Pirates Roundtable: Can the Pirates Have a Winning Season in 2023?

The Pittsburgh Pirates have been busy early in the 2022-23 offseason. They’ve addressed their first base and DH holes with the additions of Carlos Santana and Ji-Man Choi, and they don’t seem to be stopping.

The Pirates have been connected to starting pitching options, most notably Kyle Gibson. With the winter meetings coming up next week, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a few more additions to the team coming soon.

Last season, the Pirates finished with the third-worst record in baseball, at 62-100. It would take a lot of additions to go from there to the post-season — which required 86-87 wins at least this past season. But for this week’s Roundtable, we’re focusing on whether the Pirates can get to a winning season, and how they can get there.

Where do the Pirates still need to add to have a winning season in 2023?

JOHN DREKER

I can see the Pirates getting to 82 wins by remaining somewhat competitive during the first half of 2023, then adding on throughout the season with top prospects. The Pirates will have a majority of their top prospects in Indianapolis this season. Some could need a short time to make the majors, some might show up during the middle or end of the season. History of prospects will tell you that not all will make it up to the big leagues, or perform when they do, but there are enough of them who are close to ready to make a difference in the second half. So for a season total of 82 wins to happen, the Pirates need to stay somewhat close to the .500 mark through the first 100 games.

The lineup is going to be better, with Carlos Santana and Ji-Man Choi; Oneil Cruz for a full season; and even players like Roldolfo Castro having added experience. Plus, you would expect/hope for better offense from Ke’Bryan Hayes. The team still needs to add a legit starting catcher, not a backup taking regular playing time. A quality starting pitcher would also help out tremendously. The other thing I would suggest is not making a move for a backup infielder or marginal outfielder. If a quality one is available in either spot, then that works, but otherwise I would give Ji-hwan Bae regular at-bats split between the infield and outfield. Don’t bring in someone just because they have big league experience, so we can watch them put up a negative WAR, while their eventual replacement already has Triple-A success and big league experience.

The basic summary is that I see 82 wins as possible, and probably the peak of possibility, if they add players who would be a starting catcher and a starting pitcher on a good team. I’d add a quality outfielder/backup infielder as my third move. I’d then roll with everyone else they have, adding in top prospects as they are ready throughout the season. I expect the second half of 2023 to be a real turning point towards contending, so I could see a winning record after the All-Star break, which brings them to 82 wins this season.

ETHAN HULLIHEN

Personally, I see little to no chance of the team finishing above .500 next season. To me, history is on my side in saying that, as teams just don’t make 20 game improvements year-over-year very often. For that to happen, they would not only need to see continued improvement across the board from their most important internal players (Keller, Contreras, Cruz), they would need to shore up some of their biggest holes—starting pitcher, bullpen, outfield—with legitimate options, such as Rodon, Bassitt, Robertson, and Benintendi. Of course, if we do see these positions upgraded, it will be with more of the likes of Carlos Santana, which, while better than what they had, aren’t going to result in the team improving by 20 games.

WILBUR MILLER

There are no simple answers if the Pirates want to try to have a winning season. They were an awful team in 2022. While losing 100 games, they finished 27th in runs and 28th in preventing runs. That left them with MLB’s second-worst run differential. It was a team effort; here are their ranking in OPS at each position:

C – 30th
1B – 30th (by a mile)
2B – 9th
3B – 27th
SS – 17th
LF – 22nd
CF – 9th
RF – 27th
DH – 22nd (despite a decent showing by Dan Vogelbach)
PH – 26th

The pitching wasn’t any better. The starters ranked 22nd in xFIP, the relievers 29th.

So the short answer to what the Pirates need to have a winning team is, a new team. That can come in a lot of different forms, but the inescapable fact is that they have to have substantial improvement from a lot of their young guys. Adding one or two or three players, by itself, won’t be nearly enough. They certainly have good candidates to take some big leaps forward, starting with Oneil Cruz, Ke’Bryan Hayes and Roansy Contreras. And there are a lot of other players who could provide some added improvement, if they get chances and if they take advantage of them.

