Today on the Major League Baseball website, they ranked all 30 MLB clubs’ off-season rosters as they currently stand based on the total WAR of FanGraphs’ current depth chart projections. This excludes all free agents and the seven players who received qualifying offers and are almost certain to decline them at this point. All player options have been decided, so this reflects the current state of each roster. It is important to note that the Fangraphs’ depth charts represent their projections and won’t end up being completely accurate as teams begin to sign free agents and those players take over positions.
So where do the Pirates stand? I have to admit that they came in a bit lower than I expected. They have them listed as number 25. I didn’t expect that they were going to be a top-ten team or anything. I get that as it currently stands this team isn’t great despite having some pretty solid building blocks. I did expect them to be at least five spots higher, though. The teams coming in below the Pirates are (in order from 26 to 30) the Royals, Athletics, Nationals, White Sox, and Rockies. Here is what they had to say about the Bucs.
Biggest needs: Starting pitching, right side of the infield
Mitch Keller and Johan Oviedo are essentially the only two starters the Pirates can rely upon for 2024, so it goes without saying that adding some rotation help will be a necessity. But more importantly, they need the first-half Keller (3.31 ERA), and not the second-half version (5.59 ERA).
Beyond that, the success of this rebuild largely comes down to the progression of the talented youngsters who made their debuts over the past year. Oneil Cruz authoring a healthy return from a broken ankle would be a start. So would Endy Rodriguez, Nick Gonzales, and Henry Davis showing a whole lot more bat than they did in their 2023 cameos, Jack Suwinski and Jared Triolo building on promising starts, and 2023 No. 1 overall pick Paul Skenes delivering on his promise. It’s a lot of ifs. It defines this entire Pirates generation. They really, really need to support that group with starting pitching from outside the organization, and perhaps a first baseman, too.
There really isn’t anything in there to quibble about. As it stands right now this team only has two starting pitchers and the right side of the infield is a huge question mark. We’ve seen their highly touted rookies come up and struggle. It’s not exactly the ideal situation. This off-season will need to see the team invest in their future through free agency and the biggest needs are exactly what they have listed. It’s disheartening when it’s heading into year five of a rebuild they’re in the bottom 20% of the league, but they’re coming off of a season that saw a significant step forward. It’s something to build off of. I think that where they stand after next season will tell a more accurate story about where they are heading.
Where did the rest of the NL Central come in? The Reds are at 22, the Cubs at 19, the Brewers at 16, and the Cardinals at 12. That last one kind of shocked me. We know that the Brewers are on the opposite path of the Pirates. They have lost their manager (I’ll be posting something on that later), have a number of players entering free agency, and will not have Brandon Woodruff for the 2024 season. The Cubs benefitted from the Brewers losing their manager and have shown signs of pushing their chips into the center of the table. The Reds, well I just have a hard time taking them seriously yet. I know that the Cardinals are a very well-run organization and that they wouldn’t be down for long, but it did shock me to see them ranked as the top team in the NL Central only a few weeks after finishing in last place in the division.