Still Needs Improving
The first four spots in the Pirates’ starting rotation do not look bad. Mitch Keller, Roansy Contreras, JT Brubaker, and Johan Oviedo are a solid 1-4. However, the #5 spot is a complete black hole, and that also means that the overall depth of the rotation is lacking. If Spring Training were to start tomorrow, the Pirates would be entering the pre-season with a battle between Bryse Wilson, Vince Velasquez, and Zach Thompson.
Soon after the Vince Velasquez signing, Ben Cherington made it seem like the right-hander had the inside track on the final starting rotation job. However, he recently stated that the team is still looking for starting pitching options. While Wilson, Velasquez, and Thompson are not terrible depth or sixth/seventh starter options, these can’t be the only players in the running for a rotation spot.
The Pirates do have some decent pitching prospects like Quinn Priester, Mike Burrows, Kyle Nicolas, and Luis Ortiz (who already made his major league debut) stationed at Triple-A. So hopefully, if the Pirates do open the year with one of Thompson/Wilson/Velasquez, it’s only for a short while. The team does have multiple free-agent options still lingering on the market, like Wade Miley, Michael Wacha, Corey Kluber, Johnny Cueto, Danny Duffy, Zack Greinke, Rich Hill, and Nathan Eovaldi.
While Joe is a solid addition to the outfield, more could be done, especially for right-handed options. Andrew McCutchen may no longer be the MVP he was a decade ago with the Pirates, but he can still play a respectable left field. He’s a good hitter vs. LHP and is still a free agent. It would be preferable for the Pirates to get someone who can handle center field every now and again, though. I recently highlighted two outfielders that could fill that role, Adam Duvall and A.J. Pollock.
Duvall is coming off a mediocre season but started to look like he was turning things around before getting injured. He played about a half of a season and is only one year removed from hitting 38 home runs with Platinum Glove-level defense for the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins. A.J. Pollock still hits extremely well against opposite-handed pitching while playing an average center field and left field. He also had a solid second half, where he owned a 117 wRC+.