Williams: Will the Pirates Be the Worst, a Winner, or a Contender in 2023?

The Pittsburgh Pirates have been tanking.

Call it what you want, but the reality is that this team didn’t put much effort into adding to their MLB club in the previous three seasons. The result is that the Pirates have been the worst team in baseball from 2020-2022.

In that time, they’ve been building up their minor league system with prospects who could help the next winning team in Pittsburgh. The depth they’ve stacked up has made them one of the top farm systems in the game, and started to spill over to the majors last summer. A bigger wave is expected to arrive this year.

Pirates General Manager Ben Cherington responded with an offseason that was arguably busier than the previous three combined. The Pirates added Carlos Santana, Andrew McCutchen, Austin Hedges, Rich Hill, Ji-Man Choi, Vince Velasquez, Connor Joe, Jarlin Garcia, and a few other depth options for the big league club.

Every year I do a ZiPS-based analysis of the Pirates, using my playing time projections and the ZiPS WAR projections. This year, I expanded the process a bit, looking at the 20th and 80th percentile projections for hitters and pitchers, while also looking at the injury risks.

This year, I’m going to be breaking down the entire team based on the 20th / 50th / 80th percentile projections from ZiPS. I’ll give a projection for each position, and a team projection at the end. The outcome will still be the same: A win total much higher than ZiPS is projecting, but with 20th and 80th percentile outcomes.

The goal, as always, is to get a better understanding of how this team might win, and not necessarily how much this team might win.

But, everyone loves a pre-season win projection, so let’s see how things are looking on the other side of the tank.

Each of the individual player figures below comes from their ZiPS projection. I’ve noted the playing time I used for each player in the outlooks.


Projected Starter: Austin Hedges (WAR: 0.0 / 0.8 / 1.5, PA: 318)

Projected Backup: Kevin Plawecki (WAR: -0.4 / 0.1 / 0.6, PA: 189)

Top Prospect: Endy Rodriguez (WAR: 1.3 / 2.6 / 4.0, PA: 520)

2023 Outlook: ZiPS loves Endy Rodriguez. If we wanted to jack this projection up artificially, we could use his 520 plate appearances to fill most of the catching duties. The reality is that the Pirates signed Hedges, Plawecki, and retained Tyler Heineman and Jason Delay. I’m not going to project Endy for more than half a season here, though I do think he will be ready earlier. The Pirates have good depth if you consider that they have four catchers with at least replacement-level 50th percentile projections. They’ll only need that group until Rodriguez arrives, at which point Hedges will turn into a great backup and the depth will only improve. I projected Hedges for 300 plate appearances. I gave Plawecki 100, and gave 250 to Rodriguez. I’m not projecting Henry Davis in the majors this year, but if we’re talking 80th percentiles, it’s not out of the question that he arrives by the end of the season. This position will be defense-only for the start of the year, but will have a lot of exciting options as the year progresses.

2023 Projection: 0.4 / 2.1 / 3.7

Positional Depth: +1.5


Projected Starter: Ji-Man Choi (WAR: -0.2 / 0.9 / 1.8, PA: 396)

Projected Backup: Carlos Santana (WAR: 0.3 / 1.4 / 2.6, PA: 516)

Top Prospect: Malcom Nunez (WAR: -1.0 / 0.2 / 1.4, PA: 483)

2023 Outlook: It’s difficult to project this position with how it will intersect with designated hitter and the outfield. Ji-Man Choi and Carlos Santana will both get work at first base, though Santana will get more work as the designated hitter. I think that Connor Joe will get into this mix as well to spare both first basemen. I didn’t have a full ZiPS projection for him, but his 50th percentile was a 1.1 WAR. That makes him a slight upgrade over Choi. I gave Choi his full projection, and about 250 plate appearances here to Santana — which is about 50 fewer than he received at the position last year. If Joe factors into this mix, it would likely be at the expense of Choi, and would give the Pirates a slight boost in the projections below — which only included Choi and Santana. Malcom Nunez is a wild card, but I’m not projecting him to force his way onto the roster like Endy Rodriguez at catcher. I could see Jared Triolo having a better shot at forcing his way into first base time, where he’s already been getting work in Spring Training.

