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To recap the countdown so far:
We continue the countdown with the number 13 prospect, Steven Brault.
13. Steven Brault, LHP
The Pirates added Brault in a trade for Travis Snider just before the start of Spring Training in 2015. The left-hander didn’t appear to have a lot of value, being limited mostly to Low-A at the age of 22 in 2014, and lacking great stuff that would make him projectable for the upper levels. It turned out that the Pirates got a sleeper, as there were a few aspects of Brault’s game that made his stuff play up.
Brault came into the year working in the upper-80s to low-90s with his fastball. The high end of that range was his four seamer, while the low end was his two-seamer. He relied on the two-seam fastball more in 2015, and while it lacked great velocity, his movement and command of the pitch made it play up. Brault throws the pitch at knee level on a sinking downward plane, and it has late cutting movement, causing it to drop off the table at the last second. The pitch not only has downward movement, but Brault gets a bit of cross movement with the pitch, and all of the movement combined makes it difficult to square up on.
There wasn’t much velocity in 2015, but don’t rule it out in the future. Brault was a two-way player in college, and is the most athletic pitcher in the system, to the point where he looks like a natural outfielder when shagging fly balls, and can add some value at the plate when he’s called on to hit. The Pirates had him working on tapping into his athleticism in Altoona and the AFL, and that led to him hitting 93 on a regular basis in the AFL. He throws the four seam inside to right-handers, which sets up his other pitches well. One thing that helps his fastballs is his deception. Opposing hitters in the AFL commented that it’s hard to