The Pittsburgh Pirates have multiple young players who are extension candidates. Starting pitcher JT Brubaker should be considered one of the team’s top extension candidates.
When you look at the roster of the Pittsburgh Pirates young keystone players Ke’Bryan Hayes and Bryan Reynolds are likely the most popular extension candidates the team has. The two are projected to be two of the organization’s main pieces they build around throughout these next handful of seasons.
However, if there’s any starting pitcher they should build around that’s in the Majors already, and potentially look into an extension with, it’s right-handed hurler, and former Pirate Minor League Pitcher of the Year, JT Brubaker.
Brubaker made his debut in 2020, and had a so-so season. Through 47.1 innings, he had a 4.94 ERA, but solid 4.08 FIP, 1.37 WHIP, 1.14 HR/9 rate, 23.4% strikeout rate and 8.8% walk rate. Brubaker was better than his ERA suggested. He had a 4.14 xFIP, 4.28 SIERA and 4.25 DRA. He was closer to a 4.20-4.25 ERA guy than a near-5 ERA pitcher.
So far this season Brubaker has been outstanding. Through 60 innings across his 11 starts has a 3.75 ERA, 4.25 FIP and 1.18 WHIP. Though he’s experienced just slight uptick in strikeouts with a strikeout with a 24.6% mark, he’s locating much better. His walk rate, after walking zero Dodger batters in his most recent start, is currently sitting at an outstanding 5.1% mark. This has led to a 4.77 K/BB ratio, which outpaces former Pirate Tyler Glasnow (4.24), 2020 Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer (4.17), and New York Met co-ace Marcus Stroman (4.0).
Brubaker’s biggest weakness has been home runs. His 1.50 is the 9th highest mark among starting pitchers with at least 50 innings thrown. But despite his struggles with the long balls, Brubaker is still inducing ground balls at a 50.3% rate. He’s also above average in average exit velocity (88 MPH, top 66th percentile) and hard hit rate (37.2%, top 57th percentile). Additionally, he did not allow a home run in his most recent start against a high powered Dodger offense.
Most of Brubaker’s ERA estimators are very close to each other. He currently has a 3.61 SIERA, 3.50 xFIP and 3.78 DRA. Given Brubaker’s strong ground ball rate, good batted ball rates, and better than average ERA estimators, he could see some improvement over the rest of the season.
The Pittsburgh Pirates should extend Brubaker as he could be a rotation anchor of the future. He, and the likes of Miguel Yajure, Tahnaj Thomas, Roansy Contreras, Mitch Keller, and possibly Michael Burrows, Eddy Yean, and Wil Crowe could make up the team’s rotation as soon as the end of 2022. He could then be joined by highly touted prospects such as Brennan Malone, Quinn Priester, and Carmen Mlodzinski as well by sometime in 2023.
Brubaker may not be the future ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates but there’s still plenty of value to be had in him. Right now he should be considered the next best extension option behind Hayes and Reynolds. He can consistently give the Pirates 170+ innings a season, and provide an ERA in the 3.60-3.80 range. That has all the makings of a very solid number three starting pitcher.