The Pittsburgh Pirates have a handful of top pitching prospects, but which ones will we see in the big leagues early next year?
The Pittsburgh Pirates have a handful of top prospects coming up through the pipeline. Even by the time the calendar turns to June, the Pirate roster could look a good bit different from what fans see on Opening Day. The pitching side of things has a ton of top prospects in the upper levels of the minor leagues. However, which pitching prospects will we see debut first?
Mike Burrows will likely be the first of the top pitching prospects to make their debut. Burrows split the year between Double-A and Triple-A, where he put together a decent season. Burrows had a 4.01 ERA but a strong 3.29 FIP and 1.21 WHIP between the two levels.
Burrows posted a healthy 28.2% strikeout rate with a 7.9% walk rate and .76 HR/9. He tossed 42.1 of his 94.1 frames at Triple-A. It’s also worth mentioning that his last start of the year inflated his numbers. The talented right-hander had a 3.46 ERA/3.11 FIP before allowing six earned runs on five hits and a home run in just a third of an inning.
If Burrows isn’t the guy, then it’s likely Quinn Priester. Priester made his Triple-A debut but only started two games. Overall on the year, he had a 3.29 ERA, 3.59 FIP, and 1.21 WHIP. Priester has never been a big strikeout pitcher but posted a respectable 23.6% strikeout rate, along with an 8.0% walk rate. He’s a ground ball machine and allowed just six homers in 90.1 innings. Priester had a 50.6% ground ball rate between the two levels last season.
Like Burrows, a few poor starts at the end of the season messed up an otherwise strong campaign. In his last start, and next to the last start of the year, Priester allowed a combined 11 earned runs on two home runs and seven walks in just eight innings. Despite these two outings making up less than 10% of his innings pitched all season, the earned runs he allowed made up a third of his total. Outside of these two starts, Priester had a 2.40 ERA, 6.9% walk rate, 23.9% strikeout rate, and 0.44 HR/9.
Luis Ortiz has already debuted in the majors, but he didn’t pitch enough to break prospect status. Ortiz is a flamethrowing right-hander who skipped High-A last season. Ortiz’s 4.56 ERA, 4.40 FIP, and 1.14 WHIP might not scream high-end prospect, but there’s certainly more to them than meet the eye. Ortiz had a 27.1% strikeout rate and a 7.5% walk rate. Despite his quality 47.8% ground ball rate, Ortiz allowed 20 home runs in 124.1 innings, leading to a 1.45 HR/9. But part of that was some bad batted-ball luck, given his 17.4% HR/FB ratio. Ortiz’s 3.75 xFIP is much better in comparison.
Going into next season, Burrows, Ortiz, and Priester are the likeliest to make an impact on the major leagues among their top pitching prospects. It should be fun to see how the pitching staff comes along next season. Having this trio alongside Roansy Contreras, Mitch Keller, and Johan Oviedo could prove to be a formidable group.