Pittsburgh Pirates: Three Pitchers With an Important Season Ahead

Jul 31, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher JT Brubaker (34) throws against the Philadelphia Phillies during the fifth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 31, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher JT Brubaker (34) throws against the Philadelphia Phillies during the fifth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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Pittsburgh Pirates
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – APRIL 23: JT Brubaker #34 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the Minnesota Twins on April 23, 2021 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /

JT Brubaker

Right-handed pitcher JT Brubaker has spent the entirety of the previous two seasons on the active roster of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Brubaker has pitched in 35 games the previous two seasons, 33 of which have been starts, logging 171.2 innings.

While Brubaker has struggled to a 5.24 ERA and a 4.86 FIP in these 35 appearances there is a higher ceiling there for Brubaker. He’s posted a heathy 24% strikeout rate in his two MLB seasons, while walking just 7.4% of batters faced.

After getting off to a strong start last season Brubaker hit a wall in the summer. Starting on July 2nd, Brubaker went on a 10 start stretch to finish the season that saw his numbers balloon. In these 10 starts Brubaker pitched just 46.2 innings, allowing 15 home runs and walking 9.9% of batters faced. This led to him posting a 7.91 ERA and a 6.51 FIP in these 10 starts.

Brubaker has the tools to be a successful MLB starting pitcher. Last season his curveball spin rate was in the 88th percentile of baseball to go with a 30.9% whiff rate. His slider also flashed plus potential with a 42.5% whiff rate.

What burned Brubaker was allowing too much hard, quality contact. His 38.7% hard hit rate allowed, average opponent exit velocity of 88.9 MPH and 8.8% barrel rate were all higher than league average.

It would not be a surprise to see Brubaker settle into things in 2022 and become a solid no. 4 or no. 5 starting pitcher. If he can not begin to limit hard contact better then his future could be in the bullpen where Brubaker should have to tools needed to be a high-leverage relief pitcher. By the end of the 2022 season it should be clear if Brubaker’s future with the Pittsburgh Pirates is as a starting pitcher or as a relief pitcher.

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