It feels like it has been forever since the Pittsburgh Pirates entered a season with starting pitching depth. In 2023, they will have starting pitching depth.
Entering the offseason the Pittsburgh Pirates were in need of pitching help. Help was needed in the bullpen more than the starting rotation. Well, they have started to address the bullpen with the pending addition of lefty Jarlín García, but one position group general manager Ben Cherington has done a good job addressing this offseason has been the starting rotation.
At Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings the Pittsburgh Pirates signed veteran right-handed pitcher Vince Velasquez to a one-year deal. Then on Tuesday afternoon, they signed veteran lefty Rich Hill to a one-year deal as well.
This two will join a solid building block that was already in place. Mitch Keller, Roansy Contreras, Johan Oviedo, and JT Brubaker all appeared to enter the offseason with a spot locked up in the Pirate starting rotation. This quartet helped the Pirate rotation finish the 2022 season strong, as the starting rotation posted a 3.63 ERA and a 3.87 FIP across the final 36 games of the season.
When the 2023 season, Keller, Contreras, and Hill will be locked into the team's starting rotation. Two of Oviedo, Brubaker, and Velasquez will join them. Regardless of which five Derek Shelton rolls with to start the 2023 season the Pirates will have options and depth, which is a pleasant change from recent seasons.
Their depth and options will go deeper than just these six. Triple-A Indianapolis will have a rotation that will feature Quinn Priester, Mike Burrows, and Luis Ortiz. Priester and Ortiz are both ranked top-100 prospects by FanGraphs, with Priester also being a top-100 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, and Burrows has the best spin rates of any starting pitcher in the Pirate farm system. Additionally, outside of his final state, Ortiz pitched very well with the Pirates last September.
This trio will give Indianapolis one of the best starting rotations in all of minor league baseball. All three of these players will be expected to join the Pirate starting rotation at some point in 2023. Once again, providing quality depth.
One thing many Pirate fans wanted to see this offseason was the team doing more than punting on the 2023 season. Are the Pirates going to compete for a postseason spot? No. But, is the team's roster currently better than it was at the end of the 2022 season? That is an absolute yes, and the additions to the starting rotation is a big reason why.
As the old saying goes, in baseball you are only as good as your next day's starting pitcher. Well, for the Pittsburgh Pirates, more often than not in 2023 their next day's starting pitcher will be a quality, legitimate MLB level starter. Once again, something that far too often has not been the case in recent seasons.
Far too often in recent seasons the Pirates have entered the season looking to fill out the back of their starting rotation with pitchers on minor league contracts or probably should no longer be in the majors. This season, that will not be the case. Instead, the Pirates will enter the 2023 season not just with five legitimate, quality starting pitchers, but also with quality depth for when injuries and/or ineffectiveness occurs.