First Pitch: 2023

When does the window open for the Pirates? That’s the question I asked yesterday, and we won’t officially know the answer until we see it play out on the field.

Ben Cherington has said the Pirates can win with some of the younger talent on the team, along with the prospects coming up through the system. There are several possible groups of players in that plan, which could put the start of the window anywhere from 2022 onward.

The Pirates have some young talent in the majors in Mitch Keller, Bryan Reynolds, and Kevin Newman. They’ve got young guys who could join that group in the next year or two, led by Ke’Bryan Hayes, Oneil Cruz, Cody Bolton, and Cole Tucker. And then there’s the growing group of young talent in the lower levels, which was recently boosted by the Starling Marte trade.

Back in November I explored the question of whether the Pirates should try to win now or rebuild. My preference was a rebuild, ignoring in the process that this is such a taboo word. A big part of my view that the Pirates are better off trying to win for later is how their current talent stacks up.

Here was a simple chart from that article, looking at the years the Pirates have their young players under control.

2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028
Keller X X X X X X
Reynolds X X X X X X
Newman X X X X X
Tucker X X X X X X
Cruz X X X X X X
Bolton X X X X X X
Thomas X X X X X X
Priester X X X X X X
Bae X X X X X X

As you can see, the expected roster really sees a boost around 2022-2023. The best years are the 2023-2025 seasons. That could be shifted up a year if some players arrive earlier and adjust quickly to the majors. It could also be extended beyond 2025 if the Pirates can extend a few key players from the current roster, while getting additional production from the lower levels.

Liover Peguero and Brennan Malone weren’t on the prospect list at the time of that article, but they’d join that group at the bottom, possibly arriving by 2023. That only further boosts the chances of contending during that window.

Looking at this chart, the Pirates have a clear window to build towards. This doesn’t mean they need to wait until 2023 to contend. They could try to contend before that. It just means that, with their current prospect distribution and projections, they’ll have their best shot starting in 2023.





By John Dreker

There have been seven former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date.

Aki Iwamura, second baseman for the 2010 Pirates. He played in Japan until he was 28 years old, then signed with Tampa Bay. The Pirates acquired him from the Rays prior to the 2010 season for pitcher Jesse Chavez. Iwamura was a .281 hitter over three seasons in the majors with the Rays. With the Pirates, he hit .182 in 54 games. He was released in September and finished the season with the Oakland A’s. In 2011, he returned to Japan for his final four seasons of pro ball.

Eddie Solomon, pitcher for the Pirates from 1980-82. He began his MLB career in 1973, and had played for four teams already prior to coming to the Pirates in a March 1980 trade. Prior to the trade Solomon had an 18-27, 4.27 career record in 126 games pitched, 56 as a starter. For the Pirates in 1980, he was used in both the relief role and as a starter for a stretch, going 7-3 2.69 in 100.1 innings. He had a similar role the next year with similar results, posting a record of 8-6, 3.12 in 127 innings. In 1982, he began the year in the starting rotation and struggled, posting a 6.90 ERA in ten starts before the Pirates traded him to the White Sox for infielder Jim Morrison. The White Sox released him in July after just six relief appearances. He pitched briefly in the minors in 1983 with the Yankees before retiring as a player. Sadly, he passed away at age 34 due to injuries he suffered in a car accident.

Jim Campanis, catcher for the 1973 Pirates. He was signed by the Dodgers as an amateur free agent out of high school in 1962 and worked his way up through their system, making his Major League debut in late 1966. Campanis played parts of three seasons with Los Angeles, but hit just .149 in 46 total games. The Dodgers sent him to the Royals, where he was the backup catcher for two seasons, and there his batting average was even lower, hitting .146 in 61 total games. The Pirates acquired him in a December 2, 1970 trade. Campanis spent all of the 1971-72 seasons in the minors, finally earning a call-up with the Pirates in 1973 after hitting .304 with 18 homers at Triple-A. In six late-season pinch-hit at-bats, he went 1-for-6 with a single. That would be his last time in the majors. He spent the 1974 season at Triple-A for the Pirates before retiring as a player. He is the son of Al Campanis, who played for the 1943 Dodgers.

Roy Mahaffey, pitcher for the 1926-27 Pirates. He began his minor league career in 1925, and by the end of next year he impressed the Pirates enough to give him his first taste of the big leagues as a reliever late in the 1926 season. In four games he pitched 4.2 innings, allowing four runs (all unearned). In 1927 they let him start the third game of the season. While he picked up the win, he allowed five runs and seven walks in 6.1 innings and did not make another start. Mahaffey pitched just once more for the Pirates, two weeks after his start and allowed three runs in three innings of mop-up work. He was back in the minors by the beginning of May, next appearing in the majors with the Philadelphia Athletics to start the 1930 season. He went on to pitch seven more seasons in the majors, compiling a 67-49, 5.01 record. He played baseball in the Textile Leagues for five seasons after his minor league career ended in 1936.

Wally Hood, outfielder for the 1920 Pirates. He started his pro career in Vancouver in 1916. Hood played in the minors in Canada until he made the Brooklyn Robins roster to start the 1920 season. After seven games in which he hit .143, he joined the Pirates in late May and was used twice as a pinch-hitter. He made an out in his first plate appearance, but walked, stole a base and scored a run in his second. He was sent to the minors for the rest of the season after those two games. Hood rejoined Brooklyn and played 56 games for them in 1921, then was used as a pinch-runner twice during the 1922 season. He scored runs during both of those games, which ended up being his last games in the majors. Hood played minor league ball until 1930 and had a .309 average in 1,593 games over his 13 minor league seasons. His son Wally Hood Jr pitched for the 1949 Yankees

Hi Ladd, outfielder for the 1898 Pirates. Ladd played one game for the Pirates, coming in to pinch-hit on July 12, 1898 during a 4-1 loss to Brooklyn. Six days later he played his second, and last, major league game, this time as a member of the Boston Beaneaters. He collected a single in four trips to the plate and scored a run. Considering the fact he played just two major league games, it may be hard to believe that he had a long productive minor league career. He played 20 seasons in the minors, and although his stats are incomplete, the 17 seasons that are available show that he had a .324 average in 1,747 games.

Sumner Bowman, pitcher for the 1890 Alleghenys. He went to the University of Pennsylvania and was the first player from that school to play for the Alleghenys. He made his Major League debut on June 11, 1890 for the Phillies, allowing seven runs over eight innings in a game that Philadelphia won 8-7, though he received no decision. Twelve days later he was starting for the Alleghenys, a team that was just 12-35 at that point. Bowman made seven starts and two relief appearances for Pittsburgh, making his last start exactly a month after his first one with the team. He was 2-5, 6.62 in 70.2 innings in that time, allowing 100 hits and 50 walks. He finished the season with the Harrisburg Ponies of the Atlantic Association. He played one more season in the majors, for the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association in 1891. The AA folded after that season and he followed the team to the Eastern League for 1892.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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