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Monday, December 5, 2022

Weekly Pirates Discussion: Takeaways From the 2022 Season

It’s obviously hard to be too optimistic about a 100-loss season, but I do think there were some potentially promising developments.

The Pittsburgh Pirates look to have a the beginning of a dependable rotation, with the biggest storyline being the turnaround from Mitch Keller.

Coming into the season, and even through the first couple months, Keller looked like he was just never going to fully live up to his hype. After some mechanical adjustments in the offseason he was topping out at upper 90’s once again, even touching 100. Unfortunately his control was still erratic and he was far too hittable. Around mid-May is when the new and improved Sinker-Mitch showed up. Following two appearances out of the bullpen, Keller started throwing his sinker more often on May 31st and never looked back.

From May 31st to the end of the season, Keller made 22 starts to the tune of a 3.22 ERA, 3.69 FIP, and 3.82 xFIP. Those are very quality numbers and what you’d love to see from a mid-rotation starter.

Another pitcher that looks as if he should have a rotation spot locked up is JT Brubaker. After a difficult start to the year, Brubaker himself saw a nice turnaround in May. Going from Brubaker’s May 7th start through the end of the season, he carried a 4.44 ERA, but that came with a 3.78 FIP and 3.70 xFIP. The contrast in numbers could partially be attributed to Brubaker generally not having the best defense behind him. He added about 20 innings — 124.1 IP in 2021 to 144.0 IP in 2022 — that hopefully will help him be more durable in 2023 and avoid time on the IL.

On the position player side there weren’t very many positive story lines. Bryan Reynolds maintained his status as one of the better hitting outfielders in the game with a 125 wRC+, but that also came at the behest of substantially declining defensively in center field. On the flip side, Ke’Bryan Hayes showed that he may very well win a handful of Gold Gloves on the hot corner at third base, but his bat didn’t take a step forward even with some very promising batted ball data. Hayes hits the ball hard, and he hits it hard often. If they can find any tweak in his launch angle, then look out. Kevin Newman was someone that I honestly had all but written off, and he had a quality year where he could be considered for an early everyday role, or be looked upon as the #1 bench guy that is used in an almost everyday role.

From there, in terms of veterans, the bigger question is going to be who they may look for in the off-season.

The hottest topic in Pirates World is the prospects. And who other than Oneil Cruz perfectly epitomizes this?

Cruz showcased why he is very special. He also showcased some of the questions people have had over the course of his professional career. At times it looks like there isn’t a more athletic player in the game, but at others it looks like his fundamentals just disappear. It’s promising that Cruz seemed to see advancements at the plate towards the end of the season, but I personally am not completely sold on shortstop as his position moving forward. The reason why we mention sample sizes is it takes time to develop enough of one to get a feel on where a player’s skills truly stand. Cruz may be able to give you average defense, and the question is do you want to leave an average defender at shortstop just so we can say we have a shortstop that hits 30, 40, 50+ home runs? Home runs are home runs, regardless of where they come from, and I believe with some guided specific training that Cruz’s skillset could make him an above-average to plus defender anywhere in the outfield.

The best way to describe Rodolfo Castro is probably “Mini Cruz”. It makes sense as to why the two of them have become best friends. Castro is an electric player that at times showcases a lot of power from his stature, and is athletic enough to handle any position defensively. Unfortunately he can get ahead of himself at times and so far hasn’t graded out well defensively at second base. He was better at third base, but that spot is taken up for the long term. Castro’s future could go one of two ways in that he may be the starting second base to begin 2023, or if they decide to give it to Newman and let Castro be the #1 bench guy.

Ji Hwan Bae had a very limited run in Pittsburgh, but I think he in the least proved why he has some value to the team with his speed and defensive versatility. Reynolds shouldn’t stay in center field, and unless the Pirates bring in someone who can play center, they may give Bae a shot at it. Jack Suwinski had an interesting season with the bat. He obliterated pitching at home while struggling on the road. Jack showed that scouts maybe undersold his defense and if he can find some consistency on the road, then he is possibly a hidden gem for this team.

