by J.T. Toth
Photo courtesy of The Athletic.
With the season nearing an end, the Pirates have a chance to get valuable playing time for some of their younger players and elevate targeted prospects for their first major league experience. In essence, the season is over for the Bucs, so young guys will get 50 plus games to get their feet wet, make mistakes and as manager Derek Shelton said, “get used to the speed of the game.” The Pirates are hoping these next two plus months of baseball will go a long way in the final step in their rebuild.
With many questions yet to be answered, Draft 412 has decided to go through each position and offer predictions on what may or may not happen when the Pirates step on the field March 28th, 2024 in Miami.
With any legitimate rebuild in baseball, a team can only go as far as their starting pitching will allow them. The Pirates have some top of the line talent, and they have a lot of questions that need to be answered.
The first pick of this past MLB Draft is going to be a #1 starter in the major leagues. The question will be if he will start the season in Pittsburgh in 2024 or continue to work his way through the farm system. It appears the Pirates are moving him through the minors one start at a time with each team affiliate to finish the 2023 season. Skenes will be a legit #1 for this rotation.
Keller’s career took some time to get where he is. A pitcher who always had trouble with control, he turned it around in 2023 and made his first all-star game. He has stumbled in the beginning of the second half of the season, but is still throwing strikes and attacking hitters. Drafting Paul Skenes should provide the Pirates with a strong counterbalance to Keller and perhaps let Keller assume the role as the #2 starter in the rotation behind the budding superstar.
The 25-year-old pitcher has been a pleasant surprise in 2023. Obtained from St. Louis in the Jose Quintana trade at the trade deadline in 2022, Oviedo has shown some electric stuff this season. Though his 6-12 record and 4.42 ERA does not sound like he is pitching well, he has given up 1 run or less in 11 of his starts. The Bucs hope he will find more consistency in 2024, which should solidify the third spot in the future rotation behind Skenes and Keller.
It is hard to believe that Contreras is only 23 years old. In 18 starts last season, he went 5-5 with a 3.79 ERA and at times was a dominating starting pitcher. This season, it appears that he may have lost his confidence after hitting a rough patch in the early part of 2023. He has been sent down to refine his approach and mechanics, trying to recapture the stuff that made him a quality starting pitcher. If he can regain his form, he will slot nicely into the #4 spot in the rotation.
The #5 spot next year can go several different ways. Quinn Priester, the former #1 draft pick (and still only 22-years-old), has had moments where he’s looked good, but many moments when his ball was getting hit hard.
Through 5 starts, Priester has given up 30 hits in 23 innings. If he can improve with the remaining starts he has left in the 2023 season and have a good spring training, Priester could be Draft 412’s pick for the last spot in the rotation.
Bailey Falter - The left hander obtained at the trade deadline from Philadelphia, Falter has a legitimate chance of being that left-handed option in the rotation.
Osvaldo Bido - The 27-year-old showed some glimpses of promise in his 8 starts, but may be better suited to be a AAA option.
Jackson Wolf - Wolf, another trade deadline acquisition, is a left-handed option the Pirates could look at next year. With only 1 major league start, Draft 412 thinks he spends the start of 2024 in AAA.
Luis Ortiz - He was another pleasant surprise in 2023 and showed some electric stuff in some of his starts. Ortiz could be a pitcher who finds himself, fighting for a rotation spot in 2024.
Jared Jones - At times Jones, shows some dominating stuff, and at other times, his control is an issue. He may be better suited starting the year at Indianapolis.
Max Kranick - He is coming off major surgery and is just starting his rehab as we speak. He will need to get his arm ready to go and Draft 412 thinks he will start the season in the minors.
J.T. Brubaker - See above. He is also in the same boat as Kranick and will probably not see the PNC mound till June/July of 2024 at the earliest.
Mike Burrows- After only 2 starts in AAA this season, Burrows underwent Tommy John surgery. He will not be ready to throw until around June of next year, leaving him some time to get back on the mound in AAA to make up for the lost season.
Please visit www.draft412.com for part four of this article next week.