Acquisitions could give the team a boost. The logical approach is to focus on the spots where a good player would provide the most improvement. First base, which was historically bad in 2022, is the most obvious, but the Pirates passed on the chance for a big improvement by adding two high-risk, low-reward players. Catcher is another obvious one, but the best chance there is Endy Rodriguez, who’s a near-lock to be unavailable until mid-season due to the team’s standard service time manipulation. Roberto Perez is still the rumored short-term solution here, but he’s not going to be that dramatic an upgrade. The Pirates’ catchers were actually pretty good defensively in 2022 and Perez – like the new first basemen – is more likely to improve the hitting from horrendous to just poor.

That leaves the pitching staff. If the team is trying to win games for the first time in years, this is where it could make the most headway. According to Rob Biertempfel, they’re interested in adding both Jose Quintana and Kyle Gibson. With the starters already on hand, and assuming they get over their experiments with Bryse Wilson and Zach Thompson, that’d give them a potentially very solid rotation with a lot of depth, some upside and promising reinforcements in the near-term pipeline. But it wouldn’t likely be a dominant rotation, so they’d need to upgrade the bullpen dramatically. That means adding a couple of legitimate, shutdown relievers. No Heath Hembree, no Wil Crowe, no Duane Underwood, Jr. It’s nice to think that Yerry De Los Santos and Colin Holderman could be setup men, but they’d be better as guys who stop rallies in the 6th and 7th innings. The Pirates need to aim high here and try to replicate what they had in Neil Huntington’s successful years, when they just didn’t lose games from the 8th inning on.

ANTHONY MURPHY

I think that reaching 82-wins this upcoming season isn’t likely to happen, as a lot would have to happen in order to get there. Reaching a winning record would have to result in an increase of 20-wins over this past season, and the way the current roster is set up, while there is some upside there, isn’t made to make that kind of jump.

While the Pirates shore up one glaring hole on the team, there is still plenty to cover on offense just to make that kind of turnaround a plausible outcome. This is a team that finished 27th in scoring, while allowing the third most runs, that’s a lot of work to be had.

That’s a lot to overcome in one offseason, and a lot to expect internally from your top young players to make that kind of jump in unison.

Even if winning 82-games isn’t, and shouldn’t be, a realistic goal, that doesn’t mean they should just punt away the season. This season should be more about taking the competitive, winning atmosphere they have preached so much in the minors, and bringing it to the major league level.

This upcoming season, there should be at least somewhat an improvement to where if this question comes up next offseason, things are close enough there is a more clear answer as to what the missing piece should be.

JEFF REED

I feel the ultimate answer is: “Baseball”

The Pittsburgh Pirates tackled first base, which has been a long-standing issue for the club. This should pay instant dividends offensively and defensively. Upgrading defensively at first base provides a domino effect around the diamond. 

The biggest remaining areas that need to be addressed are catcher, pitching, and outfield. 

As I’ve made known, I’d like to see a true center fielder who pushes Bryan Reynolds back to left field. They would be upgrading two positions rather drastically with one addition.

Finding a catcher should be atop the priority list. One that is defensively sound and will produce better than the collection of Quad-A catchers the Pirates ran out in 2022. 

Acquiring — whether through free agency or trade — two starting pitchers would be optimal, but I think one solid starting pitcher acquisition would lengthen the depth. The Pirates lack a true front-end starter for the time being, but could have a rotation that in the least keeps them in games provided they receive run support. 

As for the bullpen, it’s always a fascinating phenomenon. The Pirates have a basket of intriguing arms that could provide a bullpen that is anywhere from atrocious to excellent. Relievers are fungible. Jorge Lopez is an example of a struggling starter turned closer for the Orioles, who was then flipped at the deadline (along with cash) to the Minnesota Twins for four players in return. 

An area I’m intrigued by that isn’t seen on stat sheets is the acquisition of international veteran players. Ji-hwan Bae will be a young South Korean rookie in 2023, and they acquired veteran South Korean Ji-man Choi. They have a slew of young Dominican athletes in Oneil Cruz, Rodolfo Castro, Roansy Contreras, and eventually Endy Rodriguez. Ben Cherington brought in Dominican veteran Miguel Andujar who experienced success and being ran through the ringer while in the New York market. Signing Dominican Carlos Santana provides another respected veteran voice in the clubhouse.

All that being said, my short summary is that with the addition of a catcher, starting pitcher, and an outfielder I believe the Pirates could surprise with a winning season if the cards fall right cause, “Baseball”.

