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Monday, December 5, 2022

Williams: Where Will the Pirates Help Come From in 2023?

The Pittsburgh Pirates are winding down their season, and one thing is obvious: They need help in 2023.

It remains to be seen if they will get more aggressive this offseason in trying to add outside help. Their farm system has been building up, and is on the verge of producing a lot of talent to the majors.

As the 2022 season winds down across all levels, I decided to sort through the chaos to see where the Pirates’ help will come from in 2023.

Catcher

2023 Internal Option: The Pirates tried for Roberto Perez as their catcher this year, but he went down for the season in early April. Tyler Heineman and Jason Delay have stepped up as the best internal options, with both excelling on defense. Both have shown the ability to be solid backups in the majors. Delay is about four years younger, and makes more sense for the backup role. The Pirates don’t have a starter.

2023 Mid-Season Prospect: Endy Rodriguez might be the guy who takes over in Pittsburgh by the middle of next season. My belief is that Endy will be the primary catcher in Pittsburgh over Henry Davis, though I can see the Pirates getting creative to split time. In any case, Davis missed a lot of time this year, and it would be aggressive to expect him in the majors in 2023. Rodriguez, on the other hand, looks like he’s ready.

External Help Needed? It would be smart for the Pirates to try and bring back Perez. The combo of Perez and Delay would provide solid defense, with the hope that Rodriguez arrives mid-season to start upgrading the offensive output from this position.

First Base

2023 Internal Option: This one just got a fun twist. The Pirates added Michael Chavis in a low-cost trade last year. He ended up spending more time at first base this year than he had in his previous MLB years, combined. They just claimed Miguel Andújar, who only has 17.1 MLB innings at the position. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a shot at first/designated hitter next year, replacing Chavis.

2023 Mid-Season Prospect: The Pirates don’t have a standout first base prospect. They do have a few fringe-average prospects who might be able to hit in the majors. Mason Martin was leading the pack, and had all of 2022 to break into the big leagues. His strikeout issues have held him back. The Pirates added Malcom Nunez from the Cardinals, who should start in Triple-A next year. They’ve also seen great things from Aaron Shackelford this year, who received a late promotion to Triple-A. The hope would be one of these three, or Andújar, stepping up for the role.

External Help Needed? Yes. Andújar is 27-years-old, and none of the prospects project to be a starter — though they can all still develop into that possibility. Ideally, one of these four steps up in 2023. The Pirates will need to add help to this position if they want to contend next year. This is an obvious hole.

Second Base

2023 Internal Option: If I were calling the shots right now, Rodolfo Castro would be the starting second baseman in 2023. In the second half of the season, Castro has a .261/.316/.529 line at the plate, with minimal value loss defensively over Kevin Newman. The Pirates also recently promoted Ji-Hwan Bae, who has been hitting well in Indianapolis all year. Newman isn’t having a bad season, but is arbitration eligible, and at this point looks like a bench option. He wouldn’t be bad to have as a backup to both middle infield spots.

2023 Mid-Season Prospect: Don’t rule out an arrival by Nick Gonzales. He was making a lot of adjustments to his swing in Altoona this year, before going down with a heel injury. Upon his return, he hit .287/.404/.513 in 141 plate appearances. I’d expect Gonzales to start the 2023 season in Indianapolis. If he continues to hit this well, he will give Castro and Bae a real challenge.

External Help Needed? I think the Pirates are fine with their internal options here.

Shortstop

2023 Internal Option: Oneil Cruz is the shortstop. His defense isn’t great, but it’s not prohibitive. If the Pirates did have a middle infield of Cruz and Castro, they would be lacking defensively. Considering the defense at third base, they might want to go for a defensive-minded first base option, giving the middle infielders some help. That would allow the Pirates to rest easier in having so much power from the middle infield.

2023 Mid-Season Prospect: Liover Peguero is the best option, though he had an inconsistent season in Altoona. He’s the only guy in the upper levels who I think could move Cruz off the position.

External Help Needed? I think they would probably alienate Cruz by moving him off the position, when there’s not much reason to do so.

Third Base

2023 Internal Option: Ke’Bryan Hayes will be the third baseman for a long time in Pittsburgh. Defensively, he’s the best in the game. Offensively, he has some of the hardest contact in the league, but a negative launch angle that leads to an excess in ground balls. When he fixes that last issue, he will be one of the best third basemen in the game.

2023 Mid-Season Prospect: Jared Triolo is a solid defensive option who put up a .795 OPS in Altoona. He won a Gold Glove at the position last year, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he wins it again at the Double-A level. If Hayes gets hurt, Triolo could be his replacement. The best starting fit for Triolo might be first base. He should start the 2023 season in Indianapolis.

External Help Needed? No.

