3 bold predictions for the Pirates' 2024 season

I want to share some bold predictions about the Pittsburgh Pirates and their upcoming 2024 season.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Chicago Cubs
Pittsburgh Pirates v Chicago Cubs / Michael Reaves/GettyImages
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Jared Jones and Paul Skenes are both Rookie of the Year candidates

The Pirates have a boatload of young pitchers coming through the system. But two could end up being the best rookies in baseball this year, that being Jared Jones and Paul Skenes. The flamethrowing right-handers are two of Ben Cherington's most prized draft picks (especially Skenes) and should see ample time in the bigs next year. Although many have Skenes as a potential Rookie of the Year winner this year, I think a lot of people are sleeping on Jones. 

Skenes wrapped up a spectacular season at Louisiana State University in 2023, pitching to a 1.69 ERA, 0.750 WHIP, and 10.45 K:BB ratio. Skenes struck out an awe-inspiring 45.3 percent of the batters he faced with a minuscule 4.3 percent walk rate. Skenes also only allowed seven home runs for an HR/9 rate of 0.51. Skenes did not pitch much for the Pirates' minor league system after getting drafted, logging just 6.2 innings between the Florida Complex League and Double-A Altoona.

Jones, meanwhile, is coming off a season where he had a 3.85 ERA, 3.77 FIP, and 1.23 WHIP in 126.1 innings. Jones paired a respectable 9.5 percent walk rate with an even better 27.6 percent strikeout rate. He also wasn't very home run prone, with an 0.85 HR/9 rate. Although Jones saw his numbers dip from Altoona to Triple-A, he was going from a much more pitcher-friendly to a hitter-friendly environment. That includes seeing the league average ERA go from 4.66 in the Eastern League to 5.17, as well as having to adjust to the ABS.

Both Skenes and Jones don't just have great numbers but also have good stuff to back them up. Skenes averages 97-100 MPH with his fastball. During his Spring Breakout game, he threw six sinkers/four-seam fastballs. Just one registered below 100 MPH. Jones, meanwhile, averaged 98.2 MPH in Spring Training at about 2500 RPM. He threw the 8th hardest fastball among all pitchers in Spring with at least 25 four-seamers thrown. Skenes throws an elite slider and plus change-up, while Jones's slider sits in the upper-80s with good movement and pairs that with a curveball and change-up of his own.

Even if just one of Skenes or Jones finishes in the top three in Rookie of the Year voting, the Pirates will receive an extra draft pick in 2025. Unfortunately, it does not stack, and the Pirates won't get two if both Skenes and Jones finish in the top three in ROTY voting. Still, I think it's quite possible these two receive Rookie of the Year votes. Skenes was given a record-setting signing bonus for a reason. He's the most talented pitching prospect the draft has seen since Stephen Strasburg and Gerrit Cole. Jones made some major strides in development last year.