TIM WILLIAMS

The Pirates need a lot to go right to get to 82 wins. They would need help from the outside, as well as a universal boost from their young players. Ultimately, I think that the Pirates will end up pushing north of 75 wins, with a winning record in the second half, even if veterans are traded.

This assumes that the Pirates aren’t finished adding. They need at least one veteran starting pitcher, and I think they could benefit from two. They need a catcher who can stabilize the position behind the plate, much like Carlos Santana stabilized the first base position. They could also use a center fielder who could push Bryan Reynolds to left field.

Even if you add all of that, you need improvements from the younger players on the roster. The Pirates could strategically add veteran pillars to their team to boost certain players. For example, Santana anchors the infield defense at first base, which will benefit Oneil Cruz and Rodolfo Castro. Those two might also benefit from a veteran backup middle infielder.

The entire pitching staff would benefit from a veteran catcher. However, the starters would see an additional benefit with the addition of one or two veterans. Mitch Keller, JT Brubaker, and Roansy Contreras could all start for the next contending Pirates team. In order to develop into that type of starter, it would probably be beneficial to all three pitchers if they’re not one of the main starters in 2023.

I also think the Pirates could use some relief pitching help to spare the arm of David Bednar. They’ve made a few moves that could boost the middle relief depth, but they need a late inning guy to alternate with Bednar.

Two starters, a center fielder, a catcher, a late inning reliever, and a veteran backup middle infielder.

With all of that, the Pirates could have a winning season, but only if that massive influx of veteran presence around the field pays dividends through improvements from the younger players. Most of those players would be one-year rentals, and that would be a lot to invest to improve a 62-win team.

One thing I think the Pirates have been missing in the past is the ease of passage to the majors for young players. As long as I’ve followed this team, the farm system has been a huge focus, and Pirates fans in Pittsburgh are always waiting for the next young player to arrive. Yet, that young player is always expected to come up and lead the team.

Even right now, the team is reliant on Bryan Reynolds, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Oneil Cruz, and other players who wouldn’t be leading a playoff team. This isn’t to say those players can’t be that type of on-field leader. But you’re asking those players to manifest the performances needed to lead their team to the playoffs. None of these players know how to do that, because no one has ever taught them. They’ve never played on a contending team, and they’ve never played on a team loaded with winning veteran presence.

If the Pirates have an outside shot of winning in 2023, it would be loading their team up with key veterans who can fill two roles: Stabilizing bad positions and relieving the pressure on the younger players. Maybe even teaching some of those younger players how to lead the influx of talent coming from the minors.

They probably won’t win in 2023. I do think it will be a fun season to watch.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

A longtime Pirates Prospects reader, Ethan has been covering payroll, transactions, and rules in-depth since 2018 and dabbling in these topics for as long as he can remember. He started writing about the Pirates at The Point of Pittsburgh before moving over to Pirates Prospects at the start of the 2019 season.

Always a lover of numbers and finding an answer, Ethan much prefers diving into these topics over what’s actually happening on the field. These under and often incorrectly covered topics are truly his passion, and he does his best to educate fans on subjects they may not always understand, but are important nonetheless.

When he’s not updating his beloved spreadsheets, Ethan works full-time as an accountant, while being a dad to two young daughters and watching too many movies and TV shows at night.

Having followed the Pirates fanatically since 1965, Wilbur Miller is one of the fast-dwindling number of fans who’ve actually seen good Pirate teams. He’s even seen Hall-of-Fame Pirates who didn’t get traded mid-career, if you can imagine such a thing. His first in-person game was a 5-4, 11-inning win at Forbes Field over Milwaukee (no, not that one). He’s been writing about the Pirates at various locations online for over 20 years. It has its frustrations, but it’s certainly more cathartic than writing legal stuff. Wilbur is retired and now lives in Bradenton with his wife and three temperamental cats.

Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.

Raised in Cranberry Twp, PA, Jeff attended Kent State University and worked in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, before moving to New Orleans in September of 2012. His background is as an Engineering Designer, but he has always had a near unhealthy passion for Pittsburgh sports. Hockey and Baseball are his 1A and 1B, combined with his mathematical background, it's led to Jeff's desire in diving into analytics. Jeff is known as Bucs'N'Pucks in the comments, and began writing for Pirates Prospects in 2022 after contributing so many useful bits of information in the comment section.

