Each Positions Most Realistic Option(s) For The 2023 Pittsburgh Pirates…And Beyond


(AKA The Pirates Depth Chart: A Living and Breathing Off-Season Outline)

11/5/22 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)

It’s tough to not get too deep into the weeds with roster projections, free agent options and potential trade partners during the off-season. Yet, it is truly something that must be resisted; especially as the Pirates continue to sit on the sideline, patiently waiting for the World Series to conclude.

The unknown hope for what will be seen as a sneaky good acquisition or another team being uneducated enough to accept a lopsided trade fill the internet fodder; along with the preemptive outrage for this year’s top prospect having his service time manipulated, and hot takes of how each free agent will turn out-including previous performance comparisons-are all we really have.

You know, like Yoshi will hit 20+ bombs in a full season, Quintana is this year’s Trevor Cahill, Kevin Newman being traded for a struggling player that the Pirates will somehow be able to transform into an All-Star-which has already started to happen again-or cries for Cruz, Roansy, Etc being screamed into a vacuum; even though everyone already knows what’s coming.

Yes, people are allowed to have their opinions; and these opinions can change. I just want you to realize that often many of the same people calling for the Pirates to bring back Q-while preparing to bash the cheap ownership if the don’t-are the ones that called the team’s signing of Jose Quintana underwhelming, hopefully not the only starter, and the ever popular, dumpster dive.

Which is eerily similar to the protests of Tsutsugo being in the lineup, lead by the Yoshi from Mario Brothers GIF and Meme creators; who championed for and celebrated the Pirates actually doing something, not even 7 months earlier.

Sorry, I just can’t with people anymore.

We all know what is coming; at least to a certain degree. So, why not steer into the skid; and, look at what the Pirates will actually have going into 2023. All the while realizing exactly how these voids/holes are going to be filled, who is not going to be there on Opening Day and what players and/or prospects are next in line.

For this purpose I always split each position into into its own separate column, with different tiers for how the lineup and eventually the 26-Man Roster could be constructed; filling in the gaps where a free agent or trade acquisition might be placed, based on assessments of players that are currently on the Active Roster and statements of team needs, punctuated by the Front Office-AKA Ben Cherington.

I also jot down ideas concerning what I think the Front Office will do versus my own interpretation of how to address the situation; which clearly doesn’t always match up.

And most importantly, I allow for updates to be made-kind of like my own personal Fangraphs Roster Resources outline-because I recognize my ideas of what could and should happen are often proven to be wrong.

All in all it’s mostly a fun exercise, that I have been doing for about the past 10 years; but, for some reason decided to let you in on enjoyment this year.

But, before we get started here is the pretty simple key for the breakdown below:

Tier 1: Most Likely/Best Options

Tier 2: Definite Possibility/Potential CURRENT Options

Tier 3: Least Likely And/Or Potential FUTURE Options

For those unfamiliar with a particular player and/or their stats, I have listed the most recent level/team, along with the slash line, homers, and fielding metrics for some batters. For Pitchers ERA, WHIP and K-rate to BB-Rate will be used. bWAR, as well for both.

Catcher

Tier 1

Omar Narvaez (MIL)-.206/.292/.305 4HR .2WAR 1DRS 22% CS%

Roberto Perez (PIT)-.233/.333/.367 2HR .6WAR 3DRS 33% CS%

Tucker Barnhart (DET)-.221/.287/.267 1HR 0.0 WAR -6DRS 28% CS%

Tier 2

Another Free Agent/Trade

Another Free Agent/Trade

Jason Delay(PIT)/Ali Sanchez (AAA)- .213/.265/.271 1HR -.4WAR 3DRS 20% CS% / .262/.354/.389 6HR 2Errors 34% CS%

Tier 3

Endy Rodriguez (A+/AA/AAA) 323/.407/.590 25HR 5Errors 31% CS%

Henry Davis (FCL/A/A+/AA)-.264/.380/.472 10HR 4Errors 13% CS%

Blake Sabol (AA/AAA) .284/.363/.497 19HR 6 Errors 14% CS%

Axiel Plaz (DSL)-.382/.500/.706 3 HR 16 Years Old

What I Would Do:

Sign a Veteran. Doesn’t have to be one of the 3 listed; although they are my favorite targets, in order. Each would most likely require multi-year deals, but hopefully they could make anything beyond year one a team option.

