Already in the majors
As stated earlier, the Pirates have basically been rotating through fifth starters this year. We’ll start with the one who has the most playing time, JT Brubaker. I’d be lying if I said that Brubaker didn’t have potential. Even with his most recent poor start against the Atlanta Braves, Brubaker still has a handful of quality attributes.
Since his third start of the season, Brubaker has a 4.06 ERA, 3.51 FIP, and 1.39 WHIP. He’s struck out 23.8% of batters faced with a 7.6% walk rate. His home run rate is also a strong 0.9-per-9 rate. Overall this year, Brubaker has a +2.2 fWAR in 127 innings, which is a +1.8 fWAR improvement from 2021 when he pitched 124 innings. The right-handed starter has put up a quality 3.78 xFIP and 3.88 SIERA, showing that some bad luck has been at play. Overall, Brubaker has had a quality 2022 campaign. In my opinion, he’s the likeliest internal option to fill the back end of the rotation.
However, while Brubaker has an inside track on a long-term rotation spot, he isn’t the only starter we could see fill in the last spot. Bryse Wilson has also shown some talent recently. Since making his sinker his primary offering, Wilson has a 3.83 ERA, 5.22 FIP, and 1.14 WHIP. His 2.7% walk rate in 44.2 innings is the best among all pitchers, with at least 40 IP since the start of July. However, his 13.7% strikeout rate is the seventh worst in the same time frame. Wilson has given up home runs at a 1.81-per-9 pace, though with a 46% ground ball rate and 17% HR/FB ratio, that could go down. Wilson does have a 4.34 xFIP, which is much better than his 5.22 FIP.
Zach Thompson is another name who could get some starts in the fifth rotation spot. Thompson has struggled this year, limping to the tune of a 5.51 ERA, 5.48 FIP, and 1.58 WHIP. Thompson has a poor 16% strikeout rate and 9.2% walk rate, but home runs have been his most significant struggles. He has a 1.72 HR/9 rate, but he has had better days. The last month has not been something Thompson wants to remember, surrendering 29 earned runs in his previous 29.1 innings.