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adicesa14

Wow! That list of OPS by position provided by Wilbur Miller is ‘gobsmacking.’

roberto

So the Bucs had an elite CF defender playing in AAA. He had a bad second half. Why is he irrelevant?

MD78

The best scenario would be a 1987 type repeat….after 3 3/4 bad years (with a total bottom out in 1985/86 a young team took off in mid August with a 29-15 finish to get to 80-82.

needs 2 starters…bullpen help… catcher and a rh bat…..but mostly let the kids play, learn and improve.

postal911

I don’t see this roster being able to make a run like that. The offense may have 1 guy that can hit over .250 (reynolds). It’s going to be a wildly inconsistent offense.

SBRO

Taking the question literally

Where do the Pirates still need to add to have a winning season in 2023?

C, CF, 2 SP and a late-inning RP, and a fair bit of luck and they could get there.

TNBucs

Based on MLBTR’s and Fangraph’s FA salary predictions, I thought Eflin would be a good target (MLBTR predicted $22MM over two years, Fangraphs only $9MM for one year). However, the Rays just signed him for $40MM over three years! I hope the market doesn’t price us out on guys like Gibson and Quintana. In theory, if the Rays can do it, we can do it. But the Rays aren’t owned by Nutting…

And to tie this to another thread, this is why I like the Competitive Balance picks being in the order from best to worst–the Rays are clearly trying to win despite their financial constraints, and therefore should get some small reward.

emjayinTN

First, if you look at the top SP’s returning from the previous year, the Pirates are much better going into 2023. Their top 3 Keller, BRU, and Contreras in 2022 combined for an fWAR of 4.9. Top 3 in 2021 were 3.0, in 2020 2.4, and in 2019 4.8 (Musgrove 3.2 fWAR). This, and guys like Burrows, Ortiz, and Priester will be just a phone call away in AAA.

The BP will be much better and deeper also. Injuries decimated the BP in 2022 – Bednar and De Los Santos should return, and pickups like Stephenson and Holderman will definitely add quality, and lengthen the BP. Wil Crowe was excellent in 2022, but overused. Anxious to see Kranick and Mears.

Infield and Outfield positions should be set, therefore hitting and defense should be much better. In May I hope to see Endy Rodriguez at C, followed by Bae in June. Anxious to see how Jared Triolo, Canaan Smith-Njigba and Matt Fraizer start the year at AAA.

I think they have a very good chance to finish with 78 Wins.

ArkyWags

The pitching looks better going into 23, but that’s because it was hard to look worse in 22. Only two of those bullpen spots look decent, and they’re a good starter short of a solid rotation. It’s better, but not great. As constructed, I’d think they’re around 70 wins tops.

emjayinTN

As I was writing I had 75 in my head, but then bumped it to 78 after doing a deeper dive on Contreras and Oviedo. Having 4 decent SP’s on Day 1 has escaped the Pirates for a number of years.

Listening to “experts” talk about Jameson Taillon and, IMO, his numbers were not much better than what we had in BRU and Keller in 2022. Pitching for the Yankees instead of the Pirates gets you a lot of W’s and he is being talked about as an $18 mil/year FA! Take a look at SP’s Dashboard on Fangraphs using 140 IP – Taillon 2.3 fWAR #47 , Keller 2.1 fWAR #50 , BRU 1.9 fWAR #53 . On Advanced using FIP, Keller #47 at 3.91, BRU #48 at 3.92, and Taillon #50 at 3.94. Do we have a comparable $50 mil group of SP’s?

I like where the Pirates are at with pitching entering 2023, and we have a load of pitching talent in the upper minors ready to step up.

ArkyWags

If the Rays can sign a guy like that, the Pirates can. They’ll only be priced out of targets in that range if they let it happen.

Last edited 1 month ago by ArkyWags
PirateRican21

I’m with you, the Rays might have set the market for Quintana and Gibson. Don’t see this ownership doing both, barely doing one.

The Gunner

I agree with you – Nutting won’t go for a deal like Eflin

postal911

I don’t see it happening. 20 more wins is hard to do and there are so many holes on this roster. I can see a 10 win gain, maybe 15 if a couple players breakout. Catcher will be zero production for at least half the season, 1b/dh production,while it is better, probably will still be middle of the pack at best, 2b is unknown, 3b is unknown and who knows who or what we’ll get out of 2 OFpositions. Rotation will be subpar unless they go get 2 solid sps. Pen might be ok with all the AAA options. Counting on prospects to perform right away usually does not end well. 2024 is a more likely chance to get to 82.

