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.
.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.
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.
.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.
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.
.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.
.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.
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.
.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.
.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.