Even after signing a veteran, I still pick up another catcher. Think Jacob Stallings or Christian Bethancourt if they are non-tendered by their respective teams.

Bring up Endy halfway through the year-granted he continues to perform-to have the veteran backstop(s) mentor him.

What I Think The Pirates Will Do:

Sign Roberto Perez.

Have Delay or Sanchez back him up.

Bring up Endy after the All-Star Break.

First Base

Tier 1

Free Agent/Trade

Free Agent/Trade

Free Agent/Trade

Tier 2

Cal Mitchell(PIT/AAA)/Malcolm Nunez (AA/AAA)-(PIT) .226/.286/.349 5HR -.4 WAR (AAA) .339/.391/.547 9 HR / .262/.367/.466 23 HR

Blake Sabol (AA/AAA) .284/.363/.497 19HR

Matt Gorski (A/A+/AA/AAA) .280/.358/.598 24HR

Tier 3

Mason Martin (AAA) .210/.287/.410 19 HR

Endy Rodriguez (A+/AA/AAA) .323/.407/.590 25HR

Henry Davis (FCL/A/A+/AA)-.264/.380/.472 10HR

What I Would Do:

Signing a free agent is a must.

I have thrown out Brandon Drury as realistic option, but would obviously like them to aim a little bit higher.

Once again this would be a multi-year deal, as there is no immediate answer in the organization.

What I Think The Pirates Will Do:

I believe they will sign a free agent. This past season they put $5 Million into the 1B/DH position(s), so I can’t see why they wouldn’t do it again.

It’s possible they would want this to be a one year deal, or a multi-year deal with a team option; very similar to Daniel Vogelbach’s contract.

Second Base

Tier 1

Kevin Newman (PIT)-.274/.316/.372 2HR 1.1 WAR 0 DRS 1 OAA

Rodolfo Castro (PIT/AAA)-(PIT) .233/.299/.427 11HR 1.3 WAR -2DRS -3 OAA/(AAA) .246/.334/.441 12HR

Ji-Hwan Bae (AAA/PIT)-(AAA) .289/.362/.430 8HR/(PIT) .333/.405/.424 .5WAR

Tier 2

Diego Castillo (PIT/AAA)-(PIT) .206/.251/.382 11HR -.8WAR/(AAA) .246/.331/.358 3HR

Tucupita Marcano (PIT/A, AA and AAA)-(PIT) .206/.256/.306 2HR -.6 WAR/(A, AA and AAA) .291/.388/.443 5HR

Nick Gonzales (AA)-.263/.383/.429 7HR

Tier 3

Andres Alvarez (AA)-.220/.339/.429 20HR/21SB

Hoy Park (AAA/PIT)-(AAA) .225/.332/.354 10HR/(PIT) .216/.276/.373 2HR -.3WAR

Termarr Johnson (FCL and A)-.222/.366/.365 1HR

What I Would Do:

I tender Newman to his his estimated $2.8 Million Contract.

Have an open competition between Newman and Castro in Spring Training. Best option starts the year, while the other becomes a utility player. The hope is that Castro forces his way into the starting lineup, making Newman a bench piece and/or trade candidate.

What I Think The Pirates Will Do:

They Tender Newman.

They start Newman.

Shortstop

Tier 1

Oneil Cruz (AAA/PIT)-(AAA) .232/.336/.422 9HR/(PIT) .233/.294/.450 17 HR 2.3 WAR

Oneil Cruz (PIT)-126K(34.9%)/28BB(7.8%)

Oneil Cruz (PIT)-122 MAX EV/91.9 AVG EV 15.5% Barrel% 35.4 Whiff% 30.5% Chase% 52.9% Zone Swing% 8.3 Launch Angle

Tier 2

Oneil Cruz (PIT) 17 Errors 1DRS -9 OAA

Kevin Newman (PIT)-.274/.316/.372 2HR 1.1 WAR -2DRS -1 OAA

Tucupita Marcano (PIT/A, AA and AAA)-(PIT) .206/.256/.306 2HR -.6 WAR/(A, AA and AAA) .291/.388/.443 5HR

Tier 3

Liover Peguero (AA)-.259/.305/.387 10HR

Rodolfo Castro (PIT/AAA)-(PIT) .233/.299/.427 11HR 1.3 WAR -1 DRS -1 OAA / (AAA) .246/.334/.441 12HR

Tsung-Che Cheng (A)-.270/.376/.418 6 HR

What I Would Do:

It’s pretty simple…Cruz gets a full year at Shortstop.