Outfield

2023 Internal Options: Bryan Reynolds leads the group, but hasn’t shown good defense in center field this year. Jack Suwinski has stepped up with his power, and solid defense in the corners. None of the other outfield prospects have stepped up as starters. The best alignment might be moving Reynolds back to left, Suwinski to right, and adding a defensive-minded center fielder.

2023 Mid-Season Prospects: As far as center fielders go, Travis Swaggerty would be the best defensive option. Offensively, Swaggerty has only hit for a .750 OPS this year in Indianapolis. Matt Gorski went from High-A to Triple-A this year, and might be the best overall option. His defense in center is solid, and he projects for a better bat, with more power than Swaggerty. Blake Sabol is a corner outfield prospect who has emerged with the bat this year, finishing in Triple-A. Jared Oliva has solid defense and has been hitting at the end of the year. He turns 27 this offseason, but is still younger than Andújar.

External Help Needed? I think the Pirates need an outfielder. They have a few internal options who could emerge by the end of the year. We saw this year how that worked out. It led to one regular starter who still had to go down to Triple-A for work. I wouldn’t count out the guys who didn’t do as well as Suwinski. Anything from them, or the minors, should be a bonus. The Pirates need to add to Reynolds and Suwinski.

Designated Hitter

2023 Internal Option: Andújar might be the best option.

2023 Mid-Season Prospect: I’d expect this position to change, as prospects push guys off other positions.

External Help Needed? Yes, but at other positions.

Starting Rotation

2023 Internal Options: Mitch Keller, Roansy Contreras, and JT Brubaker look like certain options for the 2023 rotation. The Pirates also have Luis Ortiz and Johan Oviedo showing impressive stuff late in the season. Both need to work on their control, and that would be best done in Triple-A, serving as early-season MLB depth. Out of the remaining options, Zach Thompson looks like he could be a depth starter, working out of the bullpen in long-relief.

2023 Mid-Season Prospects: The headliners are top prospects Quinn Priester and Mike Burrows. Both will start the 2023 season in Indianapolis, and I’d expect both to arrive by mid-season 2023. Ortiz and Oviedo can provide additional depth. The Pirates have a few options from Altoona this year, highlighted by Kyle Nicolas and Carmen Mlodzinski.

External Help Needed? I think the Pirates need two starters. Bringing Jose Quintana back on a multi-year deal would be a great value move. The lefty excelled in PNC Park, and would add variety to the current group. If the Pirates want to contend, they will need a second guy, relying on their remaining options as depth.

Bullpen

2023 Internal Options: David Bednar is the biggest standout. Duane Underwood Jr. leads the way from the middle relief group. The starting options from this year should start to move to the bullpen in 2023 as new options emerge.

2023 Mid-Season Prospects: The Pirates still need starters, so most of their top arms are in the rotation. It’s hard to predict who will emerge for a bullpen role, as that would be based on need.

External Help Needed? At the least, the Pirates need a complement to Bednar, so that they don’t burn him out. They could also use a replacement for Chris Stratton to eat leverage innings. I would rather see them add to the rotation and give the Stratton role to one of the former starters.

THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS

Williams: Where Will the Pirates Help Come From in 2023?

Johan Oviedo: Secondary Pitches Playing Well With Increased Usage

Termarr Johnson Hit The Ground Running In Professional Debut

Travis MacGregor Overcoming Nearly Three Lost Seasons

+ posts

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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TP

Tyler Heineman and Jason Delay have stepped up as the best internal options, with both excelling on defense.
{ excelling on defense? }

. Jack Suwinski has stepped up with his power, and solid defense in the corners. { his defense has been somewhere between ‘solid’ and ‘OK’. His batting average has to increase

Reynolds is still an excellent outfielder- even in CF

john.benedict

Bae has a decent arm, knows the game and is athletic enough to fill in at Short

He’s a good 2B, average at best in CF and SS.

Kind of reminds of super utility Ben Zobrish but with more speed

Didn’t have a true position but never came out of the line up

chappy

Why not Castro at 1st? Why do you think Malcom Nuñez doesn’t profile as a starter in the Bigs? I don’t see anything in his profile to suggest he won’t be a starter in the big leagues. I like the bat. Any prospect can fail, but I am high on Nuñez, though I would also like to see Castro get some time at 1st too.

jaygray007

it’s extremely nice to potentially have actual pitching depth. one of the biggest things ive realized this year was that several teams’ 6-10 pitchers were just as interesting as the pirates’ 1-5. Critical item for a competing team.

bucsws2014

If DUJ is considered a top BP option, then we don’t have a bullpen.

While re-signing Perez and his experience sounds like a decent idea given the current options, let’s remember that Perez actually had worse offense than Heinemann in 4 of his 9 seasons, so not like he’s a super upgrade. I give the edge to Heinemann as the backup for better defense and ability to throw out base stealers.