2023 Projection: 0.0 / 1.6 / 3.1

Positional Depth: +1


Projected Starter: Rodolfo Castro (WAR: -0.5 / 0.8 / 2.1, PA: 530)

Projected Backup: Ji-Hwan Bae (WAR: 0.2 / 1.2 / 2.3, PA: 473)

Top Prospect: Nick Gonzales (WAR: 0.1 / 0.8 / 1.6, PA: 338)

2023 Outlook: My projection is that Rodolfo Castro will get the Opening Day job, with Ji-Hwan Bae likely to spend most of the season in a super utility role. I’ve got Castro projected for 300 plate appearances, Bae for 200 (with more coming later), and Tucupita Marcano for 50 plate appearances. The last one is almost a depth tax on the position, as ZiPS doesn’t project Marcano well. I’m optimistic about the adjustments that Nick Gonzales made to his approach at the plate last year, and I love his work ethic. I could see him being the best option by mid-season. I gave him 100 plate appearances for a more conservative projection, but he could be a big boost to this team.

2023 Projection: -0.3 / 1.1 / 2.7

Positional Depth: +0.5


Projected Starter: Oneil Cruz (WAR: 1.3 / 2.7 / 4.3, PA: 536)

Projected Backup: Chris Owings (WAR: -0.3 / 0.3 / 1.1, PA: 285)

Top Prospect: Liover Peguero (WAR: -0.8 / 0.3 / 1.5, PA: 526)

2023 Outlook: ZiPS has Oneil Cruz with 536 plate appearances. I gave him a slight bump to 550, and gave 150 plate appearances to Chris Owings, who I project as the backup middle infielder. I don’t think Liover Peguero arrives this year, and if he does, I think he’s unlikely to move Cruz off the position. This spot is largely going to be boom or bust with Cruz.

2023 Projection: 1.2 / 2.9 / 5.0

Positional Depth: +0.25


Projected Starter: Ke’Bryan Hayes (WAR: 1.6 / 2.7 / 3.7, PA: 514)

Projected Backup: Rodolfo Castro (WAR: -0.5 / 0.8 / 2.1, PA: 530)

Top Prospect: Jared Triolo (WAR: 0.0 / 1.0 / 1.8, PA: 477)

2023 Outlook: Just like with shortstop, this position will be determined by one of the core members of the Pirates. ZiPS has Ke’Bryan Hayes with 514 plate appearances, and I bumped him up to 550, since he got 560 in his first full season. There’s another bump the Pirates could get if Hayes finds a way to hit for more power. I’ve got Castro for 50 plate appearances as the backup here. I also gave Jared Triolo 100 plate appearances, just because I think he gets them somewhere on the roster. The only way he replaces Hayes is via injury. Triolo would be more likely to get time at other positions, and he can play everywhere. If Hayes were to go down with an injury, Triolo would be able to soften the blow — though I don’t think he would be able to save the chances of the Pirates’ season.

2023 Projection: 1.7 / 3.2 / 4.5

Positional Depth: +0.5


Projected Starters: 

Bryan Reynolds (WAR: 2.1 / 3.5 / 5.2, PA: 625)

Jack Suwinski (WAR: -0.4 / 1.0 / 2.5, PA: 549)

Connor Joe (WAR: N/A / 1.8 / N/A, PA: 420)

Projected Backup: 

Andrew McCutchen (WAR: -0.3 / 0.7 / 1.9, PA: 482)

Ji-Hwan Bae (WAR: 0.2 / 1.2 / 2.3, PA: 473)

Ryan Vilade (WAR: -0.7 / 0.3 / 1.5, PA: 507)

Top Prospect: Travis Swaggerty (WAR: 0.1 / 1.3 / 2.2, PA: 455)

2023 Outlook: Buckle in, because I’m putting this entire group together, and as you’ll see in the projection below, there’s a lot of boom or bust to this group. I gave Bryan Reynolds his full 625 plate appearances. There’s a chance that he’s the only outfielder with a WAR over 1.0. There is upside from Jack Suwinski, who I gave 500 plate appearances — an amount lower than ZiPS. I modeled Connor Joe’s high/low after Suwinski in the overall projections and gave him 400 plate appearances. The Pirates will hope that one of these two can emerge as a starter complement to Reynolds. I think that Joe ends up getting time at first base, but will spend more time in the outfield. I’ve got Andrew McCutchen for 200 plate appearances as an outfielder, which is slightly below his 2022 totals. I gave 100 plate appearances here to Ji-Hwan Bae, who got a few games in center field at the end of last season. The remaining time went to Ryan Vilade, who has very similar projections to Cal Mitchell and other prospect options in the minors. It would boost the projections to have Travis Swaggerty take those plate appearances, but I’m not projecting that. ZiPS does heavily favor Swaggerty over Mitchell, Vilade, Matt Gorski, and Canaan Smith-Njigba. The Pirates will hope that one of these guys can step up as a starter for the long-term, but I’ve got their production as bonus this year. As you can see below, there’s a lot of bust potential with this group beyond Reynolds.