Another reason I tender Newman is because he is the only other player on the roster who can play the position.

What I Think The Pirates Will Do:

Almost Exactly what I would do.

Give Cruz some time in the OF.

Third Base

Tier 1

Ke’Bryan Hayes (PIT)-.244/.314/.345 7HR 4.3 WAR

Ke’Bryan Hayes (PIT)-12 Errors .972 Fielding% 24 DRS 18 OAA 6.3 UZR

Ke’Bryan Hayes (PIT)-3.9% Barrel% 20.7 Whiff% 27.1% Chase % 62.1% Zone Swing% 5.2 Launch Angle

Tier 2

Ke’Bryan Hayes (PIT)-113 MAX EV/91.0 AVG EX

Ke’Bryan Hayes (PIT)-8 years/$70 Million

Rodolfo Castro (PIT/AAA)-(PIT) .233/.299/.427 11HR 1.3 WAR 4 DRS 0 OAA/ (AAA) .246/.334/.441 12HR

Tier 3

Miguel Andujar (AAA/NY and PIT)-.285/.330/.487 13HR/(NY and PIT) .235/.257/.311 1HR .2 WAR

Jared Triolo (AA)-.282/.376/.419 9HR

Dariel Lopez (A+)-.286/.329/.476 19HR

What I Would Do:

When healthy, Hayes is the Pirates Third Baseman.

Hayes will be the Pirates Third Baseman for the foreseeable future.

If Hayes does get hurt, I give Castro the first shot.

What I Think The Pirates Will Do:

Left Field

Tier 1

Miguel Andujar (AAA/NY and PIT)-.285/.330/.487 13HR/(NY and PIT) .235/.257/.311 1HR .2 WAR

Bryan Reynolds (PIT)-.262/.345/.461 27HR 3.0 WAR

Ji-Hwan Bae (AAA/PIT)-(AAA) .289/.362/.430 8HR/(PIT) .333/.405/.424 .5WAR

Tier 2

Jack Suwinski (AA,AAA/PIT)-(AA,AAA) .256/.326/.494 9HR/ (PIT) .202/.298/.411 19HR 1.3WAR 2DRS 0 OAA

Tucupita Marcano (PIT/A, AA and AAA)-(PIT) .206/.256/.306 2HR -.6 WAR/(A, AA and AAA) .291/.388/.443 5HR

Free Agent/Trade/4th Outfielder

Tier 3

Canaan Smith-Njigba (AAA/PIT/IL)-(AAA) .277/.387/.408 1HR/(PIT) .200/.429/.400 -.1WAR in 7. Plate Appearances

Kevin Newman (PIT)-.274/.316/.372 2HR 1.1 WAR

Travis Swaggerty (AAA/PIT)-(AAA) .254/.348/.400 9HR/(PIT) .111/.111/.111 -.2 WAR in 9 plate appearances

What I Would Do:

Sign a capable veteran for Suwinski and Andujar to compete against.

Consider moving Reynolds over to left if he continues to struggle at defense in Center.

What I Think The Pirates Will Do:

Tender Andujar to his estimated $1.7 Million Contract.

Start either Suwinski or Andujar in left.

Sign a 4th OF/Free Agent to a Minor League contract.

Centerfield

Tier 1

Bryan Reynolds (PIT)-.262/.345/.461 27HR 3.0 WAR -14 DRS -7 OAA/(2021) -5 DRS 10 OAA

Ji-Hwan Bae (AAA/PIT)-(AAA) .289/.362/.430 8HR/(PIT) .333/.405/.424 .5WAR

Jack Suwinski (AA,AAA/PIT)-(AA,AAA) .256/.326/.494 9HR/ (PIT) .202/.298/.411 19HR 1.3WAR 1 DRS 1 OAA

Tier 2

Travis Swaggerty (AAA/PIT)-(AAA) .254/.348/.400 9HR/(PIT) .111/.111/.111 -.2 WAR in 9 plate appearances

Free Agent/Trade/4th Outfielder

Free Agent/Trade/4th Outfielder

Tier 3

Lonnie White, Jr. (IL/FCL)2021 and 2022-.263/.300/.579 3HR

Shalin Polanco (FCL)-.250/.324/.371 3HR

Solomon Maguire .217/.311/.278 0HR

What I Would Do:

It’s Reynolds position until it isn’t.

