2022 Season Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

Image: (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Pittsburgh Pirates

2021 Record: 61-101 (.377 win%, 5th in NL Central)

2021 Payroll: $54,356,609 (28th)

Projected 2022 Lineup:

1. 1B/DH Daniel Vogelbach, .237 AVG/.366 OBP/.444 SLG, 1.2 fWAR

2. CF Bryan Reynolds, .279 AVG/.365 OBP/.478 SLG, 3.8 fWAR

3. 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes, .264 AVG/.331 OBP/.428 SLG, 2.9 fWAR

4. 1B/DH Yoshi Tsutsugo, .232 AVG/.326 OBP/.421 SLG, 0.7 fWAR 

5. C Roberto Pérez, .213 AVG/.297 OBP/.372 SLG, 1.7 fWAR

6. SS Kevin Newman, .266 AVG/.314 OBP/.378 SLG, 1.0 fWAR 

7. 2B Cole Tucker, .232 AVG/.311 OBP/.369 SLG, 0.7 fWAR

8. RF Greg Allen, .243 AVG/.321 OBP/.360 SLG, 0.1 fWAR

9. LF Ben Gamel, .240 AVG/.335 OBP/.377 SLG, 0.7 fWAR

Projected 2022 Rotation:

1. José Quintana, 147.0 IP/4.39 ERA/1.39 WHIP, 1.6 fWAR

2. JT Brubaker, 147.0IP/4.60 ERA/1.35 WHIP, 1.4 fWAR

3. Mitch Keller, 138.0 IP/4.87 ERA/1.45 WHIP, 0.7 fWAR

4. Zach Thompson, 149.0 IP/4.94 ERA/1.43 WHIP, 0.6 fWAR

5. Wil Crowe, 120.0 IP/4.92 ERA/1.44 WHIP, 0.2 fWAR

Projected 2022 Top 3 Relievers:

1. David Bednar, 64.0 IP/3.82 ERA/1.26 WHIP, 0.4 fWAR

2. Dillon Peters, 92.0 IP/4.43 ERA/1.37 WHIP, 0.4 fWAR

3. Chris Stratton, 76.0 IP/4.39 ERA/1.37 WHIP, 0.1 fWAR

Offseason Recap:

It was no surprise that the Pirates were fairly quiet during the offseason. Coming off a year in which they owned the number one pick, the Pirates enter another year wherein they will likely finish at the bottom of the division, which has been the norm for the last three seasons. 

The Pirates started their offseason by claiming starting right fielder Greg Allen off of waivers from the Yankees in early November, and then sent 2021 starting catcher Jacob Stallings to the Marlins for starting pitcher Zach Thompson later in the month. In free agency, they re-signed Yoshi Tsutsugo and added Daniel Vogelbach to solidify first base, and gave former Cleveland starting catcher Roberto Pérez a one year deal to replace Stallings. 

Additionally, in a move to fill up the starting rotation, they signed former White Sox and Cubs starter Jose Quintana to a one year deal. To cap off a quiet offseason, they doled out a contract to longtime Red Sox reliever Heath Hembree to add an arm to the pen. Overall, it’s hard to say the team got better than they were in 2021, but they probably didn’t get much worse either.

2022 Season Preview:

To be straightforward, the Pirates just aren’t very good. The lineup is missing quality starters at about five positions (now six with Oneil Cruz starting the season in AAA), which will severely limit their ability to score runs. 

Aside from 2021 All-Star Bryan Reynolds and 2020 Rookie of the Year candidate Ke’Bryan Hayes, the entire lineup is a mishmash of below average players on one year deals just to fill out the roster. To add insult to injury, rumors have been flying about that Reynolds may be traded early this season. The Pirates, offensively, won’t score many runs with Reynolds, but without him it’s probably the worst offense in the entirety of Major League Baseball. 

The pitching staff is also going to be a major concern. The team’s starting rotation doesn’t include any above average starting pitchers, featuring an aged and seemingly washed José Quintana as their ace, who is followed by an inexperienced and unreliable group in JT Brubaker, Mitch Keller, Zach Thompson, and Wil Crowe. 

Of the five, only Keller and Thompson look to have any potential in the future of the team. Keller, after rising to the MLB as a top prospect, has struggled mightily but still has the tools to be a good pitcher. Thompson, as a twenty-eight year old rookie in Miami last year, posted a 3.24 ERA across fourteen starts and twelve relief appearances. The relieving group doesn’t look much better, though closer David Bednar and Chris Stratton are bright spots. 

It takes effort to create a team lacking as much talent as the Pirates do, and the ownership has clearly put in a lot of work into doing just that. One bright spot is the Pirates’ prospect group, which includes last year’s top pick Henry Davis and former first round pick Nick Gonzales. Fans may want to take a trip to Altoona to see the two play on the Curve. Along with Oneil Cruz and Quinn Priester, they are likely to be the team’s cornerstones for years to come.

Record Prediction: 60-102

Despite a great year from Bryan Reynolds last season, the Pirates only won 61 games. It’s unlikely that they could be much worse than the group from last year, but looking at their roster, they definitely didn’t get better. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the Pirates have the worst roster in all of the majors.

It would be poetic for the Buccos to win one less game than last year’s squad, considering their lackluster offseason. Pirates fans have been struggling through the terrible management of the team for years, which has led to years upon years of losing seasons. Don’t expect that to change, at least not for 2022.

Player to Watch #1: CF/LF Bryan Reynolds

If you’ve seen a Pirates game in the past couple of years (I won’t blame you if you haven’t), you know the name Bryan Reynolds. Since entering the league in 2019, Reynolds has an overall OPS of .858 and totaled 10.6 WAR. 

Last season, Reynolds broke his way into stardom with a 24 home run, 6.0 WAR season. This year, look for him to surprise many as a potential under the radar MVP candidate. I will note, however, that it very well may not be for the Pirates. 

Player to Watch #2: SS/LF Oneil Cruz

Oneil Cruz has put the world on notice with his great Spring Training, and many think that he will continue his dominance when he gets called up in the regular season. Over the past year, the twenty-three year old Cruz has killed pitchers in AA and AAA, shooting up prospect rankings as a result. Likely to slide into shortstop and left field throughout the season, Cruz is going to turn a lot of heads with his pure hitting talent and athletic ability. 

Player to Watch #3: SP Mitch Keller

A former second round draft pick, Keller impressed early in his career and entered the MLB at only twenty three. However, things have not gone well since. Keller put up an ERA of 6.17 in 23 starts last season and looked to be on the verge of losing his roster spot. But then, flashes of the old Keller began to emerge. 

Keller threw deadly heat and overwhelmed batters in Spring Training, and his fastball was moving. Keller, who’s fastball usually sits between 93-95 mph, averaged 96.7 in his first Spring Training start. In short, with a strong performance this season, Keller has a good shot to anchor himself as the ace pitcher Pirates fans wanted him to be when he entered the league.

Categories: 2022 Season Preview

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