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Pirates 2022 season review: Starting pitchers

Some solid pieces in place, more in the pipeline

MLB: New York Mets at Pittsburgh Pirates
This guy should lead the 2023 rotation.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates’ 2022 starting rotation started with Jose Quintana, Mitch Keller, JT Brubaker, Zach Thompson, and Bryse Wilson. Quintana, who was signed to a one-year deal and who many envisioned would become trade bait, performed well and indeed went to the Cardinals before the trade deadline along with reliever Chris Stratton in exchange for right-hander Johan Oviedo and infielder Malcom Nunez.

Mitch Keller, as I wrote in my article yesterday, was the feel-good story of the 2022 Pirates. He always had the stuff, just not the confidence. He came up the same year I began writing for Bucs Dugout, and I’ve enjoyed watching his development even when he struggled. This year he didn’t visibly crumple when he got in trouble; he’d take a moment to collect himself, then come back with fire in his eyes. His 5-12 record in 2022 was more because of the Pirates’ lack of run support rather than poor pitching. He was Good Mitch far more often than Bad Mitch. His ERA was 3.91 in 159 innings pitched, the best of his short career, with 138 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.40. He managed to stay mostly healthy as well.

JT Brubaker, believe it or not, had similar numbers to Keller this year, and when he was on he looked like a world-beater, leading the rotation in strikeouts with 147. He gave up slightly fewer hits than Keller, but he pitched fewer innings. He also gave up more bombs, 17 to Keller’s 14, and more earned runs, 75 to Keller’s 69. Like every Pirates starting pitcher, he suffered from a lack of run support, but there were many times he didn’t help himself, as evidenced by his 4.69 ERA. He also had some injury issues.

Zach Thompson began the year as a starter and ended it as a reliever mostly, in Derek Shelton and Oscar Marin’s plug-in-the-holes-in-the-bullpen plan. He wasn’t particularly effective in either role, ending the year with a 5.18 ERA and giving up the second-most home runs on the starting staff.

Bryse Wilson improved toward the end of the season, but he was inconsistent enough to the point where I winced every time I saw that he was going to start. He gave up the most home runs on the staff (20), and his ERA was 5.52. His youth and his late-season improvement, though, give me a little hope that he might be able to turn things around. Note that I said “a little.”

Johan Oviedo? Much like Wilson, he’s still young, but he’s still got something to prove, I think.

But what about the kids? Roansy Contreras showed some excellent stuff when he came up, to the point that baseball media opined that the Pirates made out better in the Jameson Taillon trade, of which he was a piece, than the Yankees. He’s not quite there yet, but he was fun to watch.. Another touted prospect coming up to the Show in 2022 was Luis Ortiz, who throws positive fire but needs to learn some control (in his 16 innings he walked ten).

So what will the 2023 Pirates starting pitching staff look like? Probably this to start:





The fifth? Could be Wilson, could be Oviedo depending how each of them does in spring training. You guys know I hate to make predictions.

However, more kids wait in the wings. Unless something awful happens, Quinn Priester should be up next summer. Mike Burrows is also an almost definite 2023 call-up, given his near-meteoric rise through the farm system. If his recovery from Tommy John surgery progresses as expected, we should also see Max Krammit Kranick towards the middle of the season.

Get some run support, keep the injury rate low and we could be looking at a solid Pirates starting rotation in 2023. A reason to look forward to spring training!