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Monday, December 5, 2022

P2Daily: The Pirates 2023 Rotation is Looking Deeper This Month

There are so many things you can say about the 2022 edition of the Pittsburgh Pirates — some good, a lot bad but one thing that is certainly worth mentioning is the progress of the rotation.

When the season started, it seemed one of their weaknesses. They have slowly molded the rotation into perhaps their biggest strength at the moment.

As we wind down the 2022 season, things are really falling into place for the Pirates to have something going into 2023 that they haven’t had in some time — real, actual starting depth.

The starters have been solid in the month of September for the Pirates, posting a collective 3.59 ERA (Bryse Wilson’s outing when he came in after an opener was used towards this data), while walking 47 and striking out 103 across 112 2/3 innings.

They’ve had some really great outings, the seven shutout innings on Saturday by Johan Oviedo (Photo above by David Hague), as well as some clunkers — JT Brubaker allowed five earned runs in three innings pitched in his last outing before heading to the Injured List. There’s also been some in-between, Roansy Contreras striking out 10 in 4 2/3 innings but allowed six earned runs as well.

The point is, the Pirates actually have options, with even more on the way at some point next year.

Contreras, Brubaker and Mitch Keller seem like the favorites to lead the rotation next year, with Johan Oviedo quickly becoming a legitimate option. The recently acquired right-handed pitcher is becoming a starter again, after St. Louis shifted him to the bullpen this season.

Bryse Wilson is showing upside as someone who can come back and forth between the majors and minors to make a start whenever called upon. Luis Ortiz is also quickly throwing his name into the competition for rotation spot in 2023.

That’s not even counting potentially Quinn Priester, Mike Burrows, Carmen Mlodzinski, and Kyle Nicolas, among others, who could also be looking to be making their major league debuts next season.

If the last two years have told us anything is that, there is no amount of depth that is too much depth and the fact that a pitching prospect could be a numbers casualty and have to restart in Altoona would be a good thing for the system in general.

Other Notes

— If there was more than a week left in the season, I would say that if you are looking for a fringe guy to use the free 40-man spot on who may be ‘deserving’ of a promotion, there may not be a better name or fit than Jared Oliva. He’s played amazing defense, and has been hitting the cover off the ball.

He’s also right-handed, meaning the Diego Castillo experiment in right field could finally end. Although that could be a sign that Castillo is fighting for his life to keep a roster spot, it just hasn’t helped and ultimately cost the Pirates the other night when he got too close to Bryan Reynolds on a fly ball, eventually allowing a couple of runs to score.

— If there was an odd name I would have liked to see in the Arizona Fall League solely off his performance in September, it’s Mason Martin. He went through a huge slump during the season, and went an entire month without hitting a home run. Within that time, he fixed some of the issues he had previously, low walk rate, a lot of strikeouts but wasn’t hitting for power.

Now the power is starting to come through, and it would have been really nice if the season was a little longer to see if he could continue it.

— It wouldn’t shock me in the least if Zach Thompson becomes 2022 Wil Crowe in 2023. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did well in that role as well. He struck out four in two innings on Saturday, allowing just two hits and a walk.

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Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.

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ArkyWags

This article feels like the Major League version of the guy who says “no way, too high,” on the homer by Clu Haywood.

omarvelous

I still want to see a free agent signing of an experienced starter. This rotation needs a m***r akin to A.J. Burnett to fall from the sky and teach a little mound manners in the process.

hoffmark83

The rotation might look deeper for 23 but not the bullpen

SBRO

Bullpen’s not that far behind. Just like the rotation, there’s a lack of top arms, but Bednar – Crowe – Holderman – de los Santos – de Jong is better depth than they’ve had in 5 years. I’d really like to see them add one more quality arm in the offseason to pitch the 7th/8th, and then you’d really have a top 10-12 pen, the waiver wire churn can finally stop and the interesting arms coming up from Altoona (Thomas, Selby, Flowers) are in a position to force their way in.

Catch_22

You’re counting on Yerry and prospects to build a winning pen. Yeah, that’s a real concrete plan

SBRO

Your comment doesn’t line up with what I wrote.

Bednar, Crowe and de Jong will all have 2+ years of major league service time. They’re 28-29 years old.

You add a free agent late inning arm through free agency. That’ll be an experienced arm.

That’s 4 non-rookies anchoring the late innings pen.

Holderman and Yerry would be the “untested over a full season” guys, but they’re also in middle relief.

Your last 2 guys can be whoever you want them to be. Guys they have on hand like Underwood or Thompson. NRIs. Doesn’t much matter. Those dudes are not getting high leverage innings unless they’re performing.

Assume they’ll carry 1-2 Stout/Beasley types over the winter for early season AAA depth, rather than the out-of-options guys they have to stick on the 26-man.

Did you latch onto the mention of Thomas, Flowers and Selby? I didn’t suggest they would be fixtures in the pen, exactly the opposite in fact. Those dudes would have to play their way onto the roster. It’s just nice to know there’s some potential bullpen talent working its way through the system.

