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The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

Pittsburgh Pirates Season Preview

The Pittsburgh Pirates are coming off their fifth consecutive losing season with a 76-86 record. However, they won their most games since 2018 when they had their last winning record 82-79. After years of front office controversy regarding payroll and transactions, or lack thereof, the Pirates outlook is brighter than before with a young and exciting core. 

The Pirates made headlines when they extended their homegrown starting pitcher, Mitch Keller, with a five-year contract extension. Keller is coming off a breakout campaign where he posted 210 strikeouts over 194 innings pitched. His earned run average (ERA) may be high, but he has an electric arsenal with a powerful sinker and wipeout slider. 

The rest of the rotation, filled with veterans Martín Pérez and Marco Gonzales, and young arms such as Quinn Priester and Roansy Contreras still have question marks. Pittsburgh is hopeful their first overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft Paul Skenes from LSU will be their ace for the future, and he is expected to debut this season. 

Their bullpen will be led by two-time All-Star David Bednar. Bednar is coming off a stellar 2023 season with 39 saves and a dazzling 2.00 ERA. They will rely on other arms such as Colin Holderman and Carmen Mllodzinski each of whom had strong 2023 seasons. Veteran closer Aroldis Chapman was their major bullpen signing with a one-year deal worth $10.5 million. Chapman will be their second option behind Bednar. 

The Pirates look to be a much better offensive team. Left fielder Bryan Reynolds will be a staple in their lineup, providing power and contact. Reynolds was signed to a rare 8-year extension worth $106.75 million in 2023. The Pirates have been infamous for not signing their players and letting them walk into free agency, so the signing was a positive step for that franchise. Jack Suwinski, their primary center fielder, has a powerful bat and projects to be a pivotal hitter in their lineup after slugging .454 last season. Right field will be anchored by Edward Olivares, another hitter with power, but more question marks. Defensively, this outfield will struggle as the trio posted negative runs saved several years in a row. 

Fan-favorite Andrew McCutchen returned to the Pirates last year and enjoyed a revitalized season despite some injuries. The 2013 MVP winner had his best season since the shortened 2020 season with a .776 on base percentage and slugging percentage (OPS). McCutchen will be a consistent bat in the middle of the lineup. 

The Pirates infield is their strength. Their exciting shortstop Oniel Cruz was enjoying a breakout season until he fractured his left fibula in early April in a collision at home plate. Cruz is another bat that has an electric mix of both power and speed that the Pirates need. 

Third base will be anchored by Gold Glove winner Ke’Bryan Hayes who is arguably the best fielding third basemen in the game. Hayes’ bat has been a question mark for most of his career, but he broke out with 15 home runs and 31 doubles last year, en route to his best offensive season yet. 

Both second base and first base position options are relatively grim. The second base position is currently up in the air with Liover Peguero projected to take the starting job. Peguero however does not provide much offensively. 2020 first round pick Nick Gonzales struggled in his chances last year, but has good potential to be another solid bat in the lineup. First base projects to be platooned by lefty slugger Rowdy Tellez and righty Connor Joe. Joe is the better hitter and posted a career-high .760 OPS last season with 31 doubles. Neither provide much defensively though. 

2021 first overall pick Henry Davis will most likely be the Opening Day and starting catcher, but will also play some corner outfield. Davis also has a powerful bat, but struggled last year in his rookie season. The former top prospect has excelled during Spring Training, giving the team confidence in his ability at the plate. The Pirates signed veteran switch hitter Yasmani Grandal this offseason to a one-year $2.5 million deal who will platoon with Davis. Grandal is far from the hitter he once was, but will provide a necessary veteran presence and help Davis grow into his own. 

The Pirates farm system is the most exciting aspect of their organization. Skenes, who will most likely debut this season, has ace potential with an electrifying fastball and dynamic slider. Second baseman Termarr Johnson is an excellent hitter, who offers a high on base percentage (OBP) and a powerful bat. Johnson was selected 4th overall in the 2022 MLB Draft at age 18, so he may be a few years away. The Pirates are loaded with other pitching prospects Jared Jones, who they expect to be starting this year, along with Anthony Solometo and Bubba Chandler who also rank inside MLB’s Top 100 prospects. 

While the Pirates are not a contender in the National League Central division yet, their future looks bright and they will light up the scoreboard this season.

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