After a strange 2020 season, the 2021 MLB season will be starting on time. Currently, teams are slated to play all 162 games which means pitchers’ workloads will return to normal. More innings and more batters on more teams mean pitchers will actually have time to ramp up, unlike in 2020. During spring training, teams will need to start getting a feel for what their rotations might be. Here is an early look at the Pittsburgh Pirates projected 2021 pitching rotation.
1. Steven Brault
In five years with the Pirates, Brault had his best ERA in 2020. Even through the pandemic, he actually had his third-most work and still posted a 3.38 ERA. He only went 1-3 in his 10 starts, but this is likely due much more to the Pirates’ poor offense than poor pitching.
Does Brault deserve to be their ace for 2021? An argument could be made that he does not, but in the Pirates’ perpetual rebuild, they should go with the hot hand. Brault will serve nicely as the Opening Day starter.
2. Chad Kuhl
Kuhl has never had an ERA under 4.20 in his four years of MLB service. He started nine games in 2020, but played in 11 total. The ERA he posted was the second-best of his career, at 4.20.
As will be mentioned several times throughout this article, there are not too many options for Pittsburgh. Kuhl is as good of a choice for second in the rotation as most others listed here, but rest assured the Pirates will go with the youngest talent they can if any of these pitchers fall off tremendously.
3. Tyler Anderson
The Pirates are Anderson’s third team in three years. After sending away talent in the offseason, they could have done a lot worse than the five-year pro.
In 59.2 innings pitched over 13 games played (11 started), a 4.37 ERA is excusable. But it is not enough to earn him a permanent high spot in the Pirates’ rotation. A (relative) veteran does deserve a slot in the middle, however. Expect him to rise if he recaptures his rookie numbers.
4. Mitch Keller
Keller has not had a lot of work over his two seasons in the MLB. He has pitched a total of 69.2 innings, started 16 games and has earned an averaged ERA of 5.81. He would probably be a relief option or a flex starter on most teams, but the Pirates will need to throw him into the deep end, considering their lack of known commodities. Fourth or fifth in the rotation sounds right for Keller.
5. J.T. Brubaker
Brubaker’s WAR is -0.2, which is mostly unfair to say, considering he has only pitched 47.1 innings over one, pandemic-shortened season. But it is brought up to show how short the Pirates are on talent on the mound. At least the team can see who they have in a young arm if they put him in the rotation. He should stay near the bottom until he is a known commodity though.
Featured Image courtesy of Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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