Pirates Prospects Daily: How The Rotations At Each Level Are Shaping Up

There’s still enough time in the offseason where the Pittsburgh Pirates can make some moves and add to the system. Even so, we are starting to get an idea at how things may start to shape up in the minors.

We won’t know who is being sent where until right before the season starts, but with what we know so far, here’s how the rotation may shape up at each level.

Pittsburgh/Indianapolis

Triple-A is going to be interesting this year when it comes to the rotation. In years prior you probably wanted to stack as many depth options there to cover for injuries and such. This year will be a little different, as some of the team’s top pitching prospects will be starting in Indianapolis.

That’s why I decided to combine these two levels, as one directly impacts the other more than the other teams in the minors. 

In the majors, Mitch Keller, Roansy Contreras, and JT Brubaker seem like locks so far, with Johan Oviedo probably not far behind them.

That would leave a Bryse Wilson/Vince Velasquez/Zach Thompson competition for the final spot, with Wilson having a default advantage due to him being out of options and would have to go through waivers to be sent to the minors. Velasquez’s edge comes in the $3.15 million the team committed to him. 

That would force Luis Ortiz, Mike Burrows, and probably Thompson (all on the 40-man) to Indianapolis to bide their time. Thompson pitched out of the bullpen to end the season, but the Pirates might want to keep another arm on the 40-man stretched out in case of emergencies, and he still has options.

To fill out the Indy rotation would be Quinn Priester and either a combination of one of the other 2022 Altoona starters — Carmen Mlodzinski and Kyle Nicolas — or a Jerad Eickhoff type free agent signing.

Altoona

The Curve may be some sort of middle ground this upcoming season. There is a possibility we see quite a few repeats, at least to start, like we saw Jack Suwinski last year.

Whoever is left out between Mlodzinski and Nicolas — or even both — could headline the rotation in 2022, or even be shifted into the bullpen. 

Sean Sullivan, Jared Jones, Nick Garcia, Justin Meis and Ricky DeVito are potential option from Greensboro to fill out the rotation.

Altoona started the year last season by piggybacking a lot, using pitchers in three to four inning outings to ease them in, before eventually stretching a few out into traditional starter roles.

Greensboro

The Grasshopper rotation might be one of the most intriguing to watch this upcoming season, and could be one of the deepest. They as well could start the year using upwards of six or seven pitchers in multi-inning outings. 

Anthony Solometo should headline a group that should also include Valentin Linarez, Po-Yu Chen, Carlos Jimenez, and Braxton Ashcraft. Bubba Chandler struggled a bit with his control, and only pitched 26 innings in Bradenton, it is possible they start him there again before moving him up at some point in the season.

Thomas Harrington was the 36th overall pick and has an advanced college pitch set, which gives him a strong case to start the year with Greensboro.

Bradenton

If Harrington does get squeezed out, he’d headline the Marauders rotation. It would be a little hard to predict who moves up, but Cristofer Cruz, Wilber Dotel, and Alessandro Ercolani were among the leaders in games started and innings pitched for the Pirates FCL team this past season, so they would make the most sense.

The Pirates have a lot of decisions to make this upcoming year, and we could see quite a few starters get shifted to the bullpen this year as part of the roster jam. They also could make some trades to move out some of these names to create space for others. 

Highlight of the Day

Pirates Prospects Daily

By Tim Williams

**With the Pirates making several moves already to add relievers, I broke down where the bullpen stands at this point in the offseason.

**Anthony featured Rule 5 pick Jose Hernandez, who has a pitch mix that fits perfectly in an MLB bullpen.

**Anthony had an article on Domingo Gonzalez ready for last week. I thought it would have gotten buried during the winter meetings. Then, Gonzalez was taken in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft. We adjusted it, and ran it this week, showing you one of the better players the Pirates lost. I wouldn’t say this is a big loss, as the Pirates had a lot of depth for Gonzalez to compete with.

