Should Pirate Fans Be Concerned Few Pitchers are Among Callups?

Photo Credit: Christopher Horner/Tribune-Review

Remember to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for continued Pittsburgh Sports coverage: 

The Pittsburgh Pirates have been exciting fans all season with the many rookie callups and debuts so far.  We have seen rookies Diego Castillo, Jack Suwinski, Tucupita Marcano,  Cal Mitchell, Rodolfo Castro, Roansy Contreras, Yerry De Los Santos, and Beau Sulser all get playing time for the Pirates this season already.  The hope is that more are on the way in the form of Oneil Cruz, Mason Martin, and Cody Bolton.

While Contreras looks to be the most talented out of the bunch, and looks to be really something special, De Los Santos has assumed just a minor bullpen role, Bolton isn't a top prospect, and Sulser isn't even with the organization anymore.  The rest of the list above, if you don't already know, are position players, including Cruz and Martin who should be the next men up.

This is concerning to me.  I want this 2022 season to be similar to the 2012 season.  We saw many young guys start to come into their own and produce for the organization at the major league level in 2012.  That season came just one year before the Pirates put together a stretch of three straight postseason appearances.  Even if 2023 does not result in a playoff berth for the Pirates, it needs to be a season where they're competing for one.

The issue is, there are not many Pirates pitching prospects on the precipice of making an impact at the major league level like there are position players.  The rotation is already weak this season.  It's dependent on good stretches from Zach Thompson and Mitch Keller, Jose Quintana with an expiring contract, the aforementioned rookie phenom Contreras, and JT Brubaker.  Aside from Contreras, there really isn't a pitcher in that five that can be depended on for next season.  Maybe De Los Santos will get a start or two in 2022. 

There are also not any more top pitching prospects projected to to come up in 2022.  Guys like Quinn Priester, Anthony Solomento, Mike Burrows, Jared Jones, and Carmen Mlodzinski aren't projected to debut until next season, 2024, or even 2025.  They are a year or two behind where the position player development is.

So the team from a position player standpoint is exactly where I want them to be.  They will suffer stretches where they struggle, but the rookie position players are getting valuable major league experience that will aide in the success of next season.  

Plus, Bryan Reynolds and Ke'Bryan Hayes continue to get valuable major league experience as well.  Because the Pirates lineup is littered with rookies, people forget Reynolds is 27 and in his fourth major league season, and Hayes is just 25 and in his third major league season.  Consider that 2020 was shortened and Hayes' injury history, they can barely even be considered veterans.  So the lineup is growing and improving every day.

I can't say the same about the Pirates pitching.  Even if Keller and Thompson continue to pitch as well as they have recently, and Contreras continues his upward trajectory, that's still only three starters.  Brubaker has shown he's nothing more than a 4th or 5th starter on a bad team, and Quintana will likely be dealt at the deadline.  

So unfortunately, the pitching appears to be a year behind the hitting in terms of this being like the 2012 season.  The growing pains we are seeing with the hitters this season will be what we experience with the pitching staff next season.  Without solid pitching, the Pirates today nor the Pirates then will or would have been a playoff team.  This means that the 2023 Pirates may not be even close to what I was originally hoping.

The one thing the Pirates did do in the past, once their window of opportunity was open, is make the proper free agent signings to supplement the young stars.  Funny enough, they are exactly what we need now.  We need this team's version of AJ Burnett, Francisco Liriano, and Russell Martin.  Two solid free agent pitchers and a legitimate starting catcher is exactly what the team needed then and it's exactly what the team needs now.  

So while I still feel like the pitching on this Pirates team is still a year or two behind the hitting in terms of development, there are moves that could be made.  Unfortunately, we are now relying on the front office to open up the pocket books and make similar moves as they did in the past.  While I hope this happens, I'm not holding my breath.