Pittsburgh Pirates: Future of the Rotation Could Be Bright

(Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
(Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) /

The future of the Pittsburgh Pirates rotation is in good hands with multiple talented prospects coming up to support an already solid group of arms.

The Pittsburgh Pirates rotation has been a massive strength for nearly two months. Since May 1st, José Quintana, Roansy Contreras, JT Brubaker, Zach Thompson, and Mitch Keller have a combined 3.27 ERA. But one massive contributor to this has been Jose Quintana, who has a 3.32 throughout this time. But fear not, even if Jose Quintana departs in trade or free agency, the future of this rotation is in good hands.

The Pittsburgh Pirates recently promoted Mike Burrows to Triple-A. Burrows mowed down Double-A batters to start the year, having a 2.94 ERA, 2.71 FIP, and 1.10 WHIP. His strikeout rate was well over 30%, clocking in at 32.4% and posting a solid 8.9% walk rate. Plus, he gave up a single home run. Since getting promoted to Indy, Burrows has a 3.68 ERA, but this is in just 7.1 innings of work. He hasn’t allowed a walk yet and has done solid despite a .381 batting average on balls in play.

Burrows is arguably the most improved prospect in the Pirate system. A few years ago, it was very much up in the air whether he would be a starter or a reliever. He had a two-pitch mix, having a plus-plus fastball/curveball mix. But his change-up has made great strides this year, and he should make his debut later this year.

Had it not been for early-season injury, Quinn Priester might have joined him at Triple-A by now. Priester returned to Double-A a few weeks ago. Like Burrows, he hasn’t pitched much, having just seven innings under his belt, but does have a 2.57 ERA despite a .412 BAbip. Priester is a ground ball machine that suppresses home runs. A former first-round pick, his curveball is elite. His cutter is also well above average, and his four-seamer, although a bit flat, is a usable offering. Priester’s command isn’t like Greg Maddux’s, but he can locate good enough.

Priester and Burrows could easily be key cogs to the rotation by this time next season, but the fact that they’re far from the only potential long-term options gives the Pittsburgh Pirates a ton of flexibility with their rotation.

Miguel Yajure, Cody Bolton, Carmen Mlodzinski, and Kyle Nicolas have all shown some talent this year. All three have pitched in the upper levels of the minor leagues, with Yajure and Bolton having pitched most of their seasons with Triple-A Indy. Even Yajure has pitched in the majors, and in his first start of 2022, he pitched four scoreless innings against a line-up that housed Juan Soto, a red-hot Josh Bell, and Nelson Cruz, standout youngster Luis Garcia, and two decent hitting outfielders in Lane Thomas and Yadiel Hernandez.

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The long-term health of the Pirate rotation is excellent. They currently have four starting pitchers with control well beyond next season, and they have been trending in the right direction. Brubaker and Keller look like they might be coming into their own. Contreras is highly talented, and Thompson (although injured at the time of writing this) looks like his 2021 self.