Pittsburgh Pirates 2023 Opening Day Roster Prediction: Version 4.0
Starting rotation - Mitch Keller, Roansy Contreras, Rich Hill, JT Brubaker, Johan Oviedo, Vince Velasquez
This is an area of some debate. What is not a deabte is that Mitch Keller, Roansy Contreras, and Rich Hill will anchor the rotation. Keller appears primed for a big year, while Contreras should take a big step forward the way Keller did last season. If those two things happen while Hill pitches the way he has throughout his long MLB career, the Pirate rotation will have a very strong top three.
After these top three, things start to get a bit murky. JT Brubaker and Vince Velasquez will both be on the Opening Day roster. That is not a question. The question is will both be in the starting rotation? Or will one of them bump to the bullpen to create a spot for Johan Oviedo? Perhaps, Oviedo starts the season at Triple-A Indianapolis.
It's hard to envision Brubaker not starting the season in the rotation. He was a workhorse for the Pirates last season. Brubaker struggled in his first two starts, the second of which saw him get burnt by horrible defense, and his final start of the season when he likely should have just finished the season on the injured list. In the 25 starts in between, he posted a 4.30 ERA and a 3.84 FIP in 134.0 innings pitched.
Seemingly, this would leave Velasquez and Oviedo battling for the final rotation spot. It appears the Pirates prepare to enter the season with Velasquez in the starting rotation, in addition to having stuff that's too good to not start gaems Oviedo also has nothing left to prove in the minors.
Seeing the team roll with a six-man rotation to start the season would not be a surprise. It could also help them limit innings early in the season for Contreras and Oviedo, who could have their workloads watched this season, as well as Hill who is no spring chicken.
One of Velasquez or Brubaker, more likely Velasquez, could start in the bullpen. Oviedo could start at Triple-A. However, for now, we'll project some fashion of six-man starting rotation, even if it's just piggyback situations, when the season begins.