For the final Roundtable of 2022, we’re going with bold predictions for the 2023 season.
There’s no limit here. The predictions can be on any subject with the Pirates, whether a team prediction or an individual player prediction.
What is your bold prediction for the 2023 Pittsburgh Pirates organization?
I think the Pirates will have a winning record after the All-Star break in 2023. There are enough top prospects in the system who could arrive by mid-July that the second half of the season should be a lot more exciting than anything we’ve seen from the Major League club in the last few years. Instead of waiting for those once every 7-10 day moments from Oneil Cruz that impress the Statcast crowds, you’ll be able to celebrate wins more frequently.
Besides the potential top tier prospects joining the team throughout the season, players like Cruz, Rodolfo Castro and Roansy Contreras should all be better with the experience they gained last year. Then you have Mitch Keller who improved mid-season and Ke’Bryan Hayes, who still has some offensive potential we haven’t seen. Bryan Reynolds is still around (as of this writing), but even if he’s moved, I think they are going for more immediate help in return, which wouldn’t push back the rebuild.
I’m not predicting a winning overall 2023 season, but I see the potential for them to be a winning team from July of 2023 and beyond. Depending on how fast the prospects arrive and whether or not there’s a group adjustment period to the majors, we could start to see the winning begin in June as well. My safe (but still bold) estimate believes the All-Star break will mark the turnaround.
I think by the end of the 2023 season Anthony Solometo will be a Top 100 prospect. Maybe that isn’t all that bold, but this is also considering that the lefty has less than 50 career innings at the professional level.
Solometo had a fantastic 2022 season, pitching very well in Bradenton while just 19-years-old. That included striking out more than a batter an inning, and now allowing a home run the entire season.
It seems that he hasn’t even scratched the surface of his potential yet. Solometo sat mostly at 91-93 with his fastball, but got as high as 97 MPH in high school. There seems to be hope he can at the very least, increase that velocity from what we saw in Bradenton last year.
With his unorthodox delivery adding deception, you can imagine the added difficulty in locating a fastball coming out at even 95 or 96.
There’s a chance Solometo becomes even more unhittable than he previously was.
My bold prediction is the regular lineup and rotation at the end of the season. That’s really what counts this year. As usual, they’re going to start the season with some regulars who have no chance of being part of a winning Pirates team, although not as many as the last three years. So what matters is where they end the season, although not every development will be good. So here’s what I think we’ll see:
C: Endy Rodriguez
1B/DH: Carlos Santana, Connor Joe, Malcom Nunez
2B: Nick Gonzales
SS: Oneil Cruz
3B: Ke’Bryan Hayes
LF: Jack Suwinski/Miguel Andujar
CF: Ji-Hwan Bae
RF: Cal Mitchell/Andujar
Rotation: Mitch Keller, Roansy Contreras, Luis Ortiz, Quinn Priester, Mike Burrows
Some developments that’ll lead to this:
Bryan Reynolds will be traded at the deadline, not because he requested it but because it was always going to happen.
Ji-Man Choi will show that his second half collapse in 2022 was real, but he’ll linger until September as the Pirates vainly hope to ditch a bit of his salary.
After eight years of being Vince Velasquez, Vince Velasquez will shock the Pirates, many fans and Jason Mackey by miraculously turning into . . . Vince Velasquez! Like Choi, he’ll linger ‘til September as the Pirates hope to deal him to some drunken GM.
The Pirates will trade a couple relievers at the deadline again, but I don’t know which ones because it’s all pretty random with relievers.
Cal Mitchell will win a starting job in spring training and have an above average offensive season in 2023.
Cal is a Professional Hitter (Trademarked commenter by NMR). His fielding will leave a bit to be desired when it comes to his arm, but his bat has always been his carrying tool.
As it stands, Bryan Reynolds is probably the only outfielder with a definitive spot going into spring training. I wrote in the previous Pirates Discussion that I wasn’t entirely sold on Connor Joe having a set starting spot on the opening day roster, given he does still have two minor league options. Jack Suwinski may have an inside track at one spot, but I think Cal Mitchell will earn a spot on the team.
Outside of Cal’s initial taste of Triple-A in 2021 and his first MLB stint in 2022, he has continued to hit at every level with above average offense. I think what stands out the most about Mitchell’s 2022 season, is the fact that he continued to destroy Triple-A pitching throughout the year between promotions and demotions, while getting better at the MLB level after each stop back in Indianapolis.
In his first 34 Triple-A games of 2022, Cal Mitchell slashed .306/.362/.500 with a wRC+ of 125 before he made his MLB debut. Cal struggled in his initial taste of the majors and returned to Indianapolis, but his second round in Triple-A was for only two weeks after a stretch with a 137 wRC+ over 12 games. His third and final run through Indianapolis of 2022 saw him go above and beyond in 17 games with a wRC+ of 191. Cal’s totals through 63 games with the Indianapolis Indians was .339/.391/.547 with a wRC+ of 146 over the season.
As for his time in the MLB, the overall numbers weren’t great, but you see growth throughout the year. In 26 games from May 24th to June 26th, he hit .193/.227/.325 with a wRC+ of 51. His second stint of 18 games saw him tick up to a wRC+ of 72. The final call-up where Mitchell stayed from beginning of September till the end of the season — 25 games — he capped off his year with a slash of .267/.360/.373 with a wRC+ of 112. Furthermore, he saw some of his best plate discipline over the final stretch with a 12.8 BB% and 18.6 K% that are both very strong numbers.
So, my bold prediction is that Cal Mitchell is the Buccos 2023 starting right fielder.
The offseason isn’t over yet, and my expectation is that the Pirates will continue adding to this team. With the way it’s shaping up right now, I could see a 75+ win team. That’s not my bold prediction though.
I think the Pirates will do enough this offseason to get that extra push to a winning season in 2023. This type of winning season won’t put them in contention for the playoffs. As contending teams are fighting to lock down a playoff spot in the final week of the season, I could see the Pirates fighting to lock down a winning record.
The Pirates are adding veterans to their team, which will help the transition later in the season when the wave of prospects from Indianapolis start to arrive. The Pirates will get almost an internal trade deadline boost with that influx of talent arriving throughout the summer. By the end of the season, this team will start to take shape for the future.
My bold prediction is that the Pirates have a winning season in 2023. They haven’t cared about the results at the MLB level the last few years, but I think that changes this year. It already seems to be changing this offseason, and I don’t think they’re finished adding.
There’s a benefit to this push for a winning record. It would make next offseason much easier to add players on multi-year deals, opening them up to better talent than is available to them now. There’s also the benefit of bringing up so many young players in a winning environment, rather than the end of another tanking season.
It’s been frustrating to watch the tanking over the last few years, but I think that’s over. The baseball we see in Pittsburgh this year will be exciting to follow from start to finish of the season, and I think the Pirates make it a priority to finish above .500.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim’s reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.