ArkyWags

I don’t need David Putty’s 8-ball jacket to tell me it’s not looking good.

RaisetheJollyRancherGirl

If they signed Rodón and Conforto and Roberto Perez but extended Endy to have him start the season with the big club? Yes. As constructed right now? No way.

b mcferren

If it is somehow Cantina and Taillon that sign, the conversations about our chances in 2023 take a turn for the better

b mcferren

because that means Oviedo and Ortiz are fireballers from the bullpen

Mtgj

You heard it here first. The pirates are going to win the division. It may not take many more than 82 wins because of the new schedule and a weak division. I expect the cardinals to take a step backwards due to goldy and arenado having down years compared to last year and as hard as it is to believe, pujols was one of their better hitters in the 2nd half of last season and he is gone.
The pirates lost so many games last year because they had the worst bullpen in the mlb. Bullpens change year to year and with just an average bullpen and some solid free agents, I believe the pirates have a real chance at being in the race till the end.

I’m thinking the odds will be around 35/1. I’m planning on putting a few months salary on it and retiring after the year.

b mcferren

Oneil Cruz as MVP

1979andCounting

Still too premature to answer the question, but the article does acknowledge some hope that Bob and BC just spent $11 mil in November. So yeah there’s definitely more excitement and anticipation as we approach year 4. Getting to 82 is a nice thought but there are 3 main problems/obstacles to getting there:

  1. KeBryan is a lead weight on offense. 27th in OPS, need we say more. A permanent core player at 3B….has got to learn to hit.
  2. The balanced schedule may do more harm than good. Having less games in the weaker NL Central could offset any actual improvements

in player performance. We’re going to see just where we stand vs the
the entire MLB.
3 I have little confidence that Shelton can manage towards winning
games. His managing is worth -8 WAR on Opening Day, so we’re
starting from behind right out of the gate.

ArkyWags

Hayes and his lack of offense is about 12th on the list of worries I have. His defense alone makes him an above average regular. I’d look instead at one of the other 4-5 positions where the have bad regulars. If Hayes hits above average, he’s close to a 5 win player. If this is what he is, that’s a 3 win player.

RaisetheJollyRancherGirl

He’s maxed out as a 3 win player, sure. If he loses any range at all? That number drops fast. Hayes is a big disappointment, imo.

ArkyWags

Big disappointment compared to what? Your expectations? Hayes goes on a month long heater in 2020 under really weird circumstances and half the fan base turns their expectations around to think they’ve got Mike Schmidt 2.0 on their hands when there was zero likelihood of that happening based on his previous performance.
Don’t get me wrong, I expected more offense but I think his swing wasn’t geared for big offense and combine that with hand and back injuries and it’s no wonder he hasn’t produced.
But he’s a lesson in expectations, just like Polanco was for me. Don’t let your heart run away with the possibilities of a player till you see it for longer than a month or two. If

RaisetheJollyRancherGirl

Big disappointment as a prospect for someone who enjoys prospect watching. We _finally_ had a 60fv guy who—sure, FG mentioned a swing change—but to put it into perspective we don’t have a single guy ranked in the 60s right now. At the MLB wide level there do seem to be more 60+s than ever just now (16 of them). I was hoping we were going to get a 4-5 win guy but the bat was an absolute zero instead of just even ok. I’d grant defense is just as important as offense but I personally don’t get much of a thrill from watching defense (especially IF defense).

Not to mention the guy is a ferocious rally killer. If he stays the way he is at the plate, he needs to bat 8th or 9th.

Last edited 1 month ago by RaisetheJollyRancherGirl
1979andCounting

Our highest paid player needs to be FAR better with the bat if this team is going anywhere. BC acknowledged just this week that he looks at all attributes of a player (FA or trade) including offense, defense, base running and defense. He concluded that offense is the most important going forward. It’s about time. I’m seeing nuggets that he really does want to build a winner. Please stop with Keys dWAR……we need a complete 3rd baseman over there.

ArkyWags

It’s completely unsurprising if fans blame one of the better players for the rest of the roster failures.
Value is value. Why do you need a complete 3B, but it doesn’t matter if we have a bottom five position value in four other positions?

