Starting Rotation - Mitch Keller, Marco Gonzales, Martín Pérez, Roansy Contreras, Quinn Priester
For as big of a strength as the bullpen could be, the Pirate starting rotation is by far the team's biggest weakness entering 2024.
While Mitch Keller is more of a no. 2 type starter pitcher in a deeper starting rotation, there is no denying that he is the top guy for the Pirates. After pitching a career-high 194.1 innings in an also career-high 32 starts, Keller posted the best WAR of his career at 2.9 while making his first career All-Star appearance last season. In 2024, the Pirates need Keller to take another step forward.
Offseason acquisitions Marco Gonzales and Martín Pérez are set to slide in behind Keller. Gonzales is coming off back-to-back poor seasons, including a 2023 season in which he was limited to just 10 starts due to a forearm issue that required surgery and brings plenty of red flags.
As for Pérez, his struggles last season led to him losing his spot in the Ranger starting rotation. An American League All-Star in 2022, Pérez has had just two good seasons in 12 seasons in the majors. The odds of him pitching well for the Pirates this season are not high.
There is no denying that Roansy Contreras went off a cliff last season. In 5 April starts Contreras owned a 3.58 ERA, 2.93 FIP, 10.3% walk rate, 20.7% strikeout rate, and he did not allow a home run. From the start of May through July 5th, Contreras posted an 8.63 ERA, 6.72 FIP, 10.8% walk rate, 16.7% strikeout rate, and he allowed 11 home runs (2.43 HR/9).
Even with these struggles, Contreras is too talented for the Pirates to give up on. He is also out of minor league options, which all but assures him a spot on the Opening Day roster. Look for the Pirates to give Contreras one last shot in the starting rotation when the 2024 season begins.
Quinn Priester struggled in his first trip to the majors. The former first-round pick posted a 7.74 ERA, 6.74 FIP, and a -0.9 WAR in 50.0 innings pitched across 10 appearances, 8 of which were starts. Despite these struggles, the Pirates need a fifth starting pitcher. They also likely want to see what Priester can do with another extended look in the majors.
However, once JT Brubaker/Mike Burrows get healthy and the Pirates reach a point where they feel comfortable with Paul Skenes in the majors, then Priester's leash could become very short very quickly.
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