The future of the Pirate pitching staff was on display during Sunday's bullpen sessions at Pirate City in Bradenton
The 2023 season will be one for the Pittsburgh Pirates that should include multiple prospects making their MLB debut. One area that should be a big influx of talent as the season goes on is the pitching staff.
Sunday afternoon in Bradenton part of the team's future was on display. Three of their top pitching prospects threw bullpen sessions. These three pitchers were Quinn Priester, Mike Burrows, and Colin Selby, all three of whom should make their MLB debut at some point this summer, if not sooner.
Priester entered the 2022 season in need of a big season in the minor leagues, which is exactly what he delivered. Making some changes to his pitch repertoire, Priester posted a 3.29 ERA and a 3.59 FIP in 90.1 innings pitched in 19 starts. He walked 8.0% of batters faced, struck out 23.6% of his opponents, limited opponents to a .233 batting average, and allowed just 6 home runs (0.60 HR/9).
With this campaign Priester reminded the baseball world why he was a first-round pick in 2019, and re-established himself as one of the most promising pitching prospects in baseball. He also made it to the Triple-A level by the end of the season and should be entrenched in the Pirate starting rotation by the end of the season.
Like Priester, Burrows is one of the top starting pitching prospects in the Pirate farm system. The spin rate specialist is a top 100 prospect by some publications, and will also begin the season in the starting rotation at Triple-A Indianapolis.
The 23-year-old Burrows pitched a total of 93.1 innings in 24 outings, 22 starts, between Double-A and Triple-A last season. With a high spin rate fastball and a plus curveball, Burrows walked 7.9% of batters faced, sturck out a healthy 28.2%, and posted a 4.01 ERA to go witha 3.29 FIP.
Burrows performance led to him pitching in the Futures Game as part of last summer's All-Star Game festivities. He also worked hard to develop his changeup throughout the season, leading to the pitching developing into another weapon for Burrows.
Selby, like Burrows, was added to the 40-man roster this offseaosn to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. Arguably the organization's top relief pitching prospect, Selby posted a 2.27 ERA and a 2.92 FIP in 35.2 innings pitched between Double-A and Triple-A last season. Selby allowed just 2 home runs (0.50 HR/9), while limiting opponents to a .215 batting average. While his 9.4% walk rate was a bit higher than you would like to see, he countered it with a strong 28.9% strikeout rate.
Selby followed up his regular season success with success in the Arizona Fall League. The righty pitched 9.0 innings in the AFL, allowing just a pair of runs on 8 hits, no home runs, 4 walks, and 9 strikeouts.
While Selby will likely start the season in the Triple-A bullpen, he should be one of the first arms the Pirates promote from the minor leagues when the 26-man roster needs a pitcher. By the end of the season, Selby should be a key piece of Derek Shelton's bullpen.
Watching players like these three throughout the spring will be one of the highlights of spring training for the Pirates. Then watching them progress in the minors and make their MLB debuts this season will be the pay off.