1979andCounting

His $10 mil is 20%+ of the 26-man roster. That’s why we need a complete 3B man. BC’s long-term deal allows less funds to go to your bottom 4 positions. Key needs to carry his weight equivalent to the investment. I get that $10 mil is not an overpay by MLB standards, but it’s an overpay by Pirates standards with BN as owner. I would not be singling him out if he were a $2 mil year 3 player right now.
But BC decided to pay him instead.

Anthony

Deal was front loaded, re-evaluate his salary when they actually NEED to push payroll.

ArkyWags

If $54 mil over 7 years for Hayes sinks the Pirates, then they never had a chance anyway. That’s pocket change.

Danatural08

Good point on Shelton, you would hope that managers would grow in their abilities with more experience as well as the players. Haven’t seen that yet with Shelton, but maybe if there was a better 26 roster, he’d look a lot better.

Tough to gauge, but i think several years of this much losing will either give him a chip on the shoulder or a defeatist attitude scar. From seeing him talk with the media, I’d lean towards the later.

TNBucs

The Orioles offer hope, going from 52-110 to 83-79 in a division that sent three teams to the playoffs. A lot has to go right, but if we bring in 2-3 quality pitchers for the rotation and pen, add a decent catcher, and, ideally, a RH bat for OF/DH (Andujar or Castillo might be an answer but I don’t want to count on them), then I’d have a lot of hope.

b mcferren

I keep hearing all this talk about leadership but its clear to me that Oneil Cruz is the leader of this team

Everyone gravitates up to him and he hangs bats from the dugout ceiling

Cantina is the clear leader of the rotation and Bednar is the clear leader of the bullpen

All this team needs is to stop playing schleps like VanMeter, Yoshi, Zach Thompson, Bryce Wilson, Underwood, etc

Those guys were important so that they could lose on purpose the past few years

Now that its time to win, I think that these types of guys get a much shorter leash

EightMenOut

If the Pirates add a couple of legit big league starters, then comparing this team to last year’s team is a fool’s errand because….

1 – 26-man and 40-man rosters are very different
2- 2022 they had to play a lot of AL East teams, this year the schedule is “balanced”
3 – No-shifts could make a difference
4 – Pitch clock could make a difference
5 – Trying to win every game, rather than managing the roster, managing pitcher innings, could make a difference
6 – Not playing musical chair at every position except third base will make a difference
7 – Not subtracting at the deadline could make difference

It could be a very different team playing under different circumstances, doesn’t mean they win 82+ games, but does mean that comparisons to last year’s record is likely not a good way to look at it. Doesn’t mean much that they are trying to go from 62 wins to 82 wins. So, how good does this team look on its own, not compared to last year’s team, is the question.

justin

3 avenues to get some improvements: FA, Internal Improvements and Prospects

FA: Quintana, Gibson & R.Perez

Internal: Steps forward from our ‘core’ (Reynolds, Hayes, Cruz, Contreras), Continued improvement by our SPs (Keller, Brubaker, Oviedo?), Atleast one of the young OFs to seize their spot (Suwinski, Mitchell, CSN/Swags?)

Prospects: Hit the ground running after the AS Break (Endy, Priester, Burrows, Ortiz, Bae, Davis/Gonzales/Peggy?)

All that happens and we are pushing for .500 and look great going into ’24.

Realistically, I am hoping for at least 50% of these positives to come to fruition this year & about 75 wins.

SouthernBuc

I think 82 is a huge stretch, but in some ways I prefer a 75 win season based on Cruz, Keller, (could add many young names) development, then an 82 win season based on tremendous last hurray’s from Santana, Choi, insert Vet starting pitcher name here. I feel strangely good about how things may play out, but I don’t see that equating to anything near .500.

I will register one disagreement, not on the observation but on the priority of fixing. That is at catcher. They were awful last year but in general there just are not a lot of good (still in low cost mode) catchers available. With 2 potential solutions getting close, I tread water some (hope Perez is healthy?) until Endy arrives. I greatly prefer to focus on adding a starting pitcher and likely an outfielder to the mix that would hopefully be around at least 2 years.

Finally for all those who said Bae should get playing time… I’ll just say thank you. I don’t get adding a veteranosity infielder when there is a player who has earned a MLB shot and can use those at bats. I’m all in on Castro / Bae at 2nd base to start they year and let it play out.

