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Connor Joe becoming significant factor in Pirates lineup

Joe owns four home runs and 11 RBI in 73 at-bats

MLB: Game One-Pittsburgh Pirates at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Connor Joe’s MLB journey has come full circle. Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates at No. 39 overall in 2014, Joe bounced around the baseball circuit after being traded to Atlanta three years later for Sean Rodriguez. After returning in a trade with Colorado during the offseason, Joe’s become a lightning rod offensively for the first-place Pirates.

Through 69 at-bats during his age 30 season, Joe is hitting .304/.390/.580 with three home runs, 10 RBI, and a .972 OPS. He also recorded six doubles and two triples in 21 games. Initially considered a potential utility player capable of filling roles when necessary, Joe has cemented himself as a consistent hitter deserving of being an everyday starter.

Joe broke an 0-14 skid by homering in the series finale to take two out of three from the Los Angeles Dodgers and keep his average above .300.

Joe starred during the first two of a four-game series against the Cincinnati Reds last week. He hit a three-run homer on a 3-2 pitch in the bottom of the first to give the Bucs an early lead, one they wouldn’t relinquish. Joe reached base four times in game two thanks to a 3-for-3 day plus a walk and scored two runs.

He homered in back-to-back games against the Dodgers and Nationals to push his total to four after the first meeting of a split doubleheader in Washington.

Joe puts together strong at-bats with good plate discipline while seeing a 54.8 percent fastball rate at the dish. He’s registered the highest average exit velocity of his career (90.6) and ranks high in hard-hit percentage (90th percentile). The veteran acquisition rates best in chase rate (99th) and performs well in xwOBA (86th), xBA (82nd), and barrel percentage (81st).

The utility man has appeared at first base, left, and right field, making difficult plays look relatively easy and not trying to do too much in the field. He also rakes against lefties. Hitting .348 opposite southpaws, three of Joe’s four long balls were hit off of left-handers.

The Pirates are Major League Baseball’s biggest surprise in 2023, and Joe is a significant reason why. Derek Shelton’s team is 20-8 with the National League’s best record and second-best in baseball (Tampa Bay). Connor Joe has become a household name in Pittsburgh, and we are only 28 games into the season.