So, no. The strategy is not remotely Yerry and prospects.

ArkyWags

A lack of top arms? So other than the bad guys on the team, the rest are really good!

Jest aside, I get what you’re saying. But how do they get those top arms?

Last edited 2 months ago by ArkyWags
SBRO

We’re talking about top relief arms? If history is any indicator, through trades and by converting starters to the pen. For all we know, Bolton, Shortridge or Omar Cruz could be the next shutdown reliever.

SBRO

Wilson will be out of options for 2023, which complicates the “back and forth” idea. The Pirates would have to send him through waivers to send him to Indy. If he goes unclaimed, they’ve already got the market-based evidence that he probably wasn’t worth the roster spot in the first place. So basically if you roster Wilson, your plan is to go north with him on the 26-man, not stash him as Indy depth.

And even then, I’m not sure it’s the best offseason roster management. Wilson is a replacement-level innings eater. Those types are easy enough to get that you don’t need to dedicate a roster spot to one over the winter. You could NRI any number of guys and get to the same place while using the extra 40-man spot to address the needs of the major league club.

I think it’s 50/50 Wilson even survives the winter on the roster – there’s a lot of trimming that needs to be done to make way for the guys coming off the 60-day IL, R5 protects and major league upgrades at C, 1B, OF, SP. Wilson’s already uncomfortably close to that cut line, and the need to carry him on the major league roster could be the factor that pushes him off.

1979andCounting

Good call on Wilson being out of options. So there can’t be any “back and forth”, which could indeed result in a DFA or non-tender.

emjayinTN

The Pirates will not only have a deep Rotation, but it will be one of the youngest in MLB Service with Keller (3.90 FIP) and BRU (3.94 FIP) hitting 3 years and therefore eligible for Arb after 2022. Contreras (4.16 FIP) will only be at 0.106 yrs of service. Oviedo (3.06 FIP) struggled in his first two Starts with the Bucs, but has been off the charts in his last 3 – he will pass 1 year of service and should be at 1.078; Zach Thompson (4.97 FIP) has had a sort of pedestrian 2022, but could be a solid #5 SP. He will also pass one year and could be at 1.121. Wilson or DeJong on the 40/Active?

Burrows only had 9 starts at AAA, and Ortiz only 2, but I think those two will be in the Pirate Rotation in 2023. The only question is when!

piratemike

Waiting….waiting ….waiting …. next year…..next year…..

leefieux

While the starting pitching gives us some optimism, unfortunately, you have to score to win. That side of the ball still leaves us wanting. And the bullpen needs too many GOOD arms.

But, hopefully, the dumpster diving is over and the young guys will get more shots in 2023.

emjayinTN

The Rookies account for 44% of the total HR’s hit by the Pirates in 2022, and Rookies make up a large percentage of the hitters who have on OPS above .700. And, last night all of the RBI’s came from Suwinski 3 RBI, Bae 2 RBI, Castillo 1 RBI.

Liked your last sentence a lot, and all I would include is sweeping Derek Shelton out the door. Don Kelly as the new Manager. Start the active position players with Reynolds and Hayes and fill in from there with Cruz, Castro, Bae, Suwinski, Mitchell, Endy Rodriguez, Delay, and a few others from AA/AAA. If we cannot buy a FA 1B, we need to put Martin there and save room for Nunez because he has already proven he can hit, and has not been overmatched – excellent K/BB numbers.

chuck_conner

I like the way you think. Get those rookies up and let’s have some fun. The rookies won’t lose 100 games. I’m old enough to cry through the O’Brien twins in 55-56. In 1960 we were world champion.
I have to believe, I don’t have enough time to be waiting any longer.

Catch_22

If Thompson is in the rotation next year, they’ve regressed.

Mtgj

He said he will be the next crowe, meaning a multiple inning bullpen guy, not in the rotation.

Catch_22

He literally said this – “Zach Thompson (4.97 FIP) has had a sort of pedestrian 2022, but could be a solid #5 SP. “

redwards60

You lose all credibility when you say a pitcher with a 6 ERA has showed upside. The only thing Wilson has proven is he’s not a major league pitcher. To waste all the starts given to Wilson and at bats given to VanMeter this season shows how incompetent BC is.

Mtgj

I agree with your take. He is kinda like Vance Worley from years back.
Not in the rotation but a guy that can eat up some innings and maybe give you a decent start in a pinch.

SouthernBuc

Anthony, I’ll be more direct in your defense not that you need it. Wilson is 24 years old (same age as Yajure, Oviedo, year older than Ortiz) and was considered a very good (not great) prospect in the Braves system. He did have a rough 2021and then fell flat on his face early this year. However, I think your observation is spot on.. in the last half of the year he has been mediocre but much better than his early season face plant. At best he looks like a AAAA starter which is one of the last things you fill as a contender but to me what he has shown in the second half, his starts were worth making.

