Williams: Breaking Down the Pirates Roster After the Deadline (2023)

With the 2022 MLB draft and trade deadline wrapped up, we have nothing to do the rest of the season except watch this losing Pittsburgh Pirates team finish their season.

Fortunately, they’ve made it entertaining so far.

Even if they continue losing more often than winning, the remainder of the season will give a chance for younger players to break into the majors — with the hope that they can fill some holes on the 2023 roster.

Let’s run through the system after the draft and deadline to see where this team stands, and what they need next year.

CATCHER

2022 Starter: Roberto Perez was signed to be the starting catcher this year, but went down after 21 games and 69 plate appearances. The Pirates are currently going with a combination of Jason Delay and Taylor Davis.

2023 Projected: There’s not really a projected starter for 2023. My hope is that Delay establishes himself as at least a backup down the stretch, because in reality, both spots are wide open.

Top Prospect: Henry Davis is injured in Altoona, and hasn’t shown the best receiving skills. Endy Rodriguez is doing well as a catcher in Greensboro since the promotion of Davis. At the earliest, the Pirates won’t see a full-time starter from the minors until 2024.

Analysis: The Pirates are going to need catching in 2023. It might not be a bad idea to bring back Roberto Perez and pair him with Delay. The Pirates should probably look for more catching depth to hold them over until one of Davis or Rodriguez arrive.

FIRST BASE

2022 Starter: Yoshi Tsutsugo was the starter coming into the year, and just got his release following the trade deadline.

2023 Projected: Michael Chavis has emerged as the first base option in place of Tsutsugo. Chavis is more of a bench guy and a platoon option at best. The Pirates will need to upgrade here.

Top Prospect: Previously, it was Mason Martin. The recent addition of Malcom Nunez might change that. Either player could arrive in the next year.

Analysis: The Pirates could see what they have with Martin the rest of this year. If they don’t, he might not be in the plans for them with Nunez now pushing from a level below. Unless they’re bringing one of these guys up in 2022, they should look for outside help to start the 2023 season.

SECOND BASE

2022 Starter: Diego Castillo won most of the playing time out of Spring Training. He hit for power, but not much else.

2023 Projected: Recently, the Pirates have seen Tucupita Marcano and Kevin Newman stepping up. Newman is arbitration eligible, but would be a good bench option at both middle infield spots. The Pirates have enough internal options here that they don’t need to add from the outside.

Top Prospect: Termarr Johnson is the new top prospect, but he’s a few years away. Liover Peguero is the top prospect in the upper levels, though he’s currently a shortstop. Ji-Hwan Bae is the prospect closest to the majors. Nick Gonzales is injured right now, and was the top prospect coming into the season. Swing and miss issues have raised questions about his future.

Analysis: The Pirates don’t have a standout for the position, but they have enough options to eventually get a starter.

SHORTSTOP

2022 Starter: This period will henceforth be known as the time Before Cruz. (B.C.)

2023 Projected: Oneil Cruz.

Top Prospect: Liover Peguero is the only prospect in the upper levels who could move Cruz off the shortstop position. Cruz hasn’t really been bad, so there’s no need to focus on a prospect.

Analysis: All of the concern surrounding Cruz was getting his bat to the majors and worrying whether he could play shortstop. So far he has handled shortstop well, and has shown off power, but lacks average or on-base skills. It’s still early in his career, and he’s one of the core building blocks. I think their rebuild will start to click in the majors when Cruz starts to click in the majors.

THIRD BASE

2022 Starter: Ke’Bryan Hayes.

2023 Projected: Ke’Bryan Hayes.

Top Prospect: Ke’Bryan Hayes is under team control for the rest of the decade.

Analysis: Ke’Bryan Hayes, like Oneil Cruz, is going to be essential to the Pirates contending. His defense is already Gold Glove worthy. The offense is lagging, with a lack of power due to a negative swing plane. If that gets fixed, Hayes is a star third baseman.

