The Pittsburgh Pirates will kick off their season against the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday at 4:10 p.m. There is a sense of excitement for what’s to come in Pittsburgh this summer. Their fans are yearning for meaningful summer baseball. Even if they don’t make the playoffs, a step toward contention and staying within the thick of the NL Wild Card picture would be a welcomed start.
A lot has to go right for the Pirates to do that this season. However, their cavalcade of heralded prospects will begin arriving at PNC Park this summer. The tides may be turning for the ol’ pirate ship very soon.
A new season brings renewed excitement and people making predictions about the upcoming season. So why not take a stab at doing that myself?
Pirates Predictions for 2023
Rodolfo Castro has a breakout season
The first Pirates prediction of 2023 starts with open competition for their second base opening. Rodolfo Castro was penciled in as the starting second baseman on Opening Day. Ji-Hwan Bae, Tucupita Marcano, and a handful of others were in the running. It took a lot of work to predict who would emerge from the pack for the Pirates.
In the end, Castro will get most of the playing time early. Bae will be a super utility guy for the Pirates and can play outfield and middle infield.
You may remember Castro at the forefront of some headlines last season when he dove into a base, and his phone slid out of his pocket.
Rodolfo Castro’s phone fell out of his pocket in the middle of the game 😂
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 10, 2022
The Dominican-born Castro will soon be 24 years old. He entered the MLB in 2021 straight from Double-A. Last season, he hit eleven home runs and had sixteen bombs across 102 MLB games.
The young second baseman finished fourth on the team amongst position players with 1.4 WAR.
He slashed .233/.299/.427 in 71 games last season. Castro plays with a bit of a chip on his shoulder and is fun to watch at the plate. If he wants to break out, his 26.6% strikeout percentage has to shrink.
I am predicting a .251/.311/.473 slash line with 21 home runs. There’s much to be excited about the breakout for Castro, who could become Oneil Cruz’s long-term double play partner with a solid season.
Endy Rodrigues receives NL ROY votes
The Pirates enjoyed a breakout season from Rodrigues in the minors last season. He started the season in Single-A but rose to Triple-A for the season’s final two weeks. Regression to the mean is likely after batting .323 across all three levels. His 25 home runs and 95 RBIs translating to success in the majors would be huge for the Pirates.
Rodrigues was acquired in the three-team trade sending Joe Musgrove to the Padres. Success from Rodrigues would help lessen the sting of Musgrove’s success with San Diego. Rodrigues is going to provide positional flexibility for Pittsburgh. He’s being developed as a catcher but can play the outfield and occasionally sees time at second base.
Henry Davis, one of Pittsburgh’s other top prospects, is a catcher. He was drafted first overall, so they certainly would like him to reach the MLB and make an impact sooner rather than later. Having two top prospects in such an advantageous position is huge. One of those guys being able to play around the diamond is great for getting them both in the lineup.
While Rodrigues regresses a bit, he puts together a very solid first few months. Starving for offense at the catcher position, the Pirates call up Rodrigues in late-May/early June. For this Pirates prediction, he hits 13 home runs at the major league level and has an OBP north of .800 in Pittsburgh.
He won’t win NL Rookie of the Year, but he’ll finish top five in voting.
Pirates Win 75 games
The final Pirates prediction comes down to wins. Pittsburgh has been “taking their lumps” for far too long. It’s time to turn a corner. This roster is capable of doing that. The Pirates have legitimate MLB talent at most of their positions, finally. Instead of relying completely on bargain-bin and Triple-A level players, they’ve acquired solid free agents throughout the offseason.
Their pitching staff has two young breakout options in Mitch Keller and Roansy Contreras. Rich Hill can eat innings until prospects such as Luis Ortiz and Quinn Priester change their MLB status to full-time. Andrew McCutchen is back in Pittsburgh to help lead a charge to respectability again for a franchise far removed from it.
After winning just 60 games last season with many young players finding their footing at the big league level, those guys don’t have to carry the load anymore. The legit MLB talent on their roster will wait to make them a threat in the NL Central. That means they can still take a large leap towards becoming good again and set up the new generation of Pirates on the horizon.
Ben Cherington has faced much criticism for his strip-it-all-the-way-down approach, but it was much needed. He now has to hope the players he’s acquired through the draft and trades come to fruition at the major league level. And my bonus prediction? Ke’Bryan Hayes finally dethrones Nolan Arenado as the National League’s Gold Glove winner.
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