clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Analyzing Pirates main strength, weakness for 2023

Which areas improved/need improved for the Bucs?

MLB: Spring Training-Minnesota Twins at Pittsburgh Pirates Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

The regular season is 24 days away and the Pittsburgh Pirates know that 2023 is an important year in terms of improvement.

After finishing the past two seasons with loss totals in the triple digits, the team sought to improve the major league roster for the upcoming season by adding several free agents, which, for a struggling franchise like Pittsburgh, instantly made things better on paper.

Notable positions that instantly improved due to the team trading for or signing players include first base, outfield and starting pitching, but were they enough to be a strength to the Pirates, or do they still need upgraded in order to be good?

Strength: Infield

It would be a disservice to say the infield isn’t the Pirates’ biggest strength heading into 2023.

Despite low offensive numbers last year, Ke’Bryan Hayes led all MLB in defensive runs saved (DRS) last season with 24 and would’ve walked away with a Gold Glove had it not been for shenanigans. He also focused on improving his hitting during the offseason, even working with guys like Prince Fielder.

Oneil Cruz impressed fans both offensively and defensively with his power and speed, and he even has his sights set for a 30-30 or 40-40 season, that according to an interview with’s Justice delos Santos.

“I’m looking for 30-30,” Cruz said through team interpreter Stephen Morales, “or 40-40 this year. The one that is going to be under my control this year is to go play hard and put on a good show for the people who go out to Pittsburgh to see me play.”

Along with Hayes and Cruz manning the left side of the infield, Rodolfo Castro and Ji-hwan Bae are battling for the starting role at second base. Castro started 28 games at second last year with the Pirates, but a late spark by Bae last season put the two in competition for the position.

Lastly, newcomers Ji-Man Choi and Carlos Santana add some much needed help at first base and designated hitter. Considering last year, we saw the likes of Michael Chavis, Yoshi Tsutsugo and Josh VanMeter manning first, this is already a significant upgrade.

Even if one of those names fail, the infield is in a much better position than it was last year.

Weakness: Bullpen

The main Achilles’ Heel of the Pirates continues to be the bullpen and for several reasons.

Aside from David Bednar, there is no real identity to the menu of arms the Pirates possess for the late innings. Sure, fans saw a career year from Chase De Jong, who went 6-3 with a 2.64 ERA and 1.6 WAR in 71-and-two-thirds innings pitched, but it’s unclear if he can recreate these numbers this year.

Guys like Yerry De Los Santos and Colin Holderman, who was acquired from the New York Mets at the trade deadline, showed promise as potential anchors in the bullpen, but injuries sidelined them for most of last season. To be fair, though, Holderman is turning heads in Spring Training due to his increased velocity, better pitch location and, from what it seems, more confidence.

The rest is a toss-up. Wil Crowe declined rapidly over the course of the season but that can be attributed to his workload. Robert Stephenson and Jarlin Garcia are dealing with injuries and Duane Underwood Jr. has his good moments, but is inconsistent for the most part.

Dauri Moreta and Colin Selby are also in the fight for a bullpen spot, but with limited appearances so far this spring, their fate is still unclear.

The Pirates might have found a diamond in the rough, though, with Rule 5 pick Jose Hernandez. While the 25-year-old only made it as far as Double A with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, he’s already collected four strikeouts over three innings with the Pirates this spring.

Then, you have a “competition” between non-roster invitees Angel Perdomo, Rob Zastryzny and Daniel Zamora, all of which aren’t having remarkable appearances during Spring Training.

In short, the arms need to take two steps forward this season. The revolving door approach needs to fade out and players need to start finding their permanent place in the bullpen. If this doesn’t happen, it will be a long year for Pirates relievers.

What areas do you think are the best or need improvement? Vote with the polls below and tell us why in the comments!


What area do you think is the strongest for Pittsburgh?

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    (194 votes)
  • 19%
    (59 votes)
  • 7%
    Starting Pitching
    (22 votes)
  • 3%
    Relief Pitching
    (10 votes)
  • 4%
    (13 votes)
  • 1%
    (5 votes)
303 votes total Vote Now


What area do you think is the weakest for Pittsburgh?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    (4 votes)
  • 6%
    (18 votes)
  • 29%
    Starting Pitching
    (81 votes)
  • 31%
    Relief Pitching
    (86 votes)
  • 22%
    (62 votes)
  • 8%
    (23 votes)
274 votes total Vote Now