2022 Pittsburgh Pirates Preview
The potential for a winning record will elude the Pittsburgh Pirates once again this season. However, they continue to accumulate young talent and continue to build up their farm system. Their farm system has been ranked in the top ten in baseball. The 2022 season will see the team relying mostly on their younger players with a few veterans. Here is the 2022 Pittsburgh Pirates Preview.
A Forgettable 2021
Everyone involved with this team would like to forget the 2021 season and move on. The Pirates finished with one of the worst records in MLB at 61-101, their third straight losing season. Some of that can be blamed on injuries. However, they also had inconsistencies in both hitting and pitching. The pitching staff posted a 5.08 ERA; the offense, a .236 batting average. They were last in home runs and RBI and set a disappointing franchise record for players used.
Some Bright Spots
Among the disappointments, there were a few bright spots for this team last year. They were competitive in the final month of the season, with a 13-12 record. The team committed the fewest errors in baseball and their fielding percentage put them in a tie for first the entire 2021 season.
Pitcher David Bednar was a key piece for their bullpen. He was 3-1 with a 2.23 ERA along with three saves, 77 strikeouts in 61 appearances. He quickly established himself as their most dominant reliever.
Bryan Reynolds emerged as a top player. The outfielder hit .302 with 24 homeruns and 90 RBI. He also was outstanding in the outfield. In 159 games, he only committed four errors.
While this gives the Pirates a base to build on, they still have issues.
Pirates Preview: Starting Rotation
The starting rotation is going to be a weakness for this team. Spring Training saw many guys showcasing their arms for a spot in the starting rotation. Pitchers not chosen on the Opening Day roster will certainly be called up throughout the season. Pitching Coach Oscar Marin will have a busy time coaching them up, but the young staff does have the chance to improve.
JT Brubaker will be the starter on Opening Day. The 28-year-old right-hander has the qualities to be a good number one pitcher. After going 4-4 with a 3.74 ERA and .249 batting average against in his first 10 starts, he dropped off significantly, finishing the season with a 5-13 record and a 5.36 ERA in 124 1/3 innings over 24 starts. The homerun ball caught up with him, tying for the third-most in the National League with 28 given up.
Fatigue had seemed to settle in. It was Brubaker’s first full season since 2018. He had missed the 2019 season with a forearm strain. He started only nine games during the 60-game season in 2020. The key for his success is being able to hold up physically over an entire season.
With an inexperienced starting staff, the Pirates went out and signed veteran lefthander José Quintana. He has been around since 2012 and has been an innings pitcher when healthy. He had a tough 2021 season, which can be pointed at his shoulder inflammation. The hope is Quintana can take pressure off the entire staff by providing quality starts and pitching many innings. Having him—and all the career experiences he has endured—in the clubhouse can only help a young staff.
Mitch Keller is the pitcher that has more to prove than anyone. There were problems with consistency last season and stumbled to a 5-11record with an ERA of 6.17. He seemed to have lost confidence and was sent to Triple-A Indianapolis in June. He returned in August and did pitch better. The 2022 season will be his biggest test yet as a pitcher. Depending on how he does and how he responds will play a significant part in the team’s plans for him moving forward.
As far as the other starters, look for Zach Thompson and Bryse Wilson to round out the rotation. However, it is possible that Manager Derek Shelton could use Wil Crowe and Dillon Peters as starters.
Pirates Preview: Relief
The Pirates used 27 different relief pitchers over last season. They’re definitely looking to improve on their 4.55 ERA. The Pirates plan to split the closer role between Chris Stratton and David Bednar. Both could excel in the closer role if given the opportunity.
The rest of the relief corps includes Wil Crowe and Dillon Peters (if not called upon to be starters). Sam Howard, who appears to have a relief job, will open the season on the IL. Lefthander Anthony Banda appears to have won a spot. He hopes to build on his strong 2021 finish. After being picked up off of waivers, he had a 3.42 ERA the final two months of the season.
An interesting pitcher is Heath Hembree, who has had an excellent spring training. The Pirates signed him because of his ability to pitch in high-leverage situations. He will be the all-purpose reliever, a long or short reliever and even a set-up guy. Hembree made some mechanical adjustments to his delivery that proved to be beneficial when his numbers showed improvement over last season.
Pirates Preview: Offense
Their offense will need multiple players to step up and be better. They were last in homeruns, RBIs, and total bases. They finished 25 out of 30 in batting average. Ke’Bryan Hayes starts the season on the IL. He never really showed much power in the minors, but still makes a lot of contact. If Hayes can figure it out offensively it will only help.
New Hitting Coach Andy Haines could help all of the Pirates hitters. He comes over from the Milwaukee Brewers where he was praised for his style of teaching hitting to younger players.
The NL Central, as expected, will be competitive, and the Pirates are not the only team rebuilding. However, they could finish in fourth place ahead of the Cincinnati Reds or Chicago Cubs, They have restocked their organization with top talent and the future is bright with their prospects. Many analysts rate their farm system among the best in the game. This might not be the Pirates’ year, but their future looks bright in the years to come.
David Bednar, Bryan Reynolds, JT Brubaker, José Quintana, Mitch Keller, Zach Thompson, Bryse Wilson, Derek Shelton, Wil Crowe, Dillon Peters, Chris Stratton, Sam Howard, Anthony Banda, Heath Hembree, Ke’Bryan Hayes