Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Bryse Wilson has heavily struggled this season, so what is next for the former prospect?
The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Bryse Wilson at the 2021 trade deadline in a two-player package for reliever Richard Rodríguez. The other prospect heading back to the Pirates was right-hander Ricky DeVito. After kicking off the season in the Pirate Opening Day starting rotation, Wilson was demoted in early May when Roansy Contreras was recalled from Triple-A.
Now with Cody Bolton and Mike Burrows doing well at Triple-A, Carmen Mlodzinski, Kyle Nicolas, and now Quinn Priester at Double-A, and the likes of Contreras, JT Brubaker, Zach Thompson, and even Mitch Keller are giving the Pirates solid innings in the majors, the seat has to be getting hot for Wilson. So what’s next for him and the Pittsburgh Pirates?
Wilson was kicked out of the rotation for a reason. In 33.2 innings this season, the former Atlanta Braves top prospect had an 8.29 ERA, 5.25 FIP, and 1.84 WHIP. Wilson struggled to get strikeouts, having a 16.6% strikeout rate and a fairly mediocre 9.2% walk rate. Wilson’s 26.1% line drive rate was only compounded by the fact he was in the bottom 15th percentile of opponent exit velo and bottom 33rd percentile of opponent hard-hit rate.
To say that Wilson has been the weakest link to the Pirate pitching staff this year would be an understatement. Since the start of May, Pirate starters have given up 118 earned runs in 240.1 innings. Wilson is responsible for 20 of those runs (17%) while pitching just 9.1 innings (3.9%). The ratio of earned runs allowed to innings pitched for Wilson compared to all Pirate starters is astounding. The Pirate starting rotation ERA goes from 4.42 to just 3.82 since May 1st when you take out Wilson’s results.
Wilson is far from a guarantee to be on the Pirate 2023 Opening Day 40-man roster, let alone a 26-man roster. As we looked at earlier, the Pirate upper minor leagues are filled with notable talent. With Priester and Nicolas returning from injury, the Altoona Curve now has them, along with Mlodzinski, in their starting rotation. This comes a few weeks after Burrows’s promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis, where he is performing well. There are plenty of more prospects at Double-A and Triple-A for the Bucs, but that’s just the most notable.
While Wilson has greatly struggled this year, he is still young. He’s 24 years old and comes with a former top 100 prospect pedigree. He was a top 80-ish prospect by most prospect rankings going into 2019. The Pirates might be able to find some value in him as a change-of-scenery deal-sweetener type of trade piece. There’s a decent chance that a team like the Oakland Athletics or Washington Nationals would take a chance on him based on age, years left on his contract, and former prospect status alone.
If the Pittsburgh Pirates want to keep Wilson, they could try him out in the bullpen. Wil Crowe struggled mightily last season, but he’s been a quality relief arm for the Pirates this year. Now, granted, Crowe had a little more going for him than Wilson does now. Crowe’s fastball displayed above-average velocity and spin, a quality changeup, and was above-average in terms of limiting hard contact. A move to the bullpen might help Wilson gain a tick of velo and slightly more spin, but he’s still in the bottom 39th percentile of fastball velo and bottom 5th percentile of fastball spin rate. Although it might not look like a pretty answer on paper, it’s still an option nonetheless.
The last option would be to just keep him as pitching depth. There’s no such thing as too many pitchers, and teams constantly have injuries or need another in-case-of-emergency arm. The problem with this would be whether or not he’d be worth keeping on the 40-man roster. The Bucs could try and pass him through waivers, but he’d likely get claimed, again based on age, prospect pedigree, and contract status.
Wilson’s days as a starter for the Pittsburgh Pirates are likely numbered. I don’t see him getting another shot to start this year unless multiple pitchers suffer injuries. Even then, the Pirates have enough upper-minors talent to handle a few injuries before having to turn to Wilson. There’s a possibility the Bucs will try to look for a trade partner involving Wilson this deadline or off-season. But there’s an equal chance they keep him around in the organization for now. Only time will tell, but the future for BWilson and the Pirates is dimming as prospects keep performing in the minors and get promoted to the next level.