Returning to the rotation for a moment, another one of the biggest names was Roansy Contreras. He only turns 23 in November, and looks to have a bright future. He had periods of domination that give reason to be optimistic. Another young starter that jumped on the page was Luis Ortiz. His MLB time was very limited, but he showcased a high end fastball that may help him find his way back into the rotation either at the end of spring or early in 2023 season.

Last but not least we have the bullpen. I’m biased, but I still think Yerry De Los Santos showed he could compliment a healthy (and hopefully not overused) David Bednar. There’s a handful of arms that I wouldn’t mind in the bullpen, I just believe most of them shouldn’t see the late innings.

This is my overview of the 2022 season, and in part why I said in my portion of the Roundtable that I can’t see them contending in 2023, but that they may be on the cusp of developing a foundation to contend in 2024.

What are your thoughts on the 2022 season? Setting aside your feelings of the coaches and front office, do you feel more or less optimistic of the near future?

+ posts

Raised in Cranberry Twp, PA, Jeff attended Kent State University and worked in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, before moving to New Orleans in September of 2012. His background is as an Engineering Designer, but he has always had a near unhealthy passion for Pittsburgh sports. Hockey and Baseball are his 1A and 1B, combined with his mathematical background, it's led to Jeff's desire in diving into analytics. Jeff is known as Bucs'N'Pucks in the comments, and began writing for Pirates Prospects in 2022 after contributing so many useful bits of information in the comment section.

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CTBucco

From mlb.com, how the playoff teams were constructed. Note how few FA’s on the Astros, Guardians, and Mariners. Even StL has only 4. Those are our models. But the FA’s must be impactful, and we should note how many of their guys come from trades. I assume they would count guys like Cruz & Contreras as coming from trades despite spending time in our MiLB system.

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Last edited 1 month ago by CTBucco
EightMenOut

Caleb Hamilton, a catcher, and Jermaine Palacios, a utility infielder (all four positions!), passed by the Pirates on waivers and we did NOT claim them. progress!

john_fluharty

Actually surprising how few international guys most of these teams have.

CTBucco

I wonder how they categorize a guy that was signed int’l but is then traded a la Cruz or Contreras?

EightMenOut

I would assume “trade”, since we were not the ones that obtained them via the int’l route.

john_fluharty

That’s what I was assuming too.

john_fluharty

Zero rule five guys? What?

john_fluharty

You are right. Rule 5 draft vindicated!

CTBucco

Agreed. Lots of trade acquisitions. I assume they count guys that came in as minor leaguers – like a lot of our prospects/players. Cruz, Contreras, Suwinski, Bednar, Reynolds, CSN, Endy, Peguero, Nunez are all here via trade and will or may be (better be) part of our next contender.

PirateRican21

Bido, Thomas, Flowers, Bolton, Samaniego, Selby are some of the arms I hope take over some of the bullpen spots next year, not to mentioned rehabbing arms like Kranick, Cenderlind , McGough.

AdministrativeSky236

A fair amount of intriguing names here imo. Could see a big internal improvement if arms are utilized better in 2023. Though, that is certainly a big IF

PirateRican21

There is enough potential to at least not waste money on a crappy free agent signing. I’m all for a adding a good one or two bullpen pieces this off season, especially a set up/7-8 inning arm, but no more Hembre types.

Last edited 1 month ago by PirateRican21
Mtgj

I couldn’t agree more. Sign 2 proven guys( preferable one lefty and one righty) for the bullpen to go with bednar. 3 legit guys to go with all the young arms and the bullpen can at-least be average which I think could improve the buccos record by 10 games.

b mcferren

sign Contreras

Wilbur Miller

I tend to think of the 2022 season more in terms of “goaways.”

bianco599

I would love for Bae to hit at least 260. Play great defense and steal a lot of bags. Does Tony Womack have a son we could draft?

Mtgj

The outfielder from Vanderbilt looks like he will be a speedster that is a great contact guy.

I haven’t done a ton of research on next years draft, but I remember thinking that he would be a fun guy to follow if the pirates drafted him. Who knows maybe he is related to Tony Womack.

bianco599

I know different countries, different skill sets, I guess different most everything but I have always longed for a Dollar General man’s Ichiro. He doesn’t even have to be from the Far East. I did say DG. I will look into the OF from Vandy (Enrique Bradford?). Looked at his stats. I think you may be right.