Unfortunately, Reynolds to LF looks inevitable. Not sure why he sucks so bad this year, but you can’t stay there when you’re the worst fielding regular CF in MLB by a wide margin. Keirmeier is an FA (with club option), but has been out with a hip injury that required surgery. Doubt Rays pick up the option, so if he passes a physical, would be someone to look at.

forkball

I can’t see Collins being around much longer unless they need another catcher to start the year. Mitchell may make this team as a sometime OF and left-handed hitting DH. I believe he has the ability to hit MLB pitching.

skliesen

The problem, actually the two real problems, are BN has never given the GM the money needed to fill all, or even most of the holes in the roster, and our current GM has not shown he can construct a legitimate roster.

As such this exercise is purely academic in nature.

redwards60

I agree with most of this assessment…I don’t expect the Pirates to do anything significant in free agency, so internal options/prospects will have to be the path forward.

(1) I would not sleep on CSN as an option in the OF next year, assuming he comes back healthy

(2) I hope Underwood is NOT the headliner for the middle relief out of the bullpen in 2023 – the Pirates could easily improve upon him.

PirateRican21

Of all the “realistic” FA targets out there this off-season I will be happy, not ecstatic with Josh Bell, Tallion, and Quintana. Players that had play here before, should be affordable and have enough upside (as in a surprise 4+WAR season) in them.

Born4rf

I actually love the idea of Josh Bell coming back. He truly stunk after going to SD this year and he stunk for us his last year here but that was the Covid year. At 30 he would need 4yr/80M, maybe 5/100 but he’s always been healthy. Yes I’d do that. No starters, we need to give our high end young prospects as many slots as possible BUT bring in some good proven BP guys. Underwood is nobodies best setup option

JoeNastasi

I wouldn’t give Belll 2 for 15 total, im good with Andujar for 3 month to prove himself, but I’m on board for JT 4 for 80.

TNBucs

It will be interesting to see what kind of deal he gets–will it be based on his average of ~2-3 WAR per year over the last three full seasons in which case your suggested deals might be in the ballpark, or will teams be scared off because of his struggles with SD which would lead to offers well below what you’re suggesting. Given his age and inconsistency, I wouldn’t go more than three years at around $20MM per season. Plus, he’s never had that really big (5+ WAR) season where a team might justify a larger deal hoping to get another of those seasons and if his ceiling is 3 WAR, I can’t see a team committing more than $50-60MM. Then again, Hosmer got his deal so who knows? All it might take is a hot streak in the postseason.

hoffmark83

2023 and beyond will be more of the same. Cheap FA signings & more dumpster diving. Wouldn’t surprise me if they bring back fan favorite on this sight Josh Van Meter.

jaygray007

It’d be awfully disappointing to me if Suwinski is gifted a starting spot

Last edited 2 months ago by jaygray007
jaygray007

Interesting SS commentary. Surprising to not include Bae there.

while nobody is moving Cruz off SS any time soon, i’d say the probability of Bae being a productive major leaguer who can unseat Cruz is a lot higher than the probability of Peguero.

joebaseball

FIFY Oneil Cruz is NOT the shortstop. His defense isn’t great, but prohibitive. Move Cruz off the position. I think they would probably alienate Cruz by moving him off the position, so the sooner they do it the better and he can get used to the reality..

roberto

My understanding is that Bae doesn’t have the arm for short. Am I wrong?

jaygray007

think about how bad the pirates’ 1b production has been over the last few years and think about how much better it’d feel to plug a real-life .850 OPS guy in there. such low hanging fruit. Bring in Jose Abreu.

We as a fanbase need to stop treating prospects as “we assume they’ll be good until theyre clearly bad” and start treating them as “we assume they’ll be bad until they are clearly good”. I’m not really accusing Tim of this here, as the point of the article is to look at the internal options. Just a lot of talk among fans.

Malcom is fun, but dear lord i’ve seen too many people act like he’s a sure thing.

Last edited 2 months ago by jaygray007
jaygray007

Oh, and they should bring in Matt Carpenter as the DH

ArkyWags

Jose isn’t realistic. But Carpenter and Mancini are.

robertkasperski

I would love the Bucs to take a chance on Mancini but Carpenter scares the crap out of me. I really could see him regress to where he was with the Cards the last couple of seasons instead of what he did in NY in 47 games this year.

jaygray007

It’s realistic for me to ask my favorite to give a modest 3 yr 60 million contract to a really good player, in order to get their payroll from a paltry 40 million to a still-pathetic 60 million.

Unfortunately youre probably right that they won’t swim in those waters.

Just a terrible team to have as my favorite team. it’s upsetting.

