Pirates Roundtable: Who Will Pitch the Most Innings For the Pirates in 2023?

Last week on Roundtable, we each listed a position battle on the Pittsburgh Pirates roster that we will be watching during Spring Training. This week, we’re looking at the pitching staff.

By my count, there are at least nine starting pitchers who should get time in the majors this year. Mitch Keller, Roansy Contreras, and JT Brubaker are returning to the rotation. The Pirates added Rich Hill and Vince Velasquez as offseason free agents.

The end of the 2023 season saw the Pirates debuts of Johan Oviedo and Luis Ortiz, who should both factor into the early-season depth. Two of the top pitching prospects in the system, Quinn Priester and Mike Burrows, are also expected to arrive in the majors in 2023.

With so many options, I asked everyone this week to project the top five starters in innings pitched by the end of the season.

Who do you think will pitch the most innings for the Pirates in 2023?


1. Mitch Keller
2. Roansy Contreras
3. JT Brubaker
4. Vince Velasquez
5. Rich Hill

I think the Pirates know their starting rotation already, barring injury of course. So I see those guys making up the top five pitchers for innings this year. I believe Mitch Keller, Roansy Contreras and JT Brubaker will be in the rotation all season, throwing 150+ innings each, while Rich Hill and Vince Velasquez are much less likely to stay all year on one-year contracts.

I have Hill fifth because I think he is more likely to be traded, but he also doesn’t go deep into games. I could see Velasquez sticking around as a reliever to finish out the year, or even moving to a long relief role mid-season. It will probably be easier to trade Hill with his track record. They will likely be around 100 innings each.

Johan Oviedo will be the biggest challenge to cracking the top five. I think he starts the year as rotation depth in Indianapolis, taking the role early on as the first man up. That time in the minors will keep him just below Hill to finish the year, but he will still see a decent amount of time throughout the year. I’d put him in the same tier as Velasquez/Hill.

Oviedo would be followed by Luis Ortiz, Mike Burrows and Quinn Priester in that order to begin the season, but that order could change as the season goes along and the three sort themselves out. Either way, I think all nine players mentioned here will get 5+ starts in 2023.


1. Mitch Keller
2. J.T. Brubaker
3. Roansy Contreras
4. Rich Hill
5. Johan Oviedo

I’m not going to predict injuries, which obviously is the big wild card in forecasting starter innings. So Keller, Brubaker and Contreras are easy choices. Keller and Contreras figure to be the team’s two best starters, assuming nothing dramatic happens. Brubaker seems under-appreciated by Pirate fans. He’s made halting progress the last couple years and has had some good stretches, so it’s worth them sticking with him to see whether he can step up the way Keller did in 2022.

It gets tougher after that. Hill threw 126 innings in 2022, but he’ll be 43 in a couple weeks. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s a given that he’ll depart at the deadline like Tyler Anderson and Jose Quintana. Even if he’s pitching well, two months of a 43-year-old pitcher isn’t going to bring much in a trade. Well, not much apart from salary relief for Bob Nutting, so he could get traded. Everything about Hill points to a Bryse Wilson type of performance, except that instead of going five innings and allowing three runs over and over, he’s more like to go five and allow two, which should get him well over 100 innings.

The last one is tougher. Vince Velasquez has inexplicably drawn numerous comparisons to Anderson and Quintana. The reality is, those guys were very good pitchers when healthy. Unlike them, Velasquez isn’t a reclamation project, because he’s never been a good pitcher. Since his one solid season, way back in 2016, he’s had a 5.26 ERA as a starter. The big thing he’s got going for him is a $3.15M guaranteed contract, which will buy him a lot of time. Still, at some point the Pirates have to start giving chances to guys who have a chance of being part of the team’s future, like Oviedo, Luis Ortiz, and Quinn Priester.

I’m guessing at some point Velasquez will have to give way and that Oviedo will be first up. That may even come about with a six-man rotation, or with Oviedo getting spot starts for various reasons. Of the various possibilities, he’s the most experienced, although there’s the risk that he won’t throw enough strikes. So, it’s a close call.


1. Mitch Keller
2. Roansy Contreras
3. Rich Hill
4. JT Brubaker
5. Johan Oviedo

Unless something crazy happens, or injuries really hit, this may end up being a boring season when it comes to predicting the rotation, and the innings they pitch. I don’t think Brubaker gets the credit he deserves as a backend starter, and while he may eventually get bumped out for one of the prospects, some of his pitch metrics (xFIP and fWAR) were right up there with Mitch Keller, who doesn’t have a second thought about him being in the rotation.

