Let’s first start with the most established in Roansy Contreras. Contreras had a decent rookie campaign, posting a 3.79 ERA, 4.38 FIP, and 1.27 WHIP in 95 innings of work. He needs to show a little more consistency, but that’s about the only knock on him. Other than that, Contreras has the stuff to be a frontline rotation arm.
Mitch Keller also had a big breakout season. He reduced his season ERA and FIP from 6.17 and 4.30 in 2021 to just 3.91 and 3.88 this year. However, it wasn’t smooth sailing for the right-hander the entire year. It took until about mid-May for him to figure it out. But in the last 123.2 innings of the year, Keller had a 3.20 ERA, 3.67 FIP, and 1.35 WHIP. He fully embraced becoming a sinkerballer, making it his most used offering. This helped him put up a 50% ground ball rate and put up a .65 HR/9.
Quinn Priester will also be part of this rotation by the end of 2023. Up until the last three starts of the season, Priester had a 2.56 ERA, 3.27 FIP, and 1.13 WHIP. But in his last three starts and 13 innings, he completely tanked his numbers, surrendering 11 earned runs on two home runs and nine walks. He did strike out 16, but he gave up half the amount of runs he allowed all season up to that point (22 through his first 16 starts and 11 in his final three).
Mike Burrows’ season was also met with a similar fate. The right-hander made massive strides in 2022, becoming one of the best pitching prospects the Pirates had to offer. In his first 21 starts/93.2 innings, Burrows had a 3.46 ERA but 3.11 FIP and 1.15 WHIP. He struck out nearly 30% of the batters he faced with a 28.8% rate while having a sub-8% walk rate (7.8%) and .67 HR/9. Burrows then surrendered six earned runs in two-thirds of an inning in his last start of the year, inflating his season ERA from just under 3.50 to 4.01.
Neither Priester’s last three outings nor Burrows’ last two outings change their futures. Still, it’s worth noting as to how a small sample size can greatly affect overall season numbers, especially for minor league pitchers. Contreras, Keller, Priester, and Burrows make a solid 1-4, but who is in the fifth spot? Right now, I have Luis Ortiz over Johan Oviedo.
Don’t get me wrong, Oviedo looks good, but so has Ortiz, and how often do you find a starting pitcher who can throw 100 MPH? Ortiz may have only started four games, but he looked terrific in three of those outings. But more importantly, he struck out nearly a quarter of the batters he faced while holding opponents to an 86.1 MPH and 31% hard-hit rate.