Last edited 2 months ago by jaygray007
ArkyWags

It is awful, but I say that about Jose more because he’s become a mini-legend in Chicago so I don’t think he think leaving crosses his mind. Honestly, I’d settle for them getting up to Marlins territory, which is $85 mil. If you’re 25 million less than the Marlins, you’re really doing it wrong.

SBRO

If BC wants to compete from the opening bell, then I think it’s:

Starting C on a 1-year contract because it looks a lot brighter on the horizon with Endy & Tank.

Starting 1B on a multi-year contract because we have no idea whether Andujar is going to hit and Nuñez and Shackleford are just facing upper level pitching for a hot minute and neither is (currently) rated as even a 45 FV.

Starting right-handed OF on whatever contract it takes. For what it’s worth I’m not sold on Suwinski as a shoe-in for a starting corner, although I do think he’s earned first consideration among the field. A second solid, everyday OF helps the Bucs avoid throwing two sub-.300 OBA outfielders in the same lineup.

Rather than 2 SPs, I’d sign the Quintana-level SP and a solid RP for $4-6M. Things really started to fall apart for this team when Bednar went down and they realized no one could hold a lead in the late innings. They need a backup. I’m not sure the “losers of the rotation” contest is the sole way they should fill the pen.

On the other hand if BC wants to make ’23 another transition year then he’ll still just sign the C and SP and try to mix & match/open tryout at 1B, OF and RP until the next wave of promotions. Sigh.

AdministrativeSky236

I do like your option of Q and a solid leverage bp arm as i feel thats probably a more realistic scenario than two solid starting pitchers money wise. Though, i do think its worth mentioning guys like yerry and holdermann were also key injuries that would provide solid depth in the late innings. One more leverage arm, ideally LHRP, gives them a strong quartet for next year imo

SBRO

Yerry and Holderman definitely have slots in a good 2023 pen, but important to note that neither one has pitched a full major league season yet and they both had season-ending injuries, so a return to health AND form is far from a guarantee. I’d start them both in middle relief and let it sort itself out.

Something like Bednar, FA, Crowe, De Jong, Holderman, Yerry, Thompson and either an NRI or Underwood or whoever would make for a good (not great) 8-man pen. Just as important would be lining up 2 relievers at Indy (who have options) with some major league experience. Yohan Ramirez hasn’t been awful. Stout maybe. They acquired Jeremy Beasley for some reason, maybe him. But Mears, Junior Fernandez, Bañuelos and Stephenson all are out of options, and in my opinion should be non-tendered. No sense carrying a fringey bullpen arm that you can’t send to AAA on the 40-man all winter at this stage of the game.

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

I’m gonna toss Triolo in as a potential early season 2B option. The higher tiered prospects wouldn’t be options till at least mid-season. Bae is a strong possibility. I’d even consider him in CF depending on where Swaggerty actually stands with the org. My gut tells me they’ll go with the veteran ranking system and Reynolds won’t actually move off CF till it’s imperative.

Problem at 2B is they have either someone who can hit (Castro) but grades out poorly defensively, or someone who can field (Marcano) but doesn’t hit for shit. Newman is the closest to being the “full package”, but he’s just the best bench bat in a pool or bench bats.

roberto

My sense is that the organization thinks highly of Swags.

roberto

The jump from A+ and protected development time in AAA are consistent with that. Elite CF defense and speed, a strong arm, and a league-average bat are valuable. Intel that I am misreading this would be welcome.

ArkyWags

I think the concern is that his bat is substantially below league average. He’s league average at Indy; that in no way equates to league average at MLB. Might make him a fourth OF though.

Last edited 2 months ago by ArkyWags
tmcgowan

Newman is a competent major leaguer who should stay on the club but not be a starter.

skliesen

Newman, with his 1 HR bat, needs to be a late inning defensive replacement MI who gets a spot start 1-2 days/week vs LHSP. In no way is he a good regular starting option on a contender.

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

Completely agree. Issue is will anyone step up and actually TAKE the spot from him. Should he be the starter? No. But they need someone to take it, with Castro or Bae likely to be first shot at this point. Mostly Castro.

AttyMike

Why would they need help in 2023? Its going to be another year of tryouts and waiver claims with winning perhaps not on the top 10 list of things that are important to this management team.

docdon385

I hope you’re wrong but fear you’re right. If they bring in some thrift store outfielder (and I’d put Gamel in that class), don’t sign a real first baseman and keep their current group of catchers while insisting on keeping top prospects in the minors until July, next year will wind up looking a lot like this one.

RAS TN

Toothfairy…

SufferinBuccotash

Jason Delay has excelled defensively?

k1rainey

that and the underwood comment stood out the most as curious thoughts

mpg43952

Compared to what? Like somebody on here said, Doumit doesn’t look so bad now.

roberto

OK. That was a cry for help. I’ve seen PONY league catchers better than Doumit.

mpg43952

Yes, you have me there!

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