2023 Projection: 1.1 / 6.8 / 11.7

Positional Depth: +0.5


Projected Starter: Andrew McCutchen (WAR: -0.3 / 0.7 / 1.9, PA: 482)

Projected Backup: Carlos Santana (WAR: 0.3 / 1.4 / 2.6, PA: 516)

Top Prospect: Mason Martin (WAR: -1.6 / -0.3 / 1.2, PA: 508)

2023 Outlook: I’ve got McCutchen with 350 plate appearances here, and Santana with 300. That gives them both 550 plate appearances on the season with the 1B/OF mix factored in. I’m not projecting any MLB time for Mason Martin, but am including him here just to say that I’d like to see him take on a DH role in the minors with Malcom Nunez at first base.

2023 Projection: 0.0 / 1.3 / 2.9

Positional Depth: 0


2023 Outlook: I had about 100 plate appearances left, and gave them to Ji-Hwan Bae, giving him 400 total.

2023 Projection: 0.0 / 0.3 / 0.5


Projected Starters:

Mitch Keller (WAR: 0.6 / 1.5 / 2.5, IP: 140)

Roansy Contreras (WAR: 0.7 / 1.7 / 2.5, IP: 122.3)

JT Brubaker (WAR: 0.3 / 1.2 / 2.0, IP: 121.3)

Rich Hill (WAR: 0.1 / 0.9 / 1.5, IP: 114)

Vince Velasquez (WAR: -0.4 / 0.2 / 0.8, IP: 81.3)

Projected Backups:

Luis Ortiz (WAR: 0.2 / 1.0 / 1.8, IP: 111.3)

Johan Oviedo (WAR: 0.1 / 1.1 / 1.8, IP: 113)

Quinn Priester (WAR: 0.5 / 1.1 / 1.8, IP: 103.3)

Mike Burrows (WAR: 0.5 / 1.3 / 2.1, IP: 102.7)

Top Prospect: Quinn Priester (WAR: 0.5 / 1.1 / 1.8, IP: 103.3)

2023 Outlook: The Pirates don’t have a standout starter. What they do have is a rotation that is potentially nine deep with pitchers who can put up positive value. The worst options, according to ZiPS, are the two free agents the Pirates brought in — Rich Hill and Vince Velasquez. I kept both of their projected innings low, due to the age for Hill and uncertainty surrounding Velasquez. I think it’s more likely he moves to the bullpen with so much depth behind him. Here’s where I’ll go out on a limb: I’m going to project this rotation for 850 innings. Last year’s group had 767, and the league average for team rotations was 850. I think the depth and quality of this rotation is strong enough to reach that mark, especially with Roansy Contreras entering his first full season, and Mitch Keller seemingly hitting a new gear. JT Brubaker has exceeded his ZiPS innings projections in each of the last two years. There’s a lot of boom or bust potential with this group, much like the outfield group. I like the depth a lot better with this group, led by top prospects Quinn Priester, Luis Ortiz, and Mike Burrows.

2023 Projection: 1.8 / 8.1 / 13.7

Positional Depth: +2


Projected Closer: David Bednar (WAR: 0.5 / 1.3 / 2.0, IP: 58.3)

Projected Bullpen:

Robert Stephenson (WAR: -0.1 / 0.5 / 1.0, IP: 56.3)

Duane Underwood Jr. (WAR: -0.3 / 0.3 / 0.8, IP: 65.7)

Jarlin Garcia (WAR: N/A / -0.1 / N/A, IP: 63.3)

Wil Crowe (WAR: -0.4 / 0.4 / 1.0, IP: 90.7)

Jose Hernandez (WAR: N/A / -0.2 / N/A, IP: 50.3)

Yerry De Los Santos (WAR: -0.2 / 0.3 / 0.8, IP: 43.7)

Colin Holderman (WAR: -0.3 / 0.1 / 0.4, IP: 39.3)

Yohan Ramirez (WAR: -0.6 / -0.1 / 0.4, IP: 57.3)

Dauri Moreta (WAR: N/A / 0.1 / N/A, IP: 60.0)

