2024 Pittsburgh Pirates Rum Bunter staff prediction: Noah Wright

What do I see the Pittsburgh Pirates doing in 2024?

Miami Marlins v Pittsburgh Pirates
Miami Marlins v Pittsburgh Pirates / Justin Berl/GettyImages
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Staff writer Noah Wright kicks off the yearly pre-season predictions from the Rum Bunter staff with his predictions for the 2024 Pittsburgh Pirates

It's that time of the year again, that time when we share our predictions for the Pittsburgh Pirates and their upcoming season. Last year, the Pirates went 76-86, a sizable 14-win improvement from 2022. The season was a rollercoaster, but they made a statement in the end. They're getting better, and I think they'll only go up from here.

So with that, I want to share my thoughts on the team, everything from my record prediction, who I think will be the team MVP, best pitcher, Rookie of the Year, Comeback player of the year, as well as one breakout position player and pitcher. So, with that, let's get into my first prediction. For those curious, here is the link to my predictions from last season.

Record: 83-79

I'll admit I am much more optimistic than most. But I don't think the Pirates are all that far away from around 82-85 wins. The Pirates finished with 76 wins in 2023. They also played above .500 ball from late July onward, and most of that was with just two starting pitchers, Mitch Keller, and Johan Oviedo. I don't think the Pirates are that far from improving to a very respectable team and going from 76 wins to 83 wins should not be that large of a step.

The Pirates will definitely improve by getting Oneil Cruz back into action. Having a steady player at shortstop will be an improvement of the juggling the Pirates had to resort to after Cruz tore his ankle last year. If Cruz can look anything like he did in the second half of the 2022 campaign, we're looking at one of the most talented players in baseball.

The Pirates also have a ton of upcoming pitching. Paul Skenes and Jared Jones could help reinforce the rotation by June. They'll also get JT Brubaker and Mike Burrows back in action by the second half of the year. That is four potential rotation reinforcements the Pirates will get around the time of the All-Star Break. Plus, having some stability in a super durable arm in Marco Gonzales will help.

Position player-wise, I think that Rowdy Tellez will look more like what he did in April and May of 2023 before his forearm injury. Plus his defense might even take a step forward after seemingly slimming down in the off-season. Edward Olivares should play better in a less spacious field like Kauffman. The Pirates have a ton of other rebound or breakout players on their roster right now, including Henry Davis, Jared Triolo, Joshua Palacios, Roansy Contreras, Luis Ortiz, and Quinn Priester.

There will also be some addition by subtraction. As I stated with Cruz, this will definitely take playing time away from Alika Williams, who had a 43 wRC+ with the Pirates in 46 games last season. Austin Hedges appeared in 65 games with the Pirates with a 26 wRC+. Osvaldo Bido, Duane Underwood Jr., and Rob Zastryzny combined for 95.2 innings and -0.6 bWAR. With a much more stable bullpen and starting pitching reinforcements on the way by June, they hopefully won't have to resort to playing as many sub-replacement level pitchers as they did.

The Pirates would need to improve by seven wins to reach my prediction. Having Cruz back and not playing Alika Williams semi-regularly as they did in August and September last year adds at least three more, in my opinion (at the very least). I am fully confident the Pirates can find at least four more W's between Davis, Tellez, Olivares, Triolo, Ortiz, Contreras, Palacios, Skenes, Brubaker, Jones, Burrows, and Priester.