What in the Hell is the Pittsburgh Pirates Rotation Going to Look Like in 2023?!
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The general consensus is that under the current direction of the Pittsburgh Pirates, we can expect the team should be a contender again by the 2023 season. What might the rotation look like when that time comes? We tried our best to take a guess at it.
Asking what the rotation might look like is a tricky question. While 2023 does look like a reasonable time frame to expect a contender again, that season may come in a couple of phases.
Some of the team's top prospects should be major league ready, but that doesn't mean they will start the year with the Pirates, instead opting to start them in the minors to push back the service time clock.
So, what might the rotation look like in 2023? Here's my best stab at it.
The Likely Members
As far as the Opening Day rotation, these are the most likely to have already made their debut and established themselves enough to get the nod at the beginning of the year. Brubaker is already a mainstay in the rotation and one of the better pitchers on the roster.
Brubaker is going to have to show he can limit the longball if he wants to remain in the rotation, but he certainly has the stuff to be a member in the future.
Yajure and Kranick have both pitched in the majors this season and should be regulars in the rotation come 2023, at least to begin the year.
Of course, Yajure is out with an injury, and depending on when he returns or what exactly is going on could change this.
Contreras has been one of the stars of the minor league season for the Pirates and was a recent addition to Baseball America's top 100 prospects list. Pitching in Double-A this season, if he doesn't make his major league debut this year, it should certainly be next season.
The most likely member of the rotation to begin the season isn't likely in the system currently. They could bring in a free agent they could either trade or DFA when they are ready to promote a prospect.
Keller is the wildcard in all of this. If he can find his game in the minors, he can change the entire makeup of this rotation. That's far from a certainty, but something Pirates' fans are going to be watching for.
The Next Wave
This is where things get interesting. The Pirates aren't going to start some of their top prospects in the majors just to delay their arbitration eligibility for a season, but 2023 matches up when most of them are expected to be ready for a rotation spot.
The Pirates have been super cautious with Priester this season, for just cause, so he could be the last of them to reach the majors. That could all change when they let the reigns go, as he could be a fast riser based on his skillset.
At the current timeframe, it is more likely to see Cruz and even potentially Mlodzinski push for a roster spot in late 2022 and even have an outside chance to make the rotation at the start of the year in 2023, depending on how quickly they move.
Cruz has already made the move up to Double-A, and despite a rough outing this past week, Mlodzinski could be next.
So, by the end of the season, barring any kind of midseason acquisition, I can see a rotation that looks something like this;
If the team is in contention for a playoff spot, I wouldn't mind them moving a prospect or two to get a starting pitcher, even if that means Priester being a mainstay in the rotation in 2024 and not 2023. He'll still be 23 for most of the 2024 season, so that may be a safer time frame for him.
Everyone and their mommas are trying to figure out what this Pittsburgh Pirates rotation will look like, and to be honest, there is no exact science to this, so your guess is as good as mine. For the hell of it, Anthony and I decided to take a crack at it and see what this rotation could look like in 2023, which is the consensus year folks agree the Pirates will be competitive again.
As we all know, there are quite a few names in this Pirates system that could fit the bill, but as I stated above, it's not an exact science, but there are some names that warrant excitement despite the long odds of never making it to the majors. I'm sure people are clamoring for a guy like Priester to be in the majors by this time, but I honestly don't see it happening full time until 2024.
I will stop blabbering now and just give you guys my list and give brief descriptions as to why. (You impatient bastards)
2023 rotation in no particular order
FA Signing or Trade Acquisition (Maybe Mitch)
Miguel Yajure seems to be the obvious choice here with his impeccable command, which according to FanGraphs, stands at a 50/60 and a good toolbelt filled with a velo jump in his fastball and a curveball which is the best in the system as of now. If any former Yankee prospect is going to shove it in their faces, it will be him.
Speaking of former Yankee prospects, there lies Roansy Contreras and his rise to stardom in Altoona. His first game with Altoona won the hearts of so many Pirates fans by striking out 11 in 5.0 IP. I remember saying he was pitching through the raindrops and those pitches looked so sharp against a tough Bowie lineup. The only issue that could pop up is his command, but Roansy's command has been just fine this year from what I've seen.
The next name on this list that came out of nowhere is Max Kranick and his rise up the ranks as of late. Thanks to Vic Black and staff, Mr. Kranick not only saw a velo jump but he also re-tooled his mechanics for a much more consistent delivery. The 2020 break due to COVID seemed to be a blessing in disguise for Kranick. To have a guy like Kranick thrown in the mix is a very good issue for the Pirates to have.
Now here is where things get a little hairy and shrouded in mystery. I personally think Omar Cruz is going to be in this rotation once 2023 begins. Once we acquired Mr. Cruz in the Musgrove trade, I was instantly hooked to this young man. Cruz will not overwhelm you with his stuff which makes you wonder why he's consistently gotten outs with his stuff. His funky delivery is numero uno; he disrupts timing with what I call the buffering delivery.
Cruz will rock back and forth around three times and dish out a fastball that sits around 92-93 and what looks to be a 12-6 curveball that surprisingly gets a good amount of frozen batters. At 22-years-old now, I could see Cruz being old enough and mature enough for a spot on this contending rotation.
It is now time for me to talk about Mr. consistently inconsistent Keller. We all know he has the stuff, and we all know that Mitch can be deadly when he trusts it, so what could be his issue? I think it's all between his shoulders, and who knows, maybe that call down woke him up. I know that his past couple outings, his strike percentage has gotten better, coupled with less hard contact. Is this him finally getting it, or is it him dominating AAA guys, and nothing has worked? I don't know that answer; only Mitch does.
I want to see Keller succeed like everyone else, but he has to remain consistent, and he has to start trusting his stuff, hence why I put FA signing or trade acquisition as a possibility. Just so everyone knows, this is merely a guess and opinion, so if you have ideas, Anthony and I would love to hear what you think.
Depth starters or role fillers
Maybe Santiago Florez (If he's protected from the R5)
Basically, the whole Grasshoppers rotation, LOL.