Hill probably lasts until the deadline, making him close to a lock, even if he doesn’t finish the season with the team. Oviedo may end up being some sort of swingman, but should get enough starts, especially if Vince Velasquez falters, to end up here as well.

Of course, they will make room for the prospects in Indianapolis when ready, but if the major league pitchers are performing well enough, the Pirates can hold off doing so as long as possible, limiting their overall innings in 2023.

If there is a prospect that squeezes into the list, it will probably be Luis Ortiz, who is closer to being major league ready than Mike Burrows or Quinn Priester.


1. Mitch Keller
2. JT Brubaker
3. Roansy Contreras
4. Luis Ortiz
5. Mike Burrows

This is a difficult question for a multitude of reasons. Who is going to stay healthy? Who is going to be able to maintain some semblance of consistency? If we go back to 2021, who would have had Wil Crowe picked to lead the team in starts and finish second in innings pitched? 

Setting aside the Covid shortened season, Rich Hill has eclipsed 100 innings pitched in five of the last six full seasons. So, on the surface, Hill would seem like a solid choice to finish in the Pirates top five of innings pitched. Will he remain healthy and effective? Would the front office trade him at the deadline, which could be a case of opening a rotation spot for another pitcher? My gut is telling me one way or another he doesn’t finish in the top five. 

Mitch Keller has had quite the rocky career before appearing to finally see hit breakthrough during the 2022 season. Covid season aside (again), you have to go back to 2015 for a season that Keller DIDN’T break at least 100 IP, and he was in Rookie ball then. I’m buying the new Keller to finish in the top five, and even likely to finish with the most innings pitched. 

I’ll keep it short and sweet on JT Brubaker by saying I think he’s been better than most give him credit for. I believe he’s a very stable backend starter that will give them innings and keep them in games. Brubaker has also had some bouts with injuries, but I think he’ll still finish north of 100 IP. 

Roansy Contreras fell just shy of 100 MLB innings pitched in 2022. With his service time manipulation season out of the way, and what can probably be considered a lock for the rotation, I think he’s an easy pick for top five. Since the Pirates are still not truly in a contention window, it’s a perfect season to ride his ups-and-downs. If he’s good, that’s great. If he struggles, I don’t think they’ll do anything drastic unless he’s REALLY bad. 

Here is where things get tricky. To begin, it’s possible Oscar Marin works some magic, but I don’t believe Vince Velasquez is long for the rotation. Reports are the Pirates believe in Johan Oviedo as a starter, and I imagine they’ll give him all the chances in the world. He should be one of the first call-ups for starter depth. From what I saw last season, I feel his fastball is going to hold him back as a starter. He had a couple strong starts against teams like the Cincinnati Reds, but he also struggled against better hitting clubs. The slider is plus, but he found himself in deep counts early with a fastball that was too hittable and getting fouled off a lot. 

Luis Ortiz on the other-hand has two really strong offerings in his fastball and slider. He had some instant success in his short 2022 stint, and I think will be the depth starter in 2023 that has the best chance to see an early 2023 call-up – if he doesn’t manage to beat out Velasquez to begin with – and stick in the majors. He’s also built like a horse. 

Then, Mike Burrows is on the 40-man roster, and I think has some of the better stuff of the upper level starting options. Even if it isn’t until after the Super Two cut-off date, I think he still has a strong chance to finish top five in innings pitched for the big club. There were some recent clips from workouts that appeared to show Burrows with a retooled windup. It looked cleaner and less violent, which should help health and longevity. 

Now I’ll sit back and expect to be incorrect. 


1. Mitch Keller
2. Roansy Contreras
3. JT Brubaker
4. Luis Ortiz
5. Rich Hill

There are two parts to the rotation this year. The first part is the returning trio of Mitch Keller, Roansy Contreras, and JT Brubaker. Keller has taken a step forward in the last year, and is who I project to end up leading the rotation in innings and results. Contreras will get plenty of innings in his first full season in the big leagues. Brubaker has been reliable the last two years for innings and league-average results.