JimEastTennessee

I, in the vast minority, think 75 will be a stretch;I am calling 74 because Reynolds is wearing pinstripes by December 12th (if Judge is not re-signed)

Danatural08

Great article topic & appreciate the detail from all the contributors. Tough to predict this early in the off season, but it’s definitely a topic on my mind when getting excited about the additions.

One guy not mentioned in here that could potentially take a step forward to be a difference maker is Suwinski. As up & down as his season was, he still managed to put up a 1.8 WAR season as a rookie in 372 PA. The ZIPS projections project him to have a slight improvement offensively next year, but with poor fielding marks (& still show him with a 20 Fielding prospect report), despite him having a pretty good year defensively, with a 3.9 Defensive value. If he’s able to cut his K% next year, which seems like a reasonable expectation, & they’d hopefully be batting him around 6th or 7th in the lineup, that could really be a boost to the offense next year.

The other factor that i think could help push the Bucs forward in 23 is the fact that it feels the rest of the division, as of today, will be weaker next year. Cardinals seemingly will always be tough, but they have a roster of guys that are either young & getting established, or on the old side, not alot in the midddle. Seems like 23 could be the year to make a jump forward.

leefieux

Symborski downgraded Jack because of his poor def metrics in the minors. However, he REALLY took a jump forward at the MLB level. Now, about those K’s and low average……😝😝

robertkasperski

Depends on who gets added before the season starts. Could get to 82. Not counting on it but not inconceivable..

Last edited 1 month ago by robertkasperski
Ethan Hullihen

Goodness, after comparing responses I feel like I didn’t understand the assignment.

Sorry!

john_fluharty

You offer a different perspective on things often and it’s welcome. Don’t change buddy.

leefieux

I thought you nailed it Ethan.

PirateRican21

I liked your response plenty!

Ethan Hullihen

To think, looking to me for brevity…

AdministrativeSky236

If we were to add Q and Gibson plus a C, i dont see why we shouldnt project around 75-80 wins with upside. Maybe cruz produces 15 WAR and we win 90.

PirateRican21

In that scenario, I will like to think that Ortiz and Oviedo get pushed to the pen similar to the way Contreras was used last year. Roll with Bae at 2b in the hope to improve the defense. Same with Swaggerty in CF and acquired a catcher, either thru free agency or trade…….Jensen…….

leefieux

Or Indy?

PirateRican21

Why waste them in Indy? Contreras pitch some high leverage inning in the pen last year before going to Indy and finishing up in Pittsburgh. They still get to face MLB hitters and work on their stuff while pitching 1-2 innngs an outing.

joesolo6181

82 wins. I will believe it when I see it happen.

Wilbur Miller

They’re going to live or die with the young guys. Successful rebuilds tend to come together suddenly, often sooner than expected. That’s if the team doesn’t get loaded down with dead enders.

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

I think that’s the biggest key. Will Cruz be 3-4 WAR next season? Will Castro, Bae, Suwi, whomever else become 2+ WAR, or even 1 WAR, players? Or will they become last year’s collection of Quad A waiver claims under new names?

Does feel someone like Carlos Santana is Kieran Mattison and what’s been their perceived as their new approach, embodied in a player. A veteran leader.

I laughed other day when someone posted Santana mentioning he likes dancing and getting others to dance, cause it reminded me of how furious yinzerz would get when they’d see Cutch and J-Hay chopping it up while maybe the game wasn’t going their way.

I think bigger questions are going to surround whether Haines is truly that awful of a hitting coach, or whether Shelton’s bullpen management is as brutal as it appeared.

Wilbur Miller

Beyond the basic question of how the young guys come through, the pen imo is the biggest variable. And it’s not just Shelton. So far there’s zero evidence BC has the slightest clue what to do there.

NMR

That does make the Huntington rebuild odd, though. Prospect core was essentially in place in ’11, but the team itself sputtered for two years until getting the huge veteran infusion in 2013.

Wilbur Miller

In the end, they didn’t rebuild. They made some great outside additions to the guys NH inherited. Even guys like Tabata, Jones, Snider, Barnes, Gaby, etc., had their moments. And just check the 2013-15 bullpens at bbref. It’s like a treatise on building bullpens.