2023 Outlook: The Pirates are relying on innings from Robert Stephenson, Duane Underwood Jr., and Wil Crowe, along with Jarlin Garcia on the left side. If that group can stay healthy, then this could be a nice sleeper group around David Bednar. If that group struggles or deals with injuries, then the Pirates have a lot of wild cards behind them. Yerry De Los Santos is the guy who stands out among the rest for me, but I factored all of the relievers above into the mix. I also added in Johan Oviedo from the rotation group, since that projection was factoring him in as more of a swingman. The end result is that this is an area where the Pirates could lose value, and it would take a lot to go right for them to gain significant value from this position. The depth here becomes stronger if the Pirates convert some of their minor league rotation depth into relievers. That could speed up the path for guys like Kyle Nicolas, Carmen Mlodzinski, or Cody Bolton.

2023 Projection: -1.5 / 3.7 / 8.5

Positional Depth: +1


A replacement level team is considered to have 48 wins. Using that as a baseline, here are the projected win totals, based on the percentile projections above.

20th Percentile: 52 wins

50th Percentile: 79 wins

80th Percentile: 104 wins

Obviously those extremes are going to produce extreme outcomes. If everything goes wrong for the Pirates, they are a historically bad team. Likewise, they would need everything to go right in order to be one of the best teams in the league.

The 50th percentile projection — which is the one I normally use for this analysis — has them at 79 wins. I don’t think that is unreasonable, and I could see them trending higher.

What I like about this team is the depth. There aren’t a lot of star players with impact potential, but there aren’t many players with bust potential.

The Pirates addressed their weakest spots this offseason. They added at first base and designated hitter, where even the 20th percentile replacement level results at each position would be a combined upgrade of several wins over last year’s abysmal results. They’ve added a few catching options, and will get a boost from Endy Rodriguez, who I tried to downplay in this analysis.

The prospect depth, in general, is under-represented here. This projection includes the following playing time from prospects:

Endy Rodriguez – 250 PA

Ji-Hwan Bae – 400 PA

Nick Gonzales – 100 PA

Jared Triolo – 100 PA

Travis Swaggerty – 0 PA

Quinn Priester – 103 IP

Luis Ortiz – 111 IP

Mike Burrows – 0 IP

Rodriguez could end up with more playing time, which would massively increase the projections. I might be giving too much playing time to Bae, although I think his versatility, speed, and plate patience will get him a lot of time in the majors. I projected Priester and Ortiz as the depth starters, though you could interchange Burrows into the mix without much of an adjustment. In fact, Burrows rates the highest of the three. A lot of the projections I made with prospects ended up lowering the overall win projections.

There’s some irony that Pirates Prospects is advising cautious skepticism on the optimistic ZiPS projections about the Pirates prospects.

If the prospects arrive and perform as ZiPS expected, then I think this team is very likely to end up pushing close to a winning season.

The strength of this team could be the rotation. That would go a long way toward drawing innings away from one of the potential weak areas of this team in the bullpen. The prospect depth would play huge here, with Priester, Ortiz, and Burrows all giving the Pirates long-term options. I think the Pirates are six-strong without those guys, and would prefer Oviedo over Velasquez in the rotation.

The Pirates have been one of the worst teams in baseball over the last few years, and a big reason for this was that they simply weren’t focusing on adding at the MLB level. That changed this offseason, with a lot of veteran additions paving the way for a lot of prospects in Triple-A.

I think this team ends up closer to a winning record than most people are expecting. They have a great mix of reliable veterans, young MLB producers with impact upside, and a lot of age 25 and under players who could produce positive value in the majors.

Heading into this process, I was thinking that 75 wins sounded like a conservative estimate for the 2023 Pirates.

The prospects from Indianapolis might make the 79 win projection sound a bit conservative.

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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I like the bullpen a lot better than most. I think Stephenson pitched really well for the Pirates last season. He has really good stuff, top prospect pedigree and a really big dude. If healthy(report came out yesterday he has some shoulder soreness), I think he’s a viable set-up man.

I think Holderman and Yerry can hold down the 7th inning. And If Cederlind can put together a fully healthy season, his stuff is electric and I believe will also be a good high leverage option too.

The lefty options aren’t great but I don’t think they will be used much. And maybe Jose Hernandez is a gem and can also be a late inning option with his power arsenal.

I would trade Will Crowe and Underwood Jr. The RP market this offseason has been robust. See Joe Jimenez/Braves trade, Chad Smith/Oakland trade, AJ Puk/Miami trade, Gregory Soto/Philly trade, and the Josh Taylor/KC trade.