From there, the Pirates added Rich Hill and Vince Velasquez this offseason. My prediction is that Velasquez ends up in the bullpen. Hill might not be on the team beyond the trade deadline, although I believe the Pirates would opt to keep him around if they’re performing well, rather than trading him for a depth prospect to get lost in their already deep farm system.

The three prospects who could challenge for playing time from Velasquez are Luis Ortiz, Quinn Priester, and Mike Burrows. I’d also include Johan Oviedo in this group, though he’s not prospect eligible. Ortiz and Oviedo are most likely to be ready at the start of the year. I have Ortiz ahead of Oviedo. I think Ortiz will benefit from early-season injuries and performance issues to be one of the top five starters in innings this year.


1. Mitch Keller
2. Roansy Contreras
3. JT Brubaker
4. Rich Hill
5. Luis Ortiz
6. Johan Oviedo
7. Vince Velasquez
8. Mike Burrows
9. Quinn Priester

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.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

Having followed the Pirates fanatically since 1965, Wilbur Miller is one of the fast-dwindling number of fans who’ve actually seen good Pirate teams. He’s even seen Hall-of-Fame Pirates who didn’t get traded mid-career, if you can imagine such a thing. His first in-person game was a 5-4, 11-inning win at Forbes Field over Milwaukee (no, not that one). He’s been writing about the Pirates at various locations online for over 20 years. It has its frustrations, but it’s certainly more cathartic than writing legal stuff. Wilbur is retired and now lives in Bradenton with his wife and three temperamental cats.

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.

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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Ethan Hullihen

Posted this quick answer to Twitter, so here you go:

Too much sickness and RSN to be able to address this this week, but I’m not even sure who I would have said…


Ortiz maybe?

Hill is likely hurt some/possibly traded. Velasquez more likely to be Jonathan Sanchez than anyone else.

Not sure the likes of Priester/Burrows make enough starts to come up in this discussion.


I wonder if they will use 6 guys, pairing one with Hill, then pull Hill after 3-4-5 innings to put in the 6th man. That would limit his innings and maybe make him more trade able at the deadline


b mcferren

anybody see Barry today talking it up with Oneil?


Larkin? That would be cool.


I loved Larkin and Chris Sabo back in the day.


Big respect for throwing JT some love.

Brubaker performed almost exactly to the level of a 50 FV starting pitcher in 2022, which is generally the highest grade projected for Roansy Contreras. I’m not sure which part of that statement would blow peoples minds more.


idk how much this matters, but i’ve seen him as a guy who ranks highly in “max velo – avg velo”, maybe indicating a modicum of additional upside.

his career numbers are 9.24 k/9, 3.11 bb/9, 1.45 hr/9, 4.99 era, 3.96 xfip.

i’m gonna ask the question i’ve been asking since i was hoodwinked by drew hutchison….

how does a guy have the stuff to strike out a guy every inning, the control to only walk 3 per 9, yet still throw enough meatballs to be horrible with giving up homers. I guess the answer is probably *bad command*.

hopefully Hedges and Marin can work something out because he really does *seem* talented.

i suppose even if theres not some hidden upside, everyone here has captured the idea well. he’s a perfectly reasonable backend starter, and that’s always a development win.

Last edited 1 month ago by jaygray007

He gives up a ton of hard contact among other things. His xStats are in the bottom 20th percentile of MLB; not a ringing endorsement for a guy that’s been in the league a couple years. He would have been a guy I tried to float in some trade discussions this past offseason; he’s a major regression candidate.


Perfectly put. I’m not sure how much fans realize that a guy who rates as a 3/4 rotation wise is no disappointment at all. You can’t get carried away thinking all prospects will be the best version of themselves. It’ll break your heart.


Every pitcher always feels like they’re one breakthrough away from being a star. Not every pitcher has that moment. And even the ones that do might be more Jake Arrieta than Nolan Ryan. A guy who delivers a couple of WOW! seasons but ends with a darn-good-but-not great career.


I thought this question was relatively easy –

  1. The bullpen. Keller is the only starter even beginning to go past 5 innings on a regular basis.
  2. Keller. See #1
  3. Contreras or Brubaker – whichever one stays healthy or can convince Shelton to let them pitch the 6th inning.
  4. The other one. See #3
  5. Oviedo, Ortiz, or Burrows – whichever of these three triumphs over the aged, the alliterated and the competition.