NMR

Of course that was a rebuild. He traded away anything that wasn’t nailed down for prospects and spent three years building from within before supplementing them with significant veteran additions. “Rebuild” is meaningless if that wasn’t considered a rebuild.

Wilbur Miller

It was an attempted rebuild. In the end they found other ways forward

ArkyWags

Veteranosity! Here Endeth the lesson.

leefieux

NH got to 72 wins in his 4th season. That’s the (low) bar I am shooting for. That’s a 10 win increase. No way they get to .500. Too many question marks. I want what Dreker is smoking. 🤪🤪🤪

Btw, ZIPS projections are out, and while better than Cincy, still aren’t glowing. I have NO idea how many wins they project. It might be in the article, but I couldn’t find it.

I found this quote interesting: “hate to discourage the Pirates from spending money, but spending money on a one-year contract for Carlos Santana is worse than not spending it at all.”

Moss44

I thought that quote was BS and an unnecessary swipe at the Pirates based on zero knowledge of the organization.

Wilbur Miller

If you think Szymborski has zero knowledge of the organization, that tells me you have zero knowledge of Szymborski.

Catch_22

Do you agree with his assessment of Suwinski’s defense?

I don’t at all. His defensive metrics are good, his statcast #’s in regards to sprint speed, OOA and arm strength are all well above average.

I think Szym wrote the report on Jack last year where he said he’s DH only and graded both his defense and speed like 20’s. Now, he’s all in and won’t admit the mistake because pride is getting in the way. Szym is very informative, but it’s ok to admit you’re wrong.

ArkyWags

He said he had data of Jack in the minors that seemed to back up the scouting reports of Jack being poor on defense. Now he’s got one year of him being good at the MLB level. I think another year of good defense and metrics would change Jacks projections substantially. Defense still seems really fickle to project for some guys. When I read reports as they are about Jacks defense, I pictured some lumbering oaf. He’s decidedly not that.
Maybe his 21 is an outlier? Guys have monster years out of nowhere on offense, why not on defense too? We just saw Reynolds have a likely outlier season in 2021, and his projection last year had him at roughly a 3.5 win player.
I’m inclined to think they missed on Jack, but we’ll know a lot more for sure next year.

Wilbur Miller

The next time I see anybody involved with MiLB who’s never misevaluated a player–and that includes scouts, FO types and everybody else, as well as writers–will be the first.

Then again, it was Longenhagen, not Szym, who gave Jack the 20. Szym doesn’t do the prospect writeups. So there’s that.

Last edited 1 month ago by Wilbur Miller
RaisetheJollyRancherGirl

TBF Dan did say in the comments ZiPS hated Suwinski’s defense in MiLB so much it dragged down his better performance in MLB.

Catch_22

Those guys over there are thick as thieves.

Dan isn’t going to contradict Eric.

Do you agree with Dan’s assessment of Huntington?

TNBucs

Szymborski is good, but that quote seems ignorant. He does offer some explanation and I agree with his general point (ABs are a resource which is one of the things I found maddening about some of Shelton’s roster decisions), but his point seems to ignore the importance of clubhouse culture as well as Santana’s 1 WAR from last year being about 4 WAR better than what we got out of 1B. Also, who would he propose we play instead of Santana? Diaz? Martin? Nunez? It’s not like Santana is blocking someone.

 He doesn’t help the Pirates win now and signing him only hurts them in winning later; plate appearances are a resource just like money, and playing Santana instead of someone else who could possibly have a future with the team is wasteful.”

NMR

“somebody else” is what makes the whole argument jump the shark.

If his point was valid there’d be a real, live human being to insert in the place of the generic trope he used instead.

Guy’s just trying to be the smartest guy in the room.

ArkyWags

Also I find that comment two paragraphs after criticizing the previous regime for not spending odd. If they weren’t going to spend savings in 2015 to put them over the top, why would you assume they’d spend it later?

leefieux

Time will tell. His last two years have NOT been great. I just want him to be good enuff to move in July for a good prospect.

robertkasperski

The end of the Defensive shifts could resurrect his career and make for a great trade chip.

leefieux

And could not. 😀😀

robertkasperski

That is why they call it gambling 🙂

Last edited 1 month ago by robertkasperski
leefieux

Always hated gambling. 🥸🥸🥸

Last edited 1 month ago by leefieux
ArkyWags

Gotta know when to hold ‘em.

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