The Pittsburgh Pirates could have a solid starting rotation next year based on the upcoming prospects and players currently on the roster.
Earlier this week, we put together what would be the best possible eight-man bullpen for the 2023 Pittsburgh Pirates, based on their current roster and farm system. But for a good bullpen to matter, you need a good starting pitching staff, and the Pirates could have a solid one based on the talent coming up through the system. So what would the Pirates’ best possible starting rotation look like?
The Pittsburgh Pirates could have a strong no. 1-3 to lead the rotation off. One of those three arms has already seen playing time in the major leagues: Roansy Contreras. Contreras has shown great talent, posting a 3.42 ERA, 4.45 FIP, and 1.34 WHIP. Although Contreras’ peripherals aren’t too impressive, it’s been more of a consistency problem than an ability problem. Contreras is still in just his age-22 campaign, and he’ll get an opportunity to start regularly next season without the threat of being optioned.
Quinn Priester will also likely get regular starts at some point next season. This year at Double-A, Priester has a 2.45 ERA, 3.18 FIP, and 1.23 WHIP. Priester has a solid 24.8% strikeout rate but a robust 6.9% walk rate and 0.47 HR/9. Priester has consistently been a powerhouse when it comes to keeping the ball on the ground, and he currently has a 49% ground ball rate for Altoona. His strikeout rate might not be too impressive, but a 23-25% strikeout rate, sub-8% walk rate, and sub-0.80 HR/9 rate will always be welcomed.
Next to Priester, you have Mike Burrows. Burrows has seen his stock rise significantly over the past year. After getting off to a great start with Altoona, Burrows was sent to Triple-A Indy but struggled in his first look at the level. Currently, he has a 4.10 ERA but a healthy 3.59 FIP and 1.22 WHIP in 41.2 innings. Though Burrows has seemed to figure it out recently, posting a 2.10 ERA in his last five starts.
Contreras, Priester, and Burrows make a good trio, but they aren’t the only guys who could be a quality pitcher for the team next season. Mitch Keller has seemingly figured it out after a rough start to his MLB career. Since making a sinker his primary pitcher, Keller has a quality 3.65 ERA, 3.67 FIP, and 1.42 WHIP in his last 88.2 innings and 16 starts. While his 20.2% K-rate isn’t going to wow anyone, he’s not walking a ton of batters, as indicated by his 8.4% walk rate. He’s also inducing ground balls at a 50.8% rate which has helped him have a .71 HR/9 rate.
There are a handful of names you could slot into this last spot, but I think Johan Oviedo could be an option for the rotation. The Pirates acquired him for a reason in the José Quintana trade, and he has a decent amount of talent. He’s only pitched 112.1 innings with a poor 4.65 ERA, 5.01 FIP, and 1.47 WHIP, but he has a four-pitch mix and has pitched well for Triple-A Indy. It’s a small sample size of 11.1 innings, but he struck out 13 with only three walks, a single earned run, and no home runs. Oviedo showed some promise in his Pirate debut but struggled to get the third out after two quick outs consistently.
Of course, there are plenty of other guys you could slot into one of these rotation spots. Prospects like Luis Ortiz, Kyle Nicolas, and Carmen Mlodzinski are on the horizon. JT Brubaker has been pretty solid this season. Cody Bolton may start the year in the rotation but move to the bullpen. Zach Thompson may also be in the rotation mix. The team will see the return of Max Kranick sometime next season. Maybe the Pittsburgh Pirates will sign a free agent.
But based on what is in the farm system right now and what the Pirates have on the major league roster, this is likely the best possible starting five the team could put together. Burrows, Priester, and Contreras are already a potent 1-2-3 punch. If Keller can keep pitching as he has, he’ll easily slot into the rotation. There’s debate about who could fit into the last spot in the rotation, but I like the options the Pirates have right now, and they could explore a deep SP market.