I certainly won’t cry if we trade / lose him, but don’t be shocked if some of the prospects we are so anxious to see have stretches just as bad as Wilson’s stretch and likely at an older age. I think it is too early to toss him in the dumpster diving pile.

juniorkrz

I would not give Wilson on a spot on the 40 man. Too many other prospects with actual upside to protect.

leefieux

Agree, but AM still has LOTS of credibility to me. 🙂 🙂

I see a rotation of Roansy, Mitch, Oviedo, JT and some combo of Ortiz, FA vet or Priester/Burrows by mid-season. A guy with a near 6.00 ERA should not be in the convo, except as AAA depth.

juniorkrz

I’d spend whatever money Nickles allows on a quality LH reliever and RH hiting, first baseman/outfielder.

roberto

LH starters are not readily available. Lots of teams will be competing. If BC can sign Rodin, Sale, Quintana, or Anderson,great! Money won’t be a problem; years will be.

skliesen

This organization may have more Starting Pitching options going into next season than the last few years. I’d even say more quality SP options. But they lack LHSP options.

It’ll be interesting to see if BC addresses this issue over the winter or roll with the youngsters to start the season. If NH severely limits his FA budget, as expected, I’d rather the money be spent on Relief Pitching help and 1B/OF help.

Unfortunately I have every reason to believe BC will fail hard in addressing the glaring needs of the major league roster. He certainly has every year thus far.

SouthernBuc

I totally agree but offer an alternate view. Part of me wants to believe when Cherington interviewed and accepted the job he basically said (and believed this was the best approach) – “with your blessing Nickles, I am not going to give any real effort at filling out a competent major league roster. I’ll fill in and try to find low cost players where we just don’t have players, but my focus will be on 4-5 years down the road and my trades will support that.” I personally also have to dream that he also had some level of spending commitment for when that contention day arrived.

BTW – I fully believe no team should just totally not try which it seems has happened here, but for my sanity I really have to believe the above scenario is what happened and I do see progress. .

With this above theory, we won’t truly learn about Cherington’s ability to build a major league roster for at least one more off season. I have dreams of 2024 looking brighter with 2023 showing continued steps forward.

Anthony

Agreed, BC doesn’t take this job to be a “yes” man. However, I do think he needs to start adding FAs this off-season. There are some serious holes, and there will be attrition.

TNBucs

Each of the last two seasons Cherington was able to sign a LHSP that worked out really well. Maybe this season we can do the same, but with the plan being to keep him rather than trade him at the deadline. Will Quintana be in Nutting’s price range? Anderson probably won’t be and the Dodgers will probably re-sign him anyway. Maybe Heaney? Maybe Manaea?

In any case, despite the talent noted in this article we need a veteran SP and as Anthony says, you can never have too much depth anyway. And that veteran SP should be a lefty and there are several interesting options on the FA market.

TNBucs

As for the main point of the article, yes, the rotation is the one clear sign of things going in a positive direction. Maybe Marin and Meccage are pretty good and they just haven’t been given enough to work with in the pen.

TNBucs

I don’t think it’s hindsight to say Shelton ran Crowe and possibly Bednar into the ground early as many of us were raising that concern at the time (both were in the top four in usage in all of MLB at the midway point). Bednar’s sore back may have been a blessing in disguise to save his arm. I’ve about given up on Crowe but to be fair he should be given the benefit of the doubt and an opportunity in the spring to show that all he needed was extended rest to get his stuff back.

TNBucs

I agree on Oliva–he’s worked hard and getting at least a handful of starts here at the end of the season would be a just reward. But, is he a minor league FA after this season? If not, they may be afraid to roster him only to have to DFA him in the offseason and potentially lose him. It wouldn’t be a big loss, but he would be a nice depth option going into ’23 should Swaggerty not work out, Reynolds gets traded, Suwinski needs more time in AAA, …

In any case, I like him much more than Gamel as a 4th or 5th OF as he’ll at least bring plus defense and probably can do as well as Gamel’s .685 OPS (given how much Gamel continues to get to play, I have this fear they’re considering re-signing him which would raise more concerns about their evaluation than anything they’ve done to this point).

PirateRican21

I was telling myself last night that this team needs to sign an outfielder next season after floating the idea of bringing Happ home, but resigning Gamel should not be an option. If they want to win someone like Happ makes sense, if they gonna stay in limbo, then used that spot on CSN, Mitchell, Sabol, etc…

juniorkrz

Bucs need RH hitting outfielder. Happ is nice, but we need help on the other side of the plate.

PirateRican21

Switch hitter, not sure if he has good numbers as a RH hitter.

CTBucco

He had virtually no platoon split this year. Over his career, he has hit for a fair bit more power as a LHH (.395 SLG vs .483 as LHH), but his average and OBP are fairly similar.

tedwins

Thx Anthony, good stuff👍… nightmare few years, most of all 2022 as the fanbase expected more, but I do see a core now with the pitching u mentioned, the hayes/reynolds signings, and the future everyday players looking significant in varying order of importance, Cruz, Bae, Castillo, Martin, Suwinski and of course the next wave…hope runs eternal🤔👏👏👍👍🤞🤞

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