On Monday, Derek Shelton announced that JT Brubaker is set to open the season on the injured list with right elbow/forearm discomfort
After having showing some promising things with the Pittsburgh Pirates this spring, JT Brubaker, who struck out 26 batters while posting a 5.19 ERA in 17.2 Grapefruit League innings pitched, is likely headed to the injured list. While those numbers aren't extremely impressive on paper, Brubaker only walked 3 batters all spring, impressed with his strikeout numbers, and had a low 1.10 WHIP. Before the injury, Brubaker was viewed as being a reliable innings eater with some upside as a back of the rotation arm.
Brubaker quietly had a decent season in 2022, leading the Pittsburgh Pirates with 147 strikeouts and being second on the team in terms of innings pitched and games started. In 144 innings pitched, Brubaker posted a 4.69 ERA, 3.92 FIP, struck out 147 batters, walked 54, and had a 1.47 WHIP. While those numbers aren't All-Star level, Brubaker was still a solid innings eater for the Pirates, and that's what you're looking for at the back of the rotation.
With Brubaker likely on the injured list by Opening Day, who will step in and fill his rotation spot?
The most likely answer is young right-handed pitcher Johan Oviedo, who was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals in the Jose Quintana trade last season. While pitching in the Grapefruit League, Oviedo had a decent spring, posting a 4.91ERA, struck out 17 batters, only walked 7, and had a 1.50 WHIP across 14.2 innings pitched and 3 starts (5 total appearances).
After Oviedo was acquired from the Cardinals in 2022, he surprised many Pirate fans, posting a 3.23 ERA, 3.4 7FIP, struck out 28 batters, walked 16, and had a 1.27 WHIP across 30.2 innings and 7 starts. While Oviedo has struggled with command of his pitches in the past, he will be looking to improving in that regard during the 2023 season. While Oviedo is still young at 25-years-old and has struggled with walks, he still has the potential to become a solid back- end of the rotation arm for the Pirates and is the most likely option to take over for Brubaker.
Prior to Brubaker's injury, Oviedo was projected to start off the season either in the bullpen due to the recent injuries to Jarlin Garcia and Robert Stephenson, or to be optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. With the injury to Brubaker, Oviedo can now take advantage of this opportunity and prove why he should be an everyday starter in the rotation. .
You could argue that top pitching prospects Luis Ortiz, Mike Burrows, and Quinn Priester should get a shot, but all of them still need time at Triple-A before immediately jumping up to the majors. As much as some fans may want that to happen, it's highly unlikely that any of them beat out Oviedo for the no.4 rotation spot.
With Brubaker's injury, the Pirates rotation and bullpen is projected to be as follows:
1. RHP Mitch Keller (Opening Day)
2. RHP Roansy Contreras
3. LHP Rich Hill
4. RHP Johan Oviedo (replacing JT Brubaker)
5. RHP Vince Velasquez
-RHP Chase De Jong
-RHP Duane Underwood Jr.
-LHP Jose Hernandez
-RHP Dauri Moreta
-RHP Wil Crowe
-RHP Yerry De Los Santos or LHP Rob Zastryzny
-RHP Colin Holderman
-RHP David Bednar
With Opening Day right around the corner, only time will tell if Oviedo does well to start out the season in the no. 4 spot. All we can do is hope for a speedy recovery for Brubaker.