Fangraphs wrapped up a series on Tuesday morning that looked at the team rankings for positions around baseball. All 30 teams were ranked based on their playing time estimate for each position. Here’s a look at how the Pittsburgh Pirates fared in these articles. They are posted in the same order as Fangraphs wrote them up. Click on the positions for the links to the articles.
The Pirates rank 21st here, with Austin Hedges and Endy Rodriguez seeing most of the time. They had Kevin Plawecki third, but with minimal at-bats, so he can just be replaced by the combo of Tyler Heineman and Jason Delay for the purposes of this ranking.
Pirates rank 20th, with Carlos Santana and Ji-Man Choi playing a large majority of the time.
Pirates rank 28th here with Rodolfo Castro and Ji-hwan Bae seeing a large majority of the time, while Mark Mathias, Chris Owings and Tucupita Marcano split the small remaining time.
Pirates rank 11th here with Oneil Cruz seeing about 80% of the time, followed by Bae getting around 100 plate appearances, and a group of three players splitting about 50 plate appearances.
Pirates rank 13th here with Ke’Bryan Hayes getting about 85% of the time. Castro and Jared Triolo split a majority of the small remaining time.
Bryan Reynolds sees about 60% of the time here, leading the Pirates to a 13th place ranking. Andrew McCutchen and Connor Joe see most of the rest of the playing time, with a few others playing sparingly.
Jack Suwinski and Reynolds have a nice 40/40 split here for playing time. Travis Swaggerty gets a majority of the rest. Those estimates lead to the Pirates ranking 16th.
McCutchen gets about 40% of the time here, followed by approximately 20/20 splits for Canaan Smith-Njigba and Cal Mitchell. That trio, plus a few other names filling in, led to a 28th place ranking.
Santana, McCutchen and Choi see most of the work here, but a bunch of other previously mentioned players take some DH turns. That equals up to a 21st place ranking.
I won’t go through all of the names here, but the top seven for mound time are David Bednar, Wil Crowe, Chase De Jong, Colin Holderman, Duane Underwood Jr, Robert Stephenson and Dauri Moreta. That group leads them to a 27th place ranking.
The injury to JT Brubaker could change this once we see how much time he will miss, but for now the top five starters are Mitch Keller, Brubaker, Roansy Contreras, Rich Hill and Vince Velasquez, with Johan Oviedo and Luis Ortiz also seeing decent time. That setup ranks 24th according to Fangraphs.
The easier to read summary shows:
With 11 positions averaged out here, that puts them at an average ranking of 20th place per position.
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.
The Bucs this year should be a pretty high beta team. They have some players/positions with very low floors and also high ceilings, i.e. Cruz, whoever plays 2B, one of the OFers (optimistically – Suwinski, CSN), bullpen (almost by definition).
Then they have Hayes, who, thanks to his D, has a high floor but also a very high ceiling if he can tap into his power. Swaggerty might be here if he can get a chance in CF. Reynolds is similar except that his high floor is thanks to his bat.
Then there are positions with lowish floors and only slightly higher ceilings – C, 1B, DH, one OF spot (Joe). C moves into the high ceiling group if/when Endy comes up.
That leaves the SPs. I think they have a low floor, but a just above average ceiling (as a group).
So, if things go right (like some of the bigger guys hitting their 80th percentile Zips projections), they could break 75 wins. If the wheels fall off, it could be another 100 loss season.
I predict (i.e. hope) Swaggerty is going to be PISSED being in Indy and go on an absolute, chip-on-shoulder April tear at AAA. And hard to envision Suwinsky magically fixing his problematic swing & miss issues. There could be a switcheroo sooner than we think
If they make any change before mid-May I’ll be shocked. Ben and Derek aren’t going to admit they f’d up after 15-20 games.
These things have a way of working out. There’s like a 97% chance that someone on the 1B/OF/DH spectrum hits the IL within the first month or so, and when that happens Swaggerty will get his chance.
This bullpen is going to be a disaster.
Until they prove they are better, then what can you expect.
Straight line average of rankings is going to come with a lot of caveats; on the minus side, pitching is half the game (well, maybe 45% of the game since defense is part of the hitters), so the Bucs’ relative lower rankings for pitchers will drag down the average.
One the plus side, several of the rankings get really tight once you get past the top 5 or so teams, separated by fractions of a win. The RPs are ranked 28th but they’re half a win below the Royals at #20 . Half a win in 580 innings is a collective rounding error. At 2B they’re 28th with 2 WAR; the Rockies at #21 have 2.5. At RF they’re 28th with 1.6 WAR, but the Tigers at 2.1 are sitting at #19 .
Any number of things can happen in a long season to add or subtract half a win, and you would hardly notice.
My takeaway is, on the whole the Pirates took a good step forward – no longer one of the 5 worst teams in the league – mostly just by avoiding being truly horrible anywhere (or at multiple positions); but as a team they are still very likely to be irrelevant in ’23.
Excellent points. Thank you.
In coming up with an average ranking, the rotation should receive greater weight than just 1/11. Probably the bullpen too. However, I am more optimistic about our rotation than it only being 24th best and with our bullpen being 27th best (though Shelton is managing that pen so…), so a combined ranking of 20th seems about right given the other rankings.
The Reds top 3 of Lodolo, Green, and Ashcroft have a combine WAR higher than our OD 5 starter, that was including Brubaker…. I have to admit that Keller’s projection is a tad low. Anyway this year is all about Cruz and Hayes taking steps forward and successful debut of Endy, Burrows, Priester, Gonzales, and hopefully one of the 45 FV outfielders takes a step forward and claim an outfield spot.
I started out predicting 72 wins, but more and more I am moving to the ‘that was really optimistic’ side of the road.
I believe the Vegas line is 67.5
Call me an optimist, then. 😅😅😅
I think I might take the over on that one. Just a hunch.
Last year the 20th best record was 74-88, so if you believe FG’s rankings, 72 wins should be right in the neighborhood. Anything much less than that should lead Shelton’s dismissal.
Blame it on early ST hope! So many things have to go right for even 72. But here we are and we still have one outfielder, no 2b, a laughable catching tandem and one of the worse bullpens….
Looking at the rest of MLB, I think the Bucs are better than the following: Washington, Oakland, Colorado, KC, Detroit, and Cincinnati. There’s a few others they may end up beating in wins because they’re in meat grinder divisions (Miami for one, maybe Boston if they have some injuries to key guys).
I’m sticking with 70 wins. It’s an improvement, but I’m more interested in specific player improvements (Hayes and Cruz at the plate) than a team win total.
Why do I feel like I am in a bar, it is late at night and girls who are equivalent to those teams you mentioned are left. Do I ‘settle’ for a ‘Pittsburgh’ or call it a night?