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2022 Season Predictions: How will Pirates perform this year?

Hear what our staff has to say.

MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at Pittsburgh Pirates Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the Pittsburgh Pirates began their ascent from the bottom of the league and finished with a .377 winning percentage. Despite losing 101 games, the team gained .60 on its winning percentage, so the team is moving in the right direction.

But will the team be able to continue the trend in 2022?

Here’s what our staff has to say:

Jeremy Brener

The Pirates will likely hover around the same spot as they did last year. But with a less competitive division, I like their chances to improve their record and get out of their 100-loss territory.

But not by much.

Ultimately, the team still has a ton of holes in both the batting order and pitching staff. And with the arrival of several rookies, there is reason for optimism, but also reason for struggles.

If Oneil Cruz, Diego Castillo and Rodolfo Castro can live up to the hype and complement the likes of Ke’Bryan Hayes and Bryan Reynolds, there’s no way this team loses 100 games.

Record Prediction: 66-96

Jake Slebodnick

Like Jeremy referenced, the NL Central is a very anemic division and the Pirates won’t look nearly as bad this year because of it. That doesn’t mean they’ll come out of the manure pile smelling like a bunch of roses either.

Pitching continues to be suspect as there will most likely be two to three names that will actually look good this year: Zach Thompson, David Bednar, and Mitch Keller. Other than that, expect short outings and lots of high ERAs in the bullpen.

The offense is what I’m excited for. For the first time in years, we finally have some power. Yoshi, Vogelbach and a few others — including Cole Tucker, Diego Castillo and Bryan Reynolds — found a rhythm during Spring Training which will hopefully carry into the regular season.

Plus, once Oneil Cruz is finally at the Major League level... oh boy.

Here’s to another year of mediocrity.

Record Prediction: 74-88

Austin Bechtold

Things are looking up for the Pirates, but the ceiling to reach a winning team again is 100 feet high. Reinforcements like Oneil Cruz, Roansy Contreras, Travis Swaggerty, and others will join newly-minted big leaguer Diego Castillo in the majors before June and look to be the first of many top prospects to flip the script in Pittsburgh.

The NL Central was weak to begin with and became weaker after Cincinnati’s recent selloff. The Pirates won’t win the division, or finish in second, but third place is not out of the question if already low expectations are exceeded. Two of Ke’Bryan Hayes, Bryan Reynolds, and David Bednar will make the All-Star Game despite another sluggish Bucco ballclub. I don’t expect or think we will see any major deadline moves Ben Cherington makes to negatively impact the major league team, unlike past seasons, holding onto Reynolds but dealing Jose Quintana and Chris Stratton if they perform well.

2022 needs to be the first “sign of life” year for the Pirates rebuild to feel like it's going somewhere. Improvements from Mitch Keller, Cole Tucker, and Opening Day starter JT Brubaker would be exciting storylines to follow. I’m interested to see how the Pirates utilize the universal DH for a full 162-game season and if the pitching can support a decent lineup.

Once Oneil Cruz is promoted for good and is manning balls at shortstop, or even left field, people will notice and pay attention. 2022 needs to be a rebirth of 2012 all over again and provide a light at the end of the tunnel for the Pirates to compete again and welcome more talented prospects to PNC Park. But it won’t happen much until 2023.

Record Prediction: 73-89

Patricia Beninato

I answered this question for the Cards Conclave blog last month, so I’ll be lazy and (mostly) repeat myself:

I think they’ll do better. Not hugely better, but better. The bar is low. Starting pitching is still a problem. Mitch Keller always makes me ask the same question when he starts–will he be a good Mitch or a bad Mitch?–and despite the addition of Jose Quintana, there’s not a lot of veteran presence on the starting staff.

However, relief pitching improved during 2021, with a legit closer emerging in local hero David Bednar. Ke’Bryan Hayes seems to be living up to the hype; he’s the only infielder who doesn’t hear the footsteps of someone who can take his job behind him. I’m not sure if Oneil Cruz will make the team out of ST (note: Reader, he did not) but I do see him making the team sometime this summer. Bryan Reynolds will undoubtedly keep being Bryan Reynolds, hopefully with a suitable paycheck.

Derek Shelton and his staff have to know that none of them can use the excuse of being new this season. Ben Cherington is patient, but not that patient. The NL Central isn’t that strong of a division, so it’s possible the Pirates can surprise. Then again, I’m routinely slagged for my optimism, so take that as you will.

Record Prediction: 75-87

Nathan Hursh

I believe the Pirates will be better in 2022 than they were in 2021. That is not saying much. They stunk last year. Like many have referenced above, the division is weaker this season than last.

Offensively, this team should be better. I think we forget that in 2021 the Pirates fielded a TON of awful players. To name a few, guys like Will Craig, Gregory Polanco (that hurts to type), Erik Gonzalez, and Ka’ai Tom are no longer with the team. In total, the Pirates played 16 position players that finished last season with a negative fWAR. 12 of those players are no longer with the organization.

In 2022, we get a full season of Yoshi. A full season of Gamel. Hopefully, we get a full season of Hayes. Reynolds will continue to Reynolds. Vogelbach should add some pop. And as many mentioned, help from the farm is on the way.

On the pitching side, things should get better. Last season, a lot of Pirates’ starters were newcomers getting in their first full season of major league ball. With the added experience, I believe some will take a step forward this season. As we know, Keller is a big name to watch. The addition of catcher Roberto Perez should help the staff as well.

Record prediction: 69-93

Darren Yuvan

It’s going to be another tough summer on the North Shore, but it won’t be without some glimmers of hope. We’ll all be looking for the Oneil Cruz and Roansy Contreras call ups, which will give us a look at what to expect for the future, but in the meantime, we’ll still be dealing with a pretty bad team.

I’ve seen some predictions that the Pirates will be the worst team in baseball, and while they’ll definitely stink, I think they’ll be a little better than the worst, and I agree with my fellow writers that they should be better than they were last year.

There should be more pop in the bats — which we’ve already seen this spring — and though the pitching staff currently lacks any top-end talent, an improved Mitch Keller and some innings-eating by JT Brubaker should help stabilize the starting group somewhat. The bullpen, as usual, will likely be hit or miss.

I’m concerned that Ke’Bryan Hayes is up in the air for Opening Day. I know it’s not a serious injury, but after an injury-plagued last season in which he played just 96 games, we need to see him on the field. You can’t be a franchise cornerstone if you’re spending all of your time in the trainer’s room.

I’ll be excited to watch Bryan Reynolds, who looks like he’s poised to pick up right where he left off last year, and I’ll be eager to see if Diego Castillo still looks like a power shot in the arm once he’s in the regular season.

If nothing else, the Bucs should be a little more exciting than the anemic offensive team that was put on the field last year.

Record Prediction: I’m going 69-93 for the year, which would make them 8 games better than last year, but not quite good enough to crack the 70-win mark.