AdministrativeSky236

@ bmcferren, I saw you pop up on the MLBTR chat lol, I have no idea if that dude’s projection is legit because 2/36-40 seems pretty heavy for where Q is at but maybe im underestimating. Unfortunately, I don’t see bob ponying up for that if his market is that good

Unless i am misinterpreting and he means 2/18-20 overall, which I would be very down for

Last edited 1 month ago by AdministrativeSky236
b mcferren

i pay them in peanuts to pick me – – – all I had to do was spell his name right

there’s no way Cantina resigns here

now I am thinking that SD throws a ton a money and Judge and DeGrom and they need to shed salary by sending us Snell for some prospects

CTBucco

We could give them Marcano and Miliano. I’ll keep Suwinski.

Shultzie31

Feels weird to say this but bummed about the cards. As an organization that doesn’t know the term respect, whether for self or others I was honestly hoping they would make a run… vs the alternatives. Definitely the organization I respect the most out of the NL teams… go whoever plays the dodgers

robertkasperski

 “go whoever plays the dodgers”

I second this with an extra Go whoever plays the Yankees!!

PirateRican21

Bummed about the Cards!

forkball

I’m one of the few that is much more optimistic about this coming year as opposed to this time last year. I’ve given management the benefit of the doubt for the two pandemic years, but now they need to make good. They should be trying to challenge for a wild card position next year if BC does his job this off-season. Veteran pitcher or two, 1B, and C. It’s doable! I will be very critical if this team does not win at least 15 more games next year. Too many games this year where they lost games where they played the process as opposed to the game in front of them.

Thanks for everyone who contributed to the discussions this year. I like civil disagreements, but we could use a little less negativity – ha!

robertkasperski

I am with you. I have long said that BC will turn his sights on the major league roster once the minor leaguers are hitting the major league roster and it is more clear as to what holes remain in the rebuild. Well that time should be now. Top prospects have started to hit the Show with more on the cusp. I really hope that I am right  👃 

robertkasperski

Lol! That emoji was supposed to be 🙏

forkball

au contraire! You are the more optimistic one! Thanks Jeff!

b mcferren

Peguero and Suwinski for Snell

Shultzie31

Wouldn’t get it done but a good thought

adicesa14

Though I agree with the 2024 assessment for possible contention, I’d point out that the ‘contention year’ seems to be moving forward year by year.

b mcferren

good for Adam Frazier tonight

PirateRican21

Extend Frazier, extend Frazier!

James_Robert5

I’ve really enjoyed your work this year.

Slightly off topic but is anything on this list surprising to you?

https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/leaderboard/arm-strength?year=2022&minThrows=50&pos=&team=

john_fluharty

I didn’t realize Newman had such a weak arm at short. I guess it shows the arm strength isn’t everything.

roberto

The throws and the requirements are very different.

RAS TN

Still lack major league talent, and if you wait until the minor leagues provide that talent in mass or at least in sufficient quantity, well good luck with that…

Will they be better next year, that possibility exists, but so does floundering again…I would say in equal portions…50/50 which for me is a sight better than this year which for me was 10/90…

The Gunner

RAS………hope you are well, haven’t seen you at the Asylum in years.

I am quite concerned 2023 will be a carbon copy of 2022. IMO, the 2023 Pirates need to win between 72-75 games – it’s time for Cherington’s scholarship to end and be accountable.

john_fluharty

I think it’ll be different in that we won’t be giving as many innings to the vanmeters of the baseball world, but I’m not sure it will be any better in terms of the record.

bradlej31

Pirates bullpen and defense took a them from a below average team this year to terrible.

Fixing the bullpen is probably easier since up until now they haven’t even tried to address it.

ArkyWags

Agreed. If anyone made the argument that just about anyone who throws hard can be a good pen arm, I direct you to the 2022 Bucs.

RAS TN

When you use them, and how often you use them is the key to a successful bullpen…

Wilbur Miller

The key is scheduling appearances two months ahead. Otherwise the mgr might have to think DURING A GAME, if you can imagine such a thing. There could be carnage on a vast scale, cats and dogs lying down together, just untold horrors.

Wilbur Miller

BC is still on the “Which direction does he throw in?” part.

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