**The Pirates made their signing of RHP Vince Velasquez official, announcing him as a member of the starting group.

**Oneil Cruz, Rodolfo Castro, and Miguel Andujar all saw action in the latest Pirates winter league update from John Dreker.

**Missed yesterday? Anthony looked at how Canaan Smith-Njigba fits into the outfield picture.

Song of the Day

Pirates Prospects Weekly

Tuesday is our weekly article drop. We had three articles this week.

**With the Pirates making several moves already to add relievers, I broke down where the bullpen stands at this point in the offseason.

**Anthony featured Rule 5 pick Jose Hernandez, who has a pitch mix that fits perfectly in an MLB bullpen.

**Anthony had an article on Domingo Gonzalez ready for last week. I thought it would have gotten buried during the winter meetings. Then, Gonzalez was taken in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft. We adjusted it, and ran it this week, showing you one of the better players the Pirates lost. I wouldn’t say this is a big loss, as the Pirates had a lot of depth for Gonzalez to compete with.

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.

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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NMR

whataboutism is annoying and so am I but it blows my mind how little traction the biggest upper level breakout in the entire sport gets on this board.

If anybody is positioned for an aggressive push into the show across either side of the ball it’s Luis Ortiz.

Tim Williams

In every one of my writeups, my expectation is that Ortiz starts in the minors. I think he gets the Contreras treatment this year.

Scrappy2499

Hey who was talking about going out and getting J.P. Feyereisen yesterday from the Rays? The Dodgers picked him up for 25 year old repeating High-A. Looks like they liked your idea.

JimEastTennessee

I was really thinking Stripling would fall to the Pirates, but I am surprisingly hopeful with Vazquez. I think he will provide an excellent trade chip value.
Still going to be a LONG 2023…

JimEastTennessee

JimEastTennessee

2024 looks promising…

jaygray007

i know this situation isnt *good* but it does feel nice to actually have a few decent arms available in AAA as depth

Mblee24

The more I look at it the more I’m ok with rolling with what we have and sorting through. The hope would be priester and burrows are up by the end of the year. Then you go get a veteran on a long term deal next year and roll with something like:
1. Keller
2. Contreas
3. Priester
4. Burrows
5. Veteran

jaygray007

this works. the only issue i can currently see is that there isn’t a ton of high end pitching on the way, so i fear that that team will only be 5 pitchers deep. No good AAA guys once Burrows and Priester are up for good.

The unfortunate thing is that 2023 would be a perfect “go for it” year, given that Burrows and Priester are depth. It’d great to be able to have your just-about-ready prospects be your depth.

one of the big things that stood out to me about the good teams is that their #6 -10 sp’s were all as good as the pirates- 1-5. “Trying to win” requires that kind of depth. We’ll see if the pirates manage to backfill for Burrows and Priester somehow in that year of time between now and then.

Last edited 1 month ago by jaygray007
emjayinTN

Is it still the Bob Nutting Pirates? Double V is in the Rotation based on his salary being higher than anybody else – VV $3.15 mil. Keller $2.4 mil; BRU $2.0 mil. Oviedo & Contreras – $750K apiece – a Rotation for less than $10 mil!

leefieux

Looks like Indy and Greensboro are the pitching staffs to watch this year?

Zack

If there is a starter squeeze on those teams, I hope they move guys to the pen and give them aggressive pushes to the next level.

NMR

And in another year it’ll be back to the same.

This Indy super class is positioned to provide the bulk of rotation talent for the better part of this decade.

leefieux

Well, being a long suffering Bucco fan, I will believe that when I see it. Between injuries and under performance, I have been disappointed too many times. I DO hope that most of them come thru. We could become Tampa Bay North?

NMR

Hey I never made claim to how good the talent would end up being. 😉

leefieux

True!

john_fluharty

Sorry to be the grammar police here but the article title should be IS not ARE.

bianco599

What about the dream police? They live inside of my head?

SouthernBuc

Grammar police, please do not read my posts. Thank you in advance.

leefieux

We take bribes, ya know!

Tim Williams

Rotations should have been plural.

Edit: I didn’t smoke any weed before editing this morning. That’s the real problem.