LEFT FIELD

2022 Starter: Ben Gamel has gotten most of the time at the position this year.

2023 Projected: Jack Suwinski has surprised, and is currently in the minors working on hitting for more than power. Gamel is a free agent after the season, and the Pirates have a lot of outfield options beyond Suwinski.

Top Prospect: Suwinski leads a group that includes Swaggerty, Cal Mitchell, Bligh Madris, Canaan Smith-Njigba, and a few more outfield prospects in Altoona. Based on his performance this year, Suwinski should have the inside track.

Analysis: Ideally the Pirates can patch one of their outfield spots over the final two months. They have a lot of young players, but might need to bring in a veteran, even if it’s a bench guy who can start. Bringing back Gamel wouldn’t be a bad idea.

CENTER FIELD

2022 Starter: Bryan Reynolds.

2023 Projected: I hesitate to say Bryan Reynolds.

Top Prospect: Travis Swaggerty is the best center field option in the upper levels. The Pirates have a lot of outfield options, and none of them have stepped up. They also haven’t made a serious effort to extend Reynolds, and he’s constantly mentioned in trade rumors.

Analysis: The Pirates have held off trading other players until they have two years of control remaining. A similar path keeps Reynolds on the team for 2023. The Pirates should try to make an attempt to contend with him next year.

RIGHT FIELD

2022 Starter: Cole Tucker played 18 games in right field this year.

2023 Projected: Suwinski should get one starting spot. Right now the Pirates have Cal Mitchell and Bligh Madris in the majors, and one of those two could emerge as a starter in 2023.

Top Prospect: It’s the same group as left field, and Suwinski can only fill one spot.

Analysis: Mitchell is my pick to emerge as the answer for 2023.

DESIGNATED HITTER

2022 Starter: Daniel Vogelbach split time between first base and DH with Tsutsugo, before being traded.

2023 Projected: The Pirates don’t have a great option here. They could use this position to rotate the younger players into the lineup more often.

Top Prospect: Mason Martin and Malcom Nunez would be the top candidates, due to their power bats.

Analysis: I’m a fan of the designated hitter, but the Pirates need a first baseman before they can think about this luxury.

ROTATION

2022 Starters: Jose Quintana was traded at the deadline. Everyone else will be in the 2023 projected rotation.

2023 Projected: With the way Mitch Keller is pitching since adding his new sinker, he will lead the group. Roansy Contreras should join him. JT Brubaker, Zach Thompson, and Bryse Wilson are all rotation candidates.

Top Prospect: The Pirates have a lot of starting options. The ones who can make the biggest impact are Mike Burrows and Quinn Priester, who are in Indianapolis and Altoona, respectively.

Analysis: The Pirates could use a starter or two from the outside, while shifting guys like Wilson and Thompson to depth roles. Their rotation lacks experience, so adding a guy like Quintana again would make sense. In fact, Quintana himself would make a lot of sense. I think Burrows and Priester will be worked in by this time next year, which could be the start of a nice group if Keller and Contreras are performing well.

BULLPEN

2022 Starter: David Bednar is the standout. The Pirates have seen good things this year from Wil Crowe, Duane Underwood Jr., and Chris Stratton before the trade.

2023 Projected: Bednar will be the closer. Crowe and Underwood Jr. have locked down roles. Yerry De Los Santos has been impressive in his rookie season. The Pirates added Colin Holderman, and will develop him as a late inning guy.

Top Prospect: Holderman is the guy I’ll highlight, since the Pirates have a lot of their best pitchers still vying for rotation spots.

Analysis: The Pirates could use a late inning reliever to pair with Bednar. This would also take pressure off the younger Holderman.

THIS WEEKEND ON PIRATES PROSPECTS

Williams: Breaking Down the Pirates Roster After the Deadline

Prospect Roundtable: Who Was Your Favorite Trade Deadline Acquisition?

Prospect Roundtable: Evaluating the 2022 Pirates Draft Class

Malcom Nunez: Making Progress In Unlocking Raw Power

Miguel Yajure finds trust and comfort with the Pirates

Williams: Breaking Down the Pirates Roster After the Deadline (1)

Tim Williams

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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.

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