I don’t mind Crowe and UnderwoodJr but I think both have value and with the RP depth, they are expendable. Underwood Jr has a really good FIP, xFIP and high K rate. Some team will buy-in. And Crowe is under 30 and has an option left which holds value. And he did have 16 holds last season.

I just think Colin Selby, Yohan Rameriz, Dauri Moreta, Tahnaj Thomas, Jc Flowers, Hunter Stratton, Nate Webb, Tyler Samaniego, and Nick Dombkowski, all will be in AAA and are all pretty close to MLB ready.

Plus, guys like O.Bido, Noe Toribio, Omar Cruz, Cam Alldred, and all the veteran NRI.

And I even like Cam Junker, Ricky DeVito, and Will Kobos(my pick to be this years Colin Selby) in AA.

I think if Grant Ford can stay healthy he can viable RP option too. He has a big league FB and high K rate in the minors. He was a closer in college and the move to the bullpen is the right move for him.

Imo, the depth and late inning options are definitely there.

Last edited 1 month ago by pittsburghbob69

Starting Endy off in MLB would be a good/screwed move from the Pirates. Seattle gets the 29th pick in this years draft for Julio Rodriguez being top 3 in ROY voting and being on atleast 2 of the 3 preseason top 100 prospect lists(ESPN, Pipeline and BA).

That’s 100% worth accruing a full year of service time and becoming a UFA just one year earlier.

Atlanta got screwed. Michael Harris and Strider both accrued a full year of service time and they get nothing for it b/c neither were on two(2) of the preseason lists.

But of course, Atlanta signed both to very team friendly long term deals.

Last edited 1 month ago by pittsburghbob69

Based on Tim’s projections, here’s my guesstimate:

C – 1 WAR – Endy will do well, but Hedges/Plawecki will dig an early hole
1B – 1 WAR – Slightly below 50% due to old age
2B – 1 WAR – Slightly below 50% as Bae/Castro struggle to take hold of the job
SS – 4.5 WAR – All in on Cruz & his 80% outcome
3B – 3 WAR – Hayes AKA Ole Reliable, hopefully he can hit his way to more
OF – 4 WAR – Closer to 20% as the prospects probably struggle & Reynolds is sadly traded at the deadline
DH – .5 WAR – Not inspiring, but better than nothing
SPs – 8 WAR – I think we have enough depth to hit the 50% and maybe more
BP – 1 WAR – Bednar is the only one I fully trust

That puts us at 72 wins, we can round up to 75 if Reynolds sticks around.


This is really good!


At first glance 79 seems a bit high. But then again, they don’t have a ton of obvious holes, and in the event a hole develops by someone underperforming, they are loaded with options at AA and AAA. The downside for me is, where is the impact talent in the pipeline to push us over the top into a playoff team? We should have a better farm system with all the top picks.


I’m making no predictions, but the Bucs will be facing a more challenging schedule in 2023. It will be fun to see multiple games with the Dodgers, Yankees, Astros (unless you’re a Bucs fan).


Good point, I noticed the schedule when it first came out and I thought it was brutal!


Catcher. The 2023 Pirate pitchers will need a strong tandem of Catchers who I describe simply as Pitcher’s Catchers. In my estimation, that would mean Austin Hedges as the Primary, and Tyler Heineman as the backup to start the season. Jason Delay as next guy up from AAA where he will help Endy develop and give him background on the Pirate pitchers!

Plawecki was a -0.5 fWAR in 2022; Heineman was a +0.5 fWAR for the Pirates. He knows the staff, coaches, and would probably cost about a third of what we would have to pay ‘wecki. Not that the Pirates care about stuff like that!


Put out a Missing Persons Report for Cal Mitchell. He struggled, was sent down, and came back for Sep/Oct played 25 G, 86 PA, .267 BA, 5 doubles, 1 HR, 11 BB/16 K, 734 OPS.

With Cruz, Castro, and Bae at the MLB level, what is the need for Owings as a backup at SS, and why would Gonzales even be in the picture at 2B? My reasoning for questioning is as follows:

Castro in MLB in ’22 had 278 PA, .194 ISO, 103 wRC+, and a +0.9 fWAR.

