Pirates starting pitching was a hot mess in 2023. Serious moves needed to be made this off season but what they have done so far suggests they are not that interested in doing so. Lets look at what we got so far.
Mitch Keller looked like a top of the rotation pitcher the first half of 2023 but things got bumpy the second half. First half of 2023 he had a 3.31 ERA with a 1.12 WHIP Limiting batters to a .631 OPS in 19 games. The team and player worked to an extension that did not come to pass. The second half saw Keller post a 5.59 ERA and a 1.435 WHIP. Most of the problems came in a hand full of the 13 games giving up a large amount of runs including three 8 run and one 7 run game. Consistency has always been an issue with Mitch but 2023 has shown he has the ability to be a top of the rotation guy. Interestingly, Austin Hedges was not with the team the second half.
Luis Ortiz put up some decent starts in 2023 and could be a quality bottom of the rotation guy. He is a guy that will give you five innings often keeping the game with in reach while dropping some real stinkers. On a better rotation he would be a good number six.
Quinn Priester’s debut to the MLB was horrible. He did show some promise but since making the jump to AAA his stock has gone down. It is hard to see him being more than a middle rotation guy as a ceiling. I expect him to be in AAA out of spring at least for a little while to regroup.
Roansy Contreras got demolished in 2023 leading him to be send back to AAA. Indications suggest that the demotion may have been what the doctor ordered as he seemed to get back on track. He still has some work to do and probably will be back in AAA after spring.
Additions of note so far have been Martin Perez, Marco Gonzales both being reclamation projects.
Marco was traded to the Pirates for a player to be named later and has control through the 2025 season. He has had some pretty good seasons. 2018 to 2021 he posted a 3.88 ERA with a 1.2 WHIP with a record of 46 and 30. 2022 look pretty okay as well giving a 4.23 ERA and a 1.333 whip really taking a down ward trend the last few months of 2022. Good enough to be in most rotations in the MLB but 2023 was not as good with a few games going way out of control that lead to him being traded twice in a few days in December landing in Pittsburgh. If he is able to the last couple dozen games behind him he could be a good mid rotation guy.
Martin Perez has also had some quality seasons with his best being in 2022 posting a 2.89ERA with a 1.258 WHIP over 196 innings. 2023 wasn’t nearly as good but still looks like a decent inning eater. He is another back end guy that might catch fire and look like a top of the rotation guy.
Coming out of spring It doesn’t look all that promising that the team will have a real good rotation that is likely going to be Keller, Ortiz, Perez and Gonzales with a few battling for that 5th spot. But there is hope for later in the season.
Jared Jones, Anthony Solometo and recent number one draft pick Paul Skenes all have a real shot at cracking the MLB roster near the trade deadline if not much sooner all of these pitchers have a mid rotation to ace level ceiling. The team should also get JT Brubaker and Mike Burrows back in the mix.
To be considered a contender in 2024 the Pirates need to make a splash acquisition for the rotation. It appears that Ben has tried but nothing has come of it so far. It looks bleak so far but the second half looks to get interesting.