Last edited 1 month ago by Tim Williams
john_fluharty

Priorities young man. Smoke first then work.

bianco599

How do you smoke it? In my day, which was pretty recently, I used a glass pipe. But in my old days it was bongs, j’s, and pop can bowls.

john_fluharty

Back in my college days it was just weed. Now there’s like 3000 different variations each of which has a different colorful name.

bianco599

If memory serves me it was home grown (shit), mids (decent and affordable) or kind bud (chronic and your entire smoking crew had to pitch in to afford a taste). I took what I could get.

Tim Williams

I have a glass pipe that gives me about three well-measured hits. Brand is Jane West. They’re really good. I’ve dropped it on hard surface a few times. My cats have knocked it off the counter twice. Once deliberately. It’s still going. Kind of annoying to clean, but you develop ways.

I can’t get high easily. In fact, I’ve been “high” only a handful of times this year. I need a bong to get me anywhere close. Or, at least a 1g joint to myself, in one sitting. I can microdose better with the pipe.

leefieux

Bongs were the best. I had a great one hitter. I stayed with it way too long, tho, which is why I am the way I am today.

Now, I am only allowed Medical Marijuana. I have to be careful that I don’t take too much, of course (snicker, snicker).

Last edited 1 month ago by leefieux
bianco599

Back in the day I would do what we called bucket hits. A gravity bong using a bucket with water, 2 liter pop bottle with bottom cut off and ratchet piece for bowl. Pull up while lighting and boom. Some crazy dude would drink the water after a few days. Not saying that was me.

Last edited 1 month ago by bianco599
leefieux

Never heard of that. You WERE hard core.

bianco599

Straight to the head man. Def got your money’s worth when a entire neighborhood pitched in for a bag. Food tasted better and songs sounded oh so sweeter.

leefieux

Those were the days!

Scam likely

Since it’s the pirates it should be argh!

SouthernBuc

I always enjoy the SP projections as in my daily minor league box score reviews, that is an area easy to track.

Unless I missed something it certainly appears Velasquez was given a rotation spot so I think there are 4 locks. From there IMO it is Oviedo vs Wilson for the final spot. Given Thompson lost his rotation spot last year and has an option he seems like the perfect candidate for the AAA ‘veteran’ who can come up for the inevitable emergency start. It also gives him another chance at proving he maybe can be a backend starter. He was intriguing and had at least one good stretch last year. With Ortiz and Burrows also on the 40 man, I hope they don’t add a another AAA veteran starter as those two can also spot start if needed.

In the Oviedo vs Wilson I prefer Oviedo but I was intrigued by Wilson’s 2nd half. I may have my facts wrong but he seemed like after his recall he consistently pitched 5 or 6 innings and gave up 3 or 4 runs (usually in one inning). In some ways his consistent mediocrity makes him the poster player for a 5th starter even on some winning teams. Given the smallish sample and his peripherals I get that may not be sustainable.

That leaves in AAA Ortiz, Burrows, Priester, Thompson, +1 which feels good! I slightly disagree with saying Ortiz and Burrows will be biding their time as I think both have something to prove. Ortiz made huge level jumps and could use work on a third pitch and Burrows was far from dominating in AAA. Personally I think they belong in AAA to start the year.

leefieux

I’d prefer Oviedo AND Wilson and his new pitch over VV.

JimEastTennessee

Wilson is looking like 3-innings only to me…even with his improved change.

leefieux

VV is looking like a no inning guy to me.

JimEastTennessee

maybe

leefieux

I hope that I am wrong, but….the odds are I ain’t.😂😂😂

JimEastTennessee

Well, I guess one of us is wrong…

john_fluharty

I think Wilson added a new pich just before his good run but I can’t remember now what it was.

Last edited 1 month ago by john_fluharty
James_Robert5

This video shows a bit of the new pitch

Guys change and it’s difficult to project who will or won’t be successful long term

https://www.mlb.com/news/bryse-wilson-tweaked-his-changeup-got-results-for-pirates

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