Dan Szymborski has been releasing his ZiPS projections for all 30 Major League teams for a decade now. A couple weeks back, he released the 2022 projections for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Every player on the roster (and even some who are no longer with the Pirates), got stat predictions based on statistical models.
Not surprisingly, Bryan Reynolds is again projected to be the Bucs’ best player next season, worth just about a 4.0 WAR. ZiPS has him projected for a .280/.362/.480 slash with a wRC+ of 126 and 22 home runs. The numbers may seem light, considering the campaign Reynolds had in 2021, but the projections take into account the down year Reynolds had in 2020.
The other player who is projected to be a well-above average hitter is shortstop Oneil Cruz, who may not begin the year in the Majors and ZiPS makes note of that. In 361 projected plate appearances, Cruz is projected for 17 home runs — tied for second on the team, with a wRC+ of 117.
Outside of those two, ZiPS projects the rest of the Pirates’ bats to be below-par. Ke’Bryan Hayes is projected for a .719 OPS (94 wRC+) with 10 homeruns, though ZiPS only gives him 471 plate appearances which will be low if Hayes can stay healthy in 2022. ZiPS is quite high on Michael Chavis’s power, projecting him for 17 home runs and a .194 ISO in just shy of 400 plate appearances. Pittsburgh’s lineup desperately needs some power and if Chavis can manage what he’s projected for, it would come as a welcome boost.
Some other notables with their projected wRC+ for 2022: Ben Gamel: 99, Hoy Park: 95, Yoshi Tsutsugo: 94, Kevin Newman: 82, Travis Swaggerty: 80, Roberto Perez: 67.
Pitching wise, ZiPS isn’t too high on the Pirates’ staff. No pitcher is projected for a WAR above 1.5, with JT Brubaker (1.3) leading the way. Brubaker is projected to have a bounce-back season of sorts with a 4.46 ERA/4.38 FIP. Mitch Keller is projected to have a little bit better of a 2022 with a 4.72 ERA/4.53 FIP. Newly-signed Jose Quintana is projected for a 4.63 ERA/4.30 FIP and newly-acquired Zach Thompson is projected for a 4.30 ERA/4.33 FIP, though pitching mostly out of the bullpen.
Prized pitching prospect Roansy Contreras is projected for a 4.16 ERA/4.12 FIP with 16 starts. David Bednar is unsurprisingly expected to lead the Pirates bullpen, projected for a 3.56 ERA/3.41 FIP.
Team projections from Steamer were done also done recently, projecting the records for each Major League team. Taking a stab at the win/loss totals for the Pirates, they pegged the Bucs at 74-88, which would be a 13-win improvement from 2021.
It seems as though the individual projections from ZiPS contradict with the win total produced by Steamer. If the Pirates want to improve by 13 games in the win column, it will take more than just Reynolds anchoring the Pirates’ lineup for the entirety of the season, and the pitching staff will have to have better results.
Could the Pirates get to 74 wins? It’s possible, but I wouldn’t call it all that likely as things currently stand. With that being said, as the prospects such as Cruz, Contreras, etc. start to make their way to the big league roster, the team will probably see improvement down the stretch. Plus, there is still a lot left to be sorted out this offseason once the lockout finally ends, and the Pirates still have a few holes to fill.
Projections are just projections and really don’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. If the Pirates were able to improve to 74 wins in 2022, that would be the kind of step forward they would need to think about competing for the postseason in 2023.
The full ZiPS projections can be found here.