Bae came up to MLB late, but still posted a 0.2 fWAR. Prior, he had an excellent season at AAA in 2022 which was his age 22/23 season. He played 108 G at AAA, 419 AB, 289 BA, 23 doubles, 6 triples, 8 HR, 53 RBI, 48 BB/90 K, 30 of 38 SB, fielded 979 in 57 G at 2B, 976 in 24 G at SS, and 968 in 28 G in OF. Bae has the capability to be the Utility player and can backup 2B, SS, and CF.

Gonzales is the same age as both Castro and Bae, and a level or two behind them when the 2022 season ended. He was injured, but his stats at AA are nowhere near the stats Bae posted in AAA. And, based on ’22 results, Triolo would be my pick as a better prospect than Gonzales.


Owings is the only one that can “play” SS, for a team that has so many utility players is weird that they have none that is able to play SS. Marcano is probably the best one and that’s saying something! So I strongly believe that Owings will make the club with the thinking that whoever is not the 2b needs to get at bats instead of sitting on the bench, Iglesias is still out there, rather have him that Owings


Ugh…..part of me wants to be hopeful for this season and then I think that any team that breaks camp with Chris Owings and Randy Vilade on their bench should be challenging the win total of the ’62 Mets…


Great article Tim!

If they are projected for <80 wins perhaps they can carry two Rule 5 picks

I’d like to see them trade for this guy

The Phils are in win-now mode



A healthy full season and a rebound with the bat for Hayes, less than 50 errors and more than 30 homeruns for Cruz, a superstar year for Reynolds, 25+ homeruns for Suwinski and a consistent leadoff hitter? With that and the miracle of enough pitching and they’ll compete for the division title.


Nothing wrong with your projections Tim, however Shelton is still the manager so I guess we are hoping a guy gets it all of a sudden. The only thing that better players and a ten game improvement proves might be a managers resume. But under the circumstances we might see Shelton for a few more ‘bumbling’ seasons.


I will predict 75 wins. And to be consistent I always state the following regarding this season. Give me 72 wins and significant growth from our prospect pool vs. 78 wins based on veterans exceeding expectations and prospects stumbling.

I like that our veterans seem better than past years but that is still not close to the end game. Continued development is the Bucco life line to the future.

b mcferren

NL Central Edition

(1) Contreras
(2) Stephenson
(3) Contreras
(4) Barnhart
* (5) Hedges

(1) Goldschmidt
(2) Votto
(3) Tellez
* (4) Santana
(5) Hosmer

(1) Donavan
* (2) Castro
(3) Hoener
(4) Urias
(5) India

(1) Arenado
* (2) Hayes
(3) Anderson
(4) Morel
(5) Steer

(1) Swanson
* (2) Cruz
(3) Adames
(4) Edman
(5) Newman

(1) Winker
* (2) Choi
(3) Walker
(4) Mancini
(5) Myers

* (1) Reynolds
(2) Carlson
(3) Bellinger
(4) Mitchell
(5) Senzel

(1) Suzuki
(2) Nootbar
* (3) Cutch
(4) Taylor
(5) Fraley

(1) Happ
(2) Oneil
(3) Yelich
* (4) Suwinski
(5) Friedle

(1) Burnes
(2) Mikolis
(3) Lodolo
* (4) Keller
(5) Taillon

(1) Woodruff
(2) Stroman
* (3) Contreras
(4) Wainwright
(5) Greene

(1) Lauer
(2) Steele
* (3) Hill
(4) Montgomery
(5) Ashcraft

(1) Peralta
(2) Flaherty
(3) Hendricks
* (4) Brubaker
(5) Weaver

(1) Diaz
(2) Helsley
(3) Williams
* (4) Bednar
(5) Hughes

Last edited 1 month ago by b mcferren

Hoerner way better than Castro. A gold glove caliber 2B that hit .281 with 10 HR and 20 SB last season. India > Castro as well.

I’m taking Cruz over Dansby though; right now!! And Hedges over Barnhart.

Suzuki, Happ and Tyler Oneil(even with Oneil coming into camp looking f*cking jacked), No Thanks!!

Acouple of the SP rotation spots I disagree with too but not trying to bury your post. It’s a very good post!!

And I don’t understand why people put Choi at DH and Santana at 1B? Choi is good defensively, way more athletic than he looks and 5 years younger than Santana.