Honorable mention – Either Hill or the most overused bullpen pitcher. If you strike the group (#1 ), the overused bullpen pitcher might make it up to #4 on the charts.

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

I was really contemplating throwing a reliever into the mix. But I’m hoping Shelton alters his methods a bit. Plus I think there’s more useful relievers this time around where on a given day we won’t have only two not-completely-terrible relievers available. 70 IP is generally about the cap for an “overused” reliever, and I still think at least five starters crack that.

Last edited 1 month ago by Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

So many bullpen options…will be fun to see how this shakes out at the end of the year.


A starting pitcher…


Hill (would be higher, but he’s veteran leftie trade bait)


Glad to see most of yinz aren’t betting the house on VV. Drekkers taking the risky pick IMHO. I think he was signed as desperation depth before Rich Hill signed. Now I bet brass wishes he would go away. Oviedo should beat him in ST. I doubt they bring Ortiz/Burrows/Preister north regardless in April due to…blah blah. Injuries will hit and Hill is the most likely target 🎯 so Ortiz rounds out my five workhorses

b mcferren

sources say trade is going down momentarily with the Twins

b mcferren

Krilloff and Farmer coming here for Choi and Brubaker


I kind of miss these, thanks. Looking forward to what else your sources have to say.

b mcferren

they are still bullish on the Reynolds for Julio Urias deal

Scam likely

Vince Velasquez-168ip
Mitch keller- 167ip
Johan Oviedo-140 ip
Roansy Contreras 135ip
Luis Ortiz 125ip
Rich hill has a season long blister injury, jt becomes 8th inning set up man and priester and borrows may get some starts also Velasquez a 3 signs a 3 yr 39 million dollar deal Aug 1.


I’m a little worry about Contreras, his velocity was way down late in the season and his FB was hammered after dominating with it early in the season. In my opinion Keller and Brubaker by a mile.


Agreed, so I’d go Keller, Brubaker, Oviedo, Contreras, Ortiz. Hill gives into age, Velasquez ends up in the pen, Oviedo shows last year wasn’t a fluke, and Ortiz pitches well but starts in AAA and his inning count doesn’t begin until June.


I hope he was just gassed, but he had forearm issues in Altoona.

  1. Keller
  2. JT
  3. Roansy
  4. Ortiz
  5. Hill

My man.


Nice little blurb about the Buccos at mlbtr




I have no quibble with any of the lists regarding the players selected or their order. These guesses are as good as anyone closely following this team. What strikes me most is the nine pitchers involved. It’s made up of established major leaguers and honest to goodness prospects. It’s been a long time, if ever, the Pirates have had such quality depth.


I’m 100% behind Wilbur on the inexplicable Pirate love for Velasquez.


What I don’t get is the Oviedo love affair. His numbers throughout his career as a starter are terrible. Maybe he found something in the couple of starts he had at the end of the season. To me, he’s reliever only.


I’d rather see Oviedo out there than VV. If Joan fails, put him in the bullpen. It isn’t so much that we ‘love’ him, it is that he is young and more worth a shot than VV.


I think VV has a chance to start in his contract


Why would he have that? It ain’t like he was in a position to demand that. He would’ve been luck to get a MiLB contract, imo.


I kind of agree with Tim, but it is kind of a flip between Oviedo or Ortiz. I feel VV will dropped from the rotation early. Likely by June, since he has not had much success as a starter. If Hill gets traded at the deadline it might hurt his case, since he will be more limited with his pitch count, and does not go as deep in games these days.

I do not know it is a given he will be traded at the deadline. It might not be as easy to trade a 43 year old pitcher, even if he is pitching well, and getting something worthwhile. It is not like trading a 33 year old or 31 year old pitcher. If he is pitching really well, teams would take him as a rental, but he would have to be pitching like Quintana last year, to make him worthwhile.


Trade him for some 16 yr old Dominican lottery ticket


Exactly. Hill will be announcing his retirement in Sept., he nor VV are trade bait.

Wilbur Miller

If it’s a question of picking a pitcher for the future rotation, between Oviedo and Ortiz, imo, it’s Ortiz, probably by a lot. If it’s a question of who’s going to get more innings this year, I just guessed Oviedo because he’s ahead in the line due to having more experience. Plus, Ortiz does have command issues — he was very erratic in AA last year. The bottom line is, give opportunities to guys with upside, as appropriate, and take it from there.

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