Predictions for '22: Pirates' MVP, Cy Young and more

April 4th, 2022

The Pirates are firmly in a rebuild. That much is known. The window of contention has yet to open, but there’s an ever-so-faint light that’s beginning to creep through the glass. Optimism isn’t as a premium. There are reasons to have excitement -- tempered, but excitement nonetheless.

The building blocks are there. Bryan Reynolds was an All-Star. Ke’Bryan Hayes is a defensive savant. Mitch Keller looks like he’s on the verge of a breakout. That’s just the guys who are here right now.

Oneil Cruz will begin the season with Triple-A Indianapolis, but his time with the black and gold is coming. The same can be said of Roansy Contreras. And who knows? Maybe some of the organization’s other top prospects could follow in the footsteps of Cruz and Contreras and play well enough to earn a cup of coffee.

Pittsburgh isn’t ready to contend. Not yet. But even as the youngsters grow and develop down on the farm, the Pirates could begin to take baby steps forward.

What needs to go right?
Whether this season is or isn’t successful is less dependent on the raw wins and losses and more about finding who can contribute to winning baseball. As the Pirates’ top prospects make their way through the system, the primary goal at the Major League level is to see who can carve out a role as the team transitions toward contention. Reynolds is one of the game’s best outfielders. Hayes could establish himself as the game’s best defensive third baseman by season’s end.

Great unknown
When does Cruz get called up? Cruz will begin the season at Triple-A, but it’s a matter of when, not if, he plays for the Pirates. Cruz was nothing short of phenomenal in the Minor Leagues last season and many -- including Cruz himself -- believed the young shortstop had done enough to warrant a spot on the Opening Day roster. If Cruz plays enough games, there’s a very realistic possibility that he wins NL Rookie of the Year.

Team MVP
Seeing as Reynolds garnered actual MVP votes last season, it’s only appropriate that he stands to be the Pirates’ best player. He brushed off a forgettable 2020 and evolved into one of the game’s best all-around players. Reynolds hit .302/.390/.522 with 24 home runs. He didn’t grade out well by defensive runs saved, but he was in the 96th percentile for outs above average.

Team Cy Young
As Cole Tucker said, Keller was the offseason’s “internet sweetheart.” With one viral video, Keller got the hype train rolling. His performance in Spring Training has only served to solidify the belief that Keller is in for a breakout season. During Spring Training, Keller’s fastball velocity comfortably sat in the mid-to-high 90s, serving as the perfect complement to an assortment of breaking pitches. Not only does Keller stand to be the Pirates’ best pitcher, but he looks well on his way to his first All-Star appearance.

Bold prediction
In his first two seasons, Hayes has flashed what he can do defensively, but this is the season when he takes home the hardware. Not only can Hayes break Nolan Arenado’s nine-year streak of NL Gold Gloves at third base, he could very well win a Platinum Glove. In 96 games last season, Hayes totaled 16 defensive runs saved, leading all third basemen and fourth among all position players. If Hayes plays the majority of this season and maintains his production, he stands to not just make a run at the title of best defensive third baseman, but best defender, period.