Ranking The Pittsburgh Pirates Who Made Their Debuts In 2022

Part of the plan for the Pittsburgh Pirates this year was to start the wave of prospects in the system, moving up to the major league team. They were able to get that done to the tune of 14 players making their major league debut with the Pirates this season. Some were expected, others a little less.

We got brief cameos, and we had a guy who started in Double-A and finished in a tie for the most home runs in the National League by a rookie. Here’s a look back at all 14 debuts and how their first appearance in the majors fared.

The Cameos: Cam Alldred, Liover Peguero, Canaan Smith-Njigba, and Travis Swaggerty

These players either played just a single game, or barely played in their time up with the Pirates, so it didn’t seem fair to rank them with the rest of the group. For Alldred and Peguero, they only played a single game before getting sent back down in the minors. Peguero picked up his first major league hit, and Alldred pitched a perfect inning in relief.

Smith-Njigba was an unfortunate case, as he played three games in two days but unfortunately broke his wrist and missed the rest of the season. He did pick up a double as a pinch-hitter in his first ever plate appearance.

Finally, Swaggerty was up for nearly a week, but barely played. He, too, was able to sneak in his first hit before being sent down.

Bligh Madris

.177/.244/.265 – 44 OPS+

Madris quickly became a fan favorite of those who weren’t already while he was in the minors. He got off to a very hot start, picking up 12 hits in his first 10 games with the Pirates before recording just eight in his last 29 games. He was DFAd and eventually claimed by the Tampa Bay Rays.

Cam Vieaux

10.38 ERA – 42 ERA+ – 4.73 FIP

Vieaux’s time in Pittsburgh will likely always be remembered by the infamous inning of relief he pitched where he threw 56 pitches. One thing to note in that, seven of the 10 earned runs he allowed in his 8 2/3 innings in the majors were surrendered in that game. He had a 3.52 ERA the rest of the games he played in.

Jason Delay

.213/.265/.271 – 53 OPS+

Delay had great defensive skills, and entered the season as more of a depth player at the position. To his credit, he ended up playing more games behind the plate than any other player for the Pirates this season.

Beau Sulser

3.72 ERA – 115 ERA+ – 4.56 FIP

This one might be a forgotten one as it happened earlier in the season, but Sulser wasn’t bad in his brief 9 2/3 inning stint with the Pirates. He was lost on waivers to the Orioles.

Diego Castillo

.206/.251/.382 – 76 OPS+

Coming over in the Clay Holmes trade, Castillo showed a great approach at the plate and the makeup of someone who could be a bench utility infielder at the major league level. He raked his way into an Opening Day roster spot, and then completely abandoned the approach that had worked so well for him in the minors, settling for an all or nothing approach at times. That did help him reach 11 home runs on the season, but there wasn’t much else there to be desired from his play.

Yerry De Los Santos

4.91 ERA – 85 ERA+ – 4.01 FIP

The Pirates had the makings of a really strong and deep bullpen, and De Los Santos was going to be a part of that. He had some really strong outings, even picking up three saves in the process, but also got hit around a bit. He allowed four earned runs without recording an out, before leaving the game with an injury that kept him out the rest of the season.

Cal Mitchell

.226/.286/.349 – 79 OPS+

Mitchell was about as advertised, he was one of the few players to make their debut this year to finish with a positive oWAR, but also finished with the worst dWAR as well. He did hit lefties better than he did righties – something he didn’t do much of in the minors.

Luis Ortiz

4.50 ERA – 94 ERA+ – 3.68 FIP

Ortiz burst on the scene and put together as good a three game stretch that any pitcher on the staff did at the major league level during 2022. Averaging 99 mph with his fastball, Ortiz struck out 17 batters in his first three starts, before a clunker of a season finale where he didn’t make it out of the first inning.

Ji-Hwan Bae

.333/.405/.424 – 136 OPS+

It was hard believing that everything that Bae did was in just 10 games. Bae picked up 11 hits in 10 games, three of which were doubles, he also stole three bases and scored five runs. His speed was as advertised, and he even pushed Bryan Reynolds out of center field for a game.

Jack Suwinski

.202/.298/.411 – 98 OPS+

Suwinski had one of the weirdest seasons you could have. His home/road splits were worse than someone playing at Coors Field, and despite hitting 19 home runs, he finished with a sub-100 OPS+ and barely stayed above the Mendoza Line. Part of that can be attributed his 30% strikeout rate. Outside of finishing in a tie for the rookie lead for home runs, Suwinski also played fantastic defense, even spelling Reynolds in center field on his off days.

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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soberg2002

As we saw with Cruz, Contreras and Castro, sometimes the second or third time is the charm. And next year’s list of debuting players may be epic i.e. Rodriguez, Priester, Burrows, Davis, Gonzalez, Nicholas, Sabol and then some. Include more of Bae, Peguero, Swaggerty and Smith-Njigba and the future looks bright. But can the present ownership and management be able to take advantage of this potential embarrassment of riches? I would bet against it but will hope otherwise.

roberto

Golly, I wonder who created this embarrassment of riches. The tooth fairy?

ArkyWags

There may be useful pieces, even if few of them are regulars. If Suwinski doesn’t improve and stays at what he is, he’s not a regular. But with big power and good defense, he sounds like a good fourth OF type who can play against righties. That’s worth something.

Bae and Ortiz had too little time to get a good read on.

Catch_22

Jack popped a 1.8 fWAR in 108 games. If he stays as-is, that’s a 3 win player over the course of a full season. My man, that’s a starter. Now, if he regresses and that’s entirely possible, then he becomes a bench piece.

But to call those players and embarrassment of riches is being a little overzealous.

ArkyWags

It isn’t three wins, but it’s close. Anyway, while I’d love to prorate him out to what he did this year, that doesn’t mean he is this going forward. Also, with his shortcomings against lefties (at least as of now) you can’t really prorate him out because he’s only going to be playing 65% of the time anyway.

Additionally, while he graded out very well on defense, that wasn’t a big part of his scouting profile. Maybe he is better defensively than we thought! Or maybe he just had a good defensive year like a guy who has an out of nowhere good offensive season.

Fortunately for him, since this management team isn’t gonna do dick this off-season, he’ll have every opportunity to improve on what he did this year with more playing time in 2023. But if he remains at this level, I think he’s a good bench piece and that’s a good thing to get out of a prospect who’s a 40 or so. Teams need that to succeed.

Last edited 3 months ago by ArkyWags
emjayinTN

All 3 of those guys did well in 2021 – Cruz was a 1.000 OPS in a SSS, Castro a .653 OPS, and Contreras 5-5, 3.79 ERA in 18 Starts.

Endy Rod, Bae, and Burrows are locks to see MLB in 2023. The people I would hope get a look in 2023 are Malcom Nunez 1B, Matt Gorski CF, Triolo 3B/1B. Swaggs struggled after missing so much time injured, but I hope he comes to ST strong next year.

Based on 2021 results, this team needs a Catcher with D and O, somebody in CF to bump Reynolds to LF part-time, and a strong fielding and hitting 1B. Add 3 guys like that and Bae at 2B, and this team can play .500 ball if not better. I like the Rotation with BRU, Keller, Contreras, and Oviedo 1 thru 4. Burrows, Ortiz, Bolton, and Priester can really add something next year. Oh, and another Manager!

roberto

The standard wisdom is that managers don’t matter. Why does this one?

mpg43952

Managerial incompetence hurt many of these players, but you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, as my dear old dad used to say..

MB21

Bae, Ortiz and maybe Suwinski were the only wooty-woo wins of the bunch at this point!

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