What are Pittsburgh Pirates' options to fill rotation after Falter, Jones injuries?

With Jared Jones and Bailey Falter hitting the IL, who could the Pittsburgh pirates slot into the rotation right now?
Baltimore Orioles v Pittsburgh Pirates
Baltimore Orioles v Pittsburgh Pirates / Christopher Pasatieri/GettyImages
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The Pittsburgh Pirates' rotation took a beating last week. Not only did the Bucs lose standout rookie right-hander Jared Jones to a lat strain, but breakout lefty Bailey Falter left his most recent start with left posterior arm discomfort, and was sent to the Injured List on Sunday afternoon in favor of relief option/innings eater Brent Honeywell.

Jones and Falter have both been key pieces to the Pirates this year, so losing both at the same time is massive. So, if they have to miss time beyond the typical two-to-three-week Injury List stint, what options do the Pirates have at their disposal?

Pirates Rotation Options on the 40-Man Roster

The Pirates already have a few options in the major leagues. One is Luis Ortiz. Ortiz opened the year as a long reliever. However, since the start of June, Ortiz has pitched more and more innings, working as a bulk arm after the opener (and once as a starter). It’s worked very well so far, aside from one clunker on June 21. Still, Ortiz has a 3.33 ERA, 2.71 FIP, and 1.23 WHIP over his last 24.1 IP. He has a healthy 23.5% K%, and has only allowed two home runs with a microscopic 2% walk rate.

Another pitcher on the active major league roster who could see more innings is Josh Fleming. Fleming was recalled to take the ball on June 16, and he’s pitched well since. He’s only tossed seven innings since getting recalled, but has allowed just one walk and one earned run while striking out a trio of batters. Fleming has shown he can pitch well as a long reliever, with most of his struggles coming in May when the Pirates were forced to rely on him more heavily in higher-leverage situations.

Quinn Priester will also be a potential option for the Pirates. Priester has pitched 31.2 innings in the bigs this year with a 4.83 ERA, 5.72 FIP, and 1.55 WHIP. On the plus side, he has a 60% ground ball rate, a 6% barrel rate, and a 6.9% walk rate. On the downside, he still has an HR/9 approaching 2.00 and a mediocre 13.8% K%. Priester has some more promising underlying numbers, however, with a 4.17 xFIP and 4.29 SIERA, which paints him as a solid No. 4/No. 5 starter.

One pitcher who will look to return to the Pirates’ rotation soon is Marco Gonzales. The veteran lefty opened the year with three strong outings, pitching 17 frames, only allowing five earned runs, walking just five, giving up a single home run, and striking out 11. But Gonzales landed on the IL in mid-April and has been there since. Gonzales is scheduled to pitch the same night as Falter's injury, so they are on the same schedule right now.

Although we’ll discuss more prospects in a minute, one of the Pirates’ best prospects is already on their 40-man roster in the form of Braxton Ashcraft. Ashcraft has pitched 69 innings between Altoona and Indy, working to a 3.00 ERA, 3.05 FIP, and 1.07 WHIP. He has struck out just over a quarter of his opponents with a 25.9% K%, but he’s done well at limiting walks with a 4.3% BB%. He's also avoided the home run ball, sporting an 0.78 HR/9. Ashcraft did miss his last start and was put on the 10-day IL, but he was just activated on July 6, so he’s definitely an option for the Pirates.