Pirates 2024 season preview: How many wins?

With Opening Day fast approaching, let’s discuss how the Pittsburgh Pirates look after a busy offseason and an interesting spring training season, which saw them lead all major-league teams in spring training home runs while making some interesting roster decisions. In 2023, the Pirates finished strong by winning 35 of their final 67 games. During that stretch, they relied heavily on youth once the veterans under one-year contracts were traded. Now we find out whether these young players can keep it going for a full season.

New faces in 2024 include trade acquisitions Marco Gonzales and Edward Olivares. Free agents signed, all under one-year contracts, were Martin Perez, Aroldis Chapman, Yasmani Grandal, Rowdy Tellez and Michael A. Taylor. One top prospect, Jared Jones, will make his major league debut in the starting rotation. One can count Oneil Cruz as a significant addition, too. He’s back from an injury that limited him to just nine games last season.

Starting pitching

The top three in the starting rotation appear solid, especially if Jones can feed off his strong spring performance and avoid the bumps in the road often experienced by rookies. The Opening Day assignment will go to 2023 All-Star Mitch Keller, the Pirates’ $77 million man. Perez, who along with Chapman earned a World Series ring with the Texas Rangers last year, was a question mark due to a so-so 2023 season that saw him moved to the bullpen when the Rangers acquired starting rotation help at the trade deadline.

However, the veteran left-hander has looked sharp this spring, changing speeds, throwing strikes and moving the ball around. He should fit in nicely as a number-two man. Jones, the Pirates’ number-three ranked prospect, is now their number-three starter. Over 16-1/3 innings in the spring, he didn’t allow a run while striking out 15.

The question marks are Gonzales and Bailey Falter. Gonzales, another veteran lefty, had a rough spring, although he was unscored upon in his final outing. He has a history of improving in the regular season after some bad springs. The fifth spot going to Falter was a head-scratcher. After not pitching well for the Pirates last year, he had a 7.88 ERA in 16 spring innings. However, the Pirates like the fact that Falter is left-handed, which is an advantage in PNC Park. But it’s only an advantage if he pitches well. One would think he’s on a short leash with last year’s top overall pick Paul Skenes waiting in the wings.

The bullpen

When the Pirates signed Chapman for a whopping $10.5 million, their intent was clear. Having been unable to land another free-agent starter, general manager Ben Cherington decided to shorten the game. Chapman gives the Pirates one of the top three bullpens in all of baseball, when all are healthy. All-Star closer David Bednar will be supported by Chapman, Colin Holderman, Carmen Mlodzinski and Ryan Borucki. The key phrase here is “when all are healthy.” Holderman and Mlodzinski will begin the season on the injured list with what are described as minor injuries. Non-roster invitee Ryder Ryan was added to the Opening Day roster and might play a key role. The belief is his sinking fastball will play similarly to Holderman’s.


Grandal was added to the team as insurance in case Henry Davis needed more work as a catcher. However, Davis’s hard work at the position in the offseason has apparently paid off. He looked good in all aspects of catching in the spring games. He also mashed four homers in the exhibition games. With Grandal on the injured list due to plantar fasciitis, he may struggle to get playing time when he returns.

Grandal has been credited with teaching Davis much about the art of catching and game-planning. With the front office having laid down the edict that they expect the Pirates to contend in 2024, it’s hard to predict whether we’ll see them trade their one-year contracts at the deadline as usual. However, if Davis continues to play the position well going into the summer, Grandal is a sure bet to go.

The infield

First base will be a platoon between Tellez and Connor Joe. As the left-handed half, Tellez will see most of the action. After hitting 35 home runs in 2022, his production declined in an injury-plagued 2023. He didn’t hit for a high average in the spring, but that’s the norm for his career. Not known for his defense, he fielded well in the spring. Joe has good on-base skills and should be more than adequate when he’s in the lineup.

Jared Triolo will open the season as the regular second baseman. He was initially ticketed for duty as a utility infielder. But in the spring games, he kept on hitting, hitting, and hitting some more, and fielded well, too. It got to the point where the more Triolo was spoken of as a backup, the dumber it sounded. He seems immune to the background noise and should turn in a good season.

The left side of the infield is anchored by third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes and shortstop Cruz. The Gold Glove winner Hayes is expected to continue his hot hitting from the latter part of 2023. Cruz is simply a unicorn who’s poised to blow up StatCast again this season. He hit seven monstrous home runs in the spring. His speed and power are off the charts. However, his defense remains a question. What to do about that? Well, Cruz wants to play shortstop. If the Pirates ever hope to sign him to a long-term contract, they’ll have to keep him there and see how it works out.

The outfield

Bryan Reynolds and Jack Suwinski were assured outfield spots all along. Andrew McCutchen will see action in the outfield, too, but will be used mainly as the designated hitter. Nobody emerged in spring training as a clear winner of the third outfield spot. Thus, the Pirates went out and signed Taylor late in the spring. He’ll patrol PNC Park’s spacious center field, with Suwinski moving to left field and Reynold taking over right field. Reynolds should provide his usual mix of hitting for average and power. Suwinski and Taylor are coming off seasons where they provided home runs, low slash lines and too many strikeouts.


The Pirates should get good starting pitching in 2024, at least from the top three. If Gonzales and Falter fail, there’s plenty of help available in the minor leagues. The deep bullpen will be an asset, especially once all of the pieces are healthy. Offensively, the lineup has “length,” in the parlance of modern baseballspeak. The Pirates under Cherington have stressed OBP as an important part of their attack. They won’t get that from Tellez, Suwinski and Taylor, but this lineup, with a full year of Cruz and Davis, should provide enough offense in any event. The outfield defense will be better. As for the overall defense, how Cruz and Davis handle their positions will be the key.

Predictions for a winning season by the Pirates usually draw ridicule throughout this wonderful internet. If the reader is inclined toward such, please spell the author’s name correctly and get the website’s name right. Besides the improvements outlined above, another important aspect is the team’s stated goal to win and contend for a playoff spot. Did anybody ever get an A after studying just enough to get a C? Setting the goal higher should be an important factor in the Pirates’ performance.

Additionally, there was last year’s strong finish. Yes, one who’s observed baseball long enough knows not to put much stock into late-season performances by players on teams out of contention. However, as one who saw last year’s finish, it’s hard to shake the memory of how the players came together and learned what winning takes. For 2024, I see 84 wins.

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