in the last year. The righthanded hitter focused from the ground up, trying to effectively use his leg kick to generate rhythm and power from his lower half.
“I can pretty much watch any hitter now and see what they’re doing well,” Oliva said, “or what I was working on that they’re doing.”
The new Pirates front office is also putting more of a focus on incorporating analytics and new technology into the development process. Oliva already started that work at a January hitting camp. He received a season breakdown of his numbers and trends, showing him what to look for in the numbers, and also what to work on.
Oliva profiles as a fourth outfielder now, one who could spend a few years as an average starter in the majors. But if he can successfully increase his power, he could increase his chances of one day being a regular major league outfielder.
— The Pirates have their top three prospects in big league camp this year. Righthander Mitch Keller is expected to make the big league rotation. Third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes will start the season in Triple-A but could arrive by midseason. The most interesting of the trio is shortstop Oneil Cruz, who will get a first chance to show what he can do against big league pitchers. Cruz could arrive in Pittsburgh in 2021 or 2022.
— The Pirates signed Australian outfielder Solomon Maguire as the 43rd player signed during the current international signing period. Maguire is athletic, with potential for multiple plus tools. He has above-average bat speed, power potential, plus speed and a strong arm.