The 2018 season did not go as planned for the San Diego Padres Heart and Hustle Award winner.
San Diego Padres outfielder/infielder Jose Pirela did not have a good 2018 season. It may have been full of heart and hustle, but it lacked much production at the plate and was downright disasterous on the basepaths. Now the Padres must make a decision concerning Pirela’s future with the team, either find a home for him on the field in 2019 or clear him from an overly crowded 40-man roster.
First, the numbers. Pirela played in 146 games in 2018, hitting .249 with a .300 on-base percentage and .645 OPS, a near 200 point drop from his 2017 OPS. He finished with a wRC+ of 79 and an fWAR of -0.8, all extreme drops from his 2017 season with the Padres. Pirela logged just five home runs, 23 doubles, and 32 runs driven in as made appearances at first base, second base, left and right field on defense.
His baserunning was so bad, Fangraphs dedicated an entire article about his adventures and blunders. In all, he made eights Outs On Base and finished with a -4.6 BsR (baserunning) rating on Fangraphs, both of which were among the league leaders in their respective categories.
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What about the positives from 2018? Well, he was selected as the San Diego Padres winner of the Heart and Hustle Award, selected by the MLB Players Association, which was deserved. Before the season began, I firmly believed that Pirela could be a wild card in the Padres lineup, however, his play at the plate quickly ended that. To give him the benefit of the doubt, even after he disappeared from the lineup, Pirela continued to give 100% on the field, sometimes to his detriment.
Unfortunately, heart and hustle awards don’t translate to winning seasons on the field. His defense in the infield was tough to watch, committing seven errors and ending with -3 Defensive Runs Saved and an UZR of -2.9. The advanced metrics say his defense in the outfield is much better, however, there is zero room in the outfield for Pirela.
We will have to wait and see what the future holds for Pirela, but don’t be shocked to see him on the roster again next year, especially if the Padres decide to use a shortstop by committee approach.