Consider moving Reynolds over to left if he continues to struggle at defense in Center.

What I Think The Pirates Will Do:

Pay Reynolds.

Not Trade Reynolds.

Play Reynolds.

Right Field

Tier 1

Jack Suwinski (AA,AAA/PIT)-(AA,AAA) .256/.326/.494 9HR/ (PIT) .202/.298/.411 19HR 1.3WAR -1 DRS 0 OAA

Miguel Andujar (AAA/NY and PIT)-.285/.330/.487 13HR/(NY and PIT) .235/.257/.311 1HR .2 WAR

Cal Mitchell(PIT/AAA)/Malcolm Nunez (AA/AAA)-(PIT) .226/.286/.349 5HR -.4 WAR -4 DRS -4 OAA (AAA) .339/.391/.547 9 HR

Tier 2

Canaan Smith-Njigba (AAA/PIT/IL)-(AAA) .277/.387/.408 1HR/(PIT) .200/.429/.400 -.1WAR in 7. Plate Appearances

Free Agent/Trade/4th Outfielder

Free Agent/Trade/4th Outfielder

Tier 3

Endy Rodriguez (A+/AA/AAA) .323/.407/.590 25HR

Matt Gorski (A/A+/AA/AAA) .280/.358/.598 24HR

Tony Blanco, Jr. (DSL)-.211/.211/.368 1HR

What I Would Do:

Sign a capable veteran for Suwinski and Andujar to compete against.

Give Mitchell the opportunity to prove he has the ability to play the position.

What I Think The Pirates Will Do:

Starting Rotation

Tender Andujar to his estimated $1.7 Million Contract.

Start either Suwinski or Andujar in right

Sign a 4th OF/Free Agent to a Minor League contract.

Tier 1

Mitch Keller (PIT) 5-12 3.91 ERA 1.396 WHIP 3.88 FIP 138K/60BB 2.0 WAR 159 IP

Roansy Contreras (PIT/AAA/PIT)-(PIT) 5-5 3.79 ERA 1.274 WHIP 4.38 FIP 86K/39BB 1.2 WAR 95 IP/(AAA) 1-1 3.15 ERA 1.223 WHIP 46K/13BB 34.1 IP

Free Agent/Trade

Tier 2

JT Brubaker (PIT)-3-12 4.69 ERA 3.92 FIP 1.465 WHIP 147K/54 BB .2 WAR 144 IP

Free Agent/Trade

Johan Oviedo(AAA/STL and PIT)-(AAA) 4-2 4.70 ERA 1.255 WHIP 64K/26BB 61.1IP/(STL/PIT) 4-3 3.21 ERA 3.74 FIP 1.286 WHIP 54K/23BB 1.1 WAR 56 IP

Tier 3

Luis Ortiz(AA,AAA/PIT)-(AA/AAA) 5-9 4.56 ERA 1.142 WHIP 138K/38BB 124.1 IP/(PIT) 0-2 4.50 ERA 3.68 FIP 1.125 WHIP 17K/10BB .1 WAR 16 IP

Mike Burrows(AA/AAA)-(AA) 4-2 2.94 ERA 1.096 WHIP 69K/19BB 52 IP/(AAA) 1-4 5.31 ERA 1.346 WHIP 42K/12BB 42.1 IP

Cody Bolton (AAA)-4-4 3.09 ERA 1.282 WHIP 82K/40BB 75.2 IP

Quinn Priester (AA/AAA)-(AA) 4-4 2.87 ERA 1.195 WHIP 75K/22BB 75.1 IP/(AAA) 1-1 3.86 ERA 1.286 WHIP 10K/7BB 9.1 IP

What I Would Do:

Sign a veteran to a two or three year contract.