Last edited 1 month ago by pittsburghbob69

Great stuff, Mac!

b mcferren


so I am thinking this offseason, we moved

up one in first base, up two in right field, up two in #three starter (nobody new that Cantina was going to do that well last season)

but still have not moved the needle 🙁

Last edited 1 month ago by b mcferren

I appreciate this look. As expected I might move some up a little or down a little but it is a good reminder within the division that other teams are not loaded all over the diamond.

b mcferren

Brewers pitching is sooo good and Bednar is not as good as we all think he is

Tank, Endy, Oneil, Bae, Keller, Contreras, and Nick could all move us up their respective list

Jury is out on Ortiz, Oviedo, Burrows and Priester

Trade Reynolds for a bonified Ace #1 and roll the dice with Bae and Swaggerty (an uptick from those two guys would be a big game changer)


The actual ZiPS projection is for 68 wins. I personally don’t see any point in using a projection system to try to justify a more optimistic perspective than what that projection system actually offers.


Just took a brief look at DH and OF…..I think you are assigning way too many ABs…..Santana with 516, Cutch 482, Villade 507? The over 36 yr olds aren’t going to come close to that. Maybe that’s playing into your 79 Win total……..too many AB’s up and down the lineup.


Tim (as do many of us) probably has a better sense of how playing time will be allocated than does ZIPS, and factoring in additional insights from following the team closely might be expected to improve accuracy of projections. OTOH, most of us (probably even Tim ;)) are prone to some optimism this time of year.


“The goal, as always, is to get a better understanding of how this team might win, and not necessarily how much this team might win.”

I’ve been a skeptic over the years, bordering on rude, but have grown to appreciate Tim’s take on this.

Yes, Tim’s always going to be “wrong” in terms of actually predicting the club’s win total.

But so are the actual projection systems, and Tim’s look as a take on what’s possible is an angle that you don’t see elsewhere.


First, the old NMR was not “bordering” on rude. Maybe we were all a little more rude when Trump was President. Maybe it’s not a coincidence? A discussion for another day.

Second, spot on about appreciating how Tim breaks it down by position. With the added variation of using 20%/50%/80% of WAR maximum for each player, it gives us a sneak peak into what a shitty/average/great year looks like for each guy.

And lastly, the projected win totals by anyone who does this, even the people who are paid to set over/under lines, are just making educated guesses based almost exclusively on past performance. I wouldn’t go getting a 2nd mortgage to put a wager on Pirates going over 68 wins just because Tim says 79 wins is a reasonable expectation.


Might have been ruder when Trump was President, but we were better off as a country than we are now.


I’m not talking about policies. Purely personality driven statement.


I would say, bringing in the former president into a conversation about the Pirates that has nothing to do with anything other than your politics is very rude.


you people are so incredibly soft.


I predicted; 68 wins last season, and they came up short, so I’ll keep the same number of wins, which will be a slight improvement and hope that their better than that.


If there is only “slight” improvement over last year, something went horribly, horribly wrong.


So what is your expectation? Or your definition of improvement? To me, 79 wins seems like a huge jump. And the neighborhood of 70 seems more reasonable.

I think of wins and losses here as only part of the equation; the bigger thing is progress from the younger players and improvements from those who are likely part of the next contender. If Hayes and Cruz make big steps, that feels more important than the wins.


Mid- to high-70’s. The only thing that scares me is the rotation; they far outperformed their expected results last year. We could be in for a regression.

The other variable is what happens at the trade deadline. If BC sells all his rentals, they could def plummet the last two plus months.


Leaving this here, a lot of blue, which is concerning…


Thanks, what site is this from?


Baseball Savant


Maybe wrong but not “horribly, horribly’, that would imply that they would be competing for the playoffs.


Thank you for this article Tim. Well timed & well written.

I’m not a gambler at all, but I am tempted to find a friend who does to put a bet to have the Pirates team wins hit the over, as vegas has the line at 67.5 Wins for the Bucs. Maybe Vegas adjusts down the projection due to Shelton being the manager


Seems awfully low. My thought on that number; if they underperform in the first half and become sellers at the trade deadline, what does this roster look like in Aug/Sept/Oct? I can’t imagine they’d be any worse than last year, but maybe the 2022 Pirates overperformed 🤷🏻‍♂️.


I might place a bet on that. But only the Randolph and Mortimer Duke stakes.


Nah, LV picks odds that balance their books, pure and simple.


My biggest fear is a major upside surprise that gets the FO off program. If they’re on track to win 89 games at the ASB and the division is soft, there’s going to be a strong temptation to cash in some of the prospect chips.

82 wins would be the sweet spot. Slight overachievement. Breaks the losing streak. Signs of major progress without the temptation.


Proof that if you just try to not suck, and you don’t have extraordinarily bad fortune, any team can get to 75 wins. It’s those next 10 wins that are costly.

I will say that the high offense positions on the spectrum (LF/RF/1B/DH) are the Achilles’ heel on their quest to 80+ wins – not just for ’23, but beyond. They need at least one of those OF to break out, and likely Malcolm Nuñez to be the real deal as well. Here’s hoping…


I will narrow it further, Swaggerty! If he breaks out and takes over CF, moving Reynolds to LF where he belongs would have the biggest impact. If that happens then we are probably need a SS, one that could field the position at a high level and could move Cruz to RF. Other than the bullpen, the biggest hole this year is going to be the defense.


These are my thoughts exactly. Replacing Reynolds in center field with a really good defender would improve the outfield. Cruz is not a shortstop on a good team. Those 2 moves would drastically improve this team.


To narrow the holes down, it’s Cruz, Castro and whenever Cutch plays OF. 1B and C seriously upgraded.


72 wins tops. 68-72 most likely


Not a contender…possibly marginally better…just can’t see them getting above 70 wins without a number of best years ever by the players…


What they did at first base alone is worth several wins improvement. Add in some improvements from a full year of Cruz, added pitching depth, I’d say 72 wins should be about the floor of what’s acceptable. Anything less and you’re looking at firing Shelton, and the FO needs to be on the hot seat.


But then you’re assuming no one else regresses. Guys will get injured, regress. You can’t just expect that guys will the best or even better versions of themselves and expect a 15 win jump. It’s possible, but highly unlikely.


I didn’t say I expected a 15 win jump. But I think a ten win jump should be expected. What they did at first base is worth about 4 wins by itself. Certainly internal improvements amongst the prospects can account for 6 additional WAR. If they can’t do that with the talent in the pipeline then some people need to be brushing up their resumes.


You put the floor right at 72 wins or people better get resumes ready. I don’t think you’re necessarily wrong to expect it, but it won’t be as easy as plug in new 1B combo and watch the team total go up four wins. It won’t work like that.

I’m putting them at 70 wins. And I doubt anyone is getting fired, even if they fall short of 70 wins. If NH got five full years without a pandemic to build up, BC will get at least that amount of time.

I’m hoping the big win jump comes in 24. That’s when I hope to see a jump into the 80’s.


You make valid points but I think that argument ignores the substantial depth they have. Yes guys underperform. But there’s zero reason this year to keep running out a guy playing at a -3 WAR pace. If someone struggles it’s next up. And I’m skeptical they all struggle. This team has a high floor, but a low ceiling. They themselves have said they expect to win 83, FWIW.


I’m really disappointed with the bullpen projections. I think with the depth added there and the variability of bullpen each year that they’re likely to find 1 or 2 guys hitting near their 80%


They have tons of options in AAA and MLB. This will be a great storyline in 2023 and has the potential to be a bright spot in 2024.


There are no strike out guys, just a bunch of pitch to contact guys. Many like to pencil Crowe as the set up….he is neither a strike out nor a ground ball guy!

Wilbur Miller

So of course Termarr has a hamstring strain. They could draft Lou Gehrig in the first round and he’d play 20 games his first two years.


I said that on the other article. Our last 5 #1 ’s have seemingly spent more time on the DL than on it.


That’s what you get when you draft high, thoroughbred’s health is finicky. We need a few plow horses in the system.


72-75 wins, too many things have to go right, the bullpen is not good and Shelton. 80 next year.


Any team looking like an 80 win team can easily become a playoff team. We saw this in 2013 when I don’t think anyone had us that high. Additionally, the difference between 80 wins and 90 wins is less than 2 wins monthly. That’s not a big stretch with some breakout performances.


Tim, what would keep Davis from reaching the majors this year? Despite his lost time, his bat sounds as advanced as those with AAA experience. And I didn’t think his defense would need another full year to be ready. I mean, Davis has more innings caught than Endy, right? And you seem to feel Rodriguez is or will be ready.

I assumed Davis was behind Rodriguez on the depth chart because the latter was already on the 40 man. My assumption is that after a spring of work and a few months of AAA both will be ready. What will Davis need to prove to warrant MLB playing time, in your assessment?

I also kind of hope Davis comes up along with Endy to keep Endy’s bat in the lineup with a lot of rest days in other positions.


I’m at 77 wins, because we can’t have shiny toys in Pittsburgh. But! I would be ecstatic with 83.


I am with you at ~77 wins. If things go their way possibly low 80s and a winning season again to make us very happy 🙂

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