Sign another veteran to a one year prove it deal like Quintana and Tyler Anderson.

One of these two has to be a lefty.

Have Oviedo and Brubaker duke it out for the 5th Starter.

What I Think The Pirates Will Do:

Sign a lefty to a one year prove it deal. Trade him at the deadline.

Have Brubaker and Oviedo be the 4 and 5.

The Bullpen

Tier 1

David Bednar (PIT)-3-4 2.61 ERA 2.44 FIP 1.123 WHIP 69K/16BB 1.3 WAR 51.2 IP

Colin Holderman (AAA/NY Mets/PIT/IL)-(AAA)-1-0 2.60 ERA .923 WHIP 21K/5BB 17.1 IP/(PIT) 5-0 3.81 ERA 3.32 FIP 1.200 WHIP 24K/14BB .3 WAR 28.1 IP

Free Agent/Trade

Tier 2

Wil Crowe (PIT)-6-10 4.38 ERA 4.31 FIP 1.395 WHIP 68K/38BB .1 WAR 76 IP

Free Agent/Trade

Chase DeJong (PIT)-6-3 2.64 ERA 4.75 FIP 1.144 WHIP 59K/30BB 1.6 WAR 71.2 IP

Tier 3

Manny Banuelos (AAA/NY and PIT)-(AAA)-0-2 2.35 ERA 1.109 WHIP 30K/12BB 30.2 IP/(NY and PIT) 4.39 ERA 3.45 FIP 1.293 WHIP 42K/21BB -.2 WAR 41 IP

JT Brubaker (PIT)-3-12 4.69 ERA 3.92 FIP 1.465 WHIP 147K/54 BB .2 WAR 144 IP

Zach Thompson (PIT)-3-10 5.18 ERA 4.87 FIP 1.512 WHIP 90K/46BB -.3 WAR 121.2 IP

The Rest

Cody Bolton (AAA)-4-4 3.09 ERA 1.282 WHIP 82K/40BB 75.2 IP

Yerry De Los Santos (AAA/PIT/IL)-(AAA) 2-0 1.72 ERA .638 WHIP 20K/2BB 15.2 IP/(PIT) 0-3 4.91 ERA 4.01 FIP 1.286 WHIP 26K/11BB -.5 WAR 25.2 IP

Free Agent/Trade

Bryse Wilson (PIT/AAA/PIT)-(AAA) 5-0 2.97 ERA 1.046 WHIP 34K/6BB 36.1 IP/(PIT) 3-9 5.52 ERA 5.06 FIP 1.418 WHIP 79K/32BB -1.1 WAR 115.2 IP

Peter Solomon(AAA)-8-7 5.58 ERA 1.505 WHIP 98K/54BB 109.2 IP

Colin Selby (AA/AAA)-2-3 2.27 ERA 1.206 WHIP 43K/14BB 35.2 IP

Tahnaj Thomas (AA)-5-4 3.20 ERA 1.263 WHIP 52K/20BB 50.2 IP

JC Flowers (AA)-7-6 2.88 ERA 1.180 WHIP 62K/24BB 68.2 IP

Noe Toribio (AA/AAA)-(AA) 3-1 1.85 ERA 1.077 WHIP 46K/13BB 39 IP/(AAA) 5-3 6.75 ERA 1.682 WHIP 31K/30BB 44 IP

Blake Cederlind (IL)/Nick Mears (IL/A,AAA/PIT)-(A,AAA) 2-1 4.80 ERA 1.400 WHIP 23K/13BB 30 IP/(PIT) 0-0 0.00 ERA 2.61 FIP 2K/1BB 2 IP

What I Would Do:

Sign a couple of proven relievers.

Move Thompson and Wilson to the bullpen permanently.

Move the 6th starter to the bullpen.

What I Think The Pirates Will Do:

Sign one reliever and hope he works out.

Cycle players from the waiver wire and AAA.

CONCLUSION

For me a balance between signing capable veterans, while creating competition/a culture, but not blocking prospects can be reached.

And, as I said during the most recent episode of the Bucs In The Basement Podcast , the use of “measuring stick” players needs to be a thing of the past. The time is now, to improve the roster, and actually take a step forward; rather than spending another year stuck on the lake, hoping that the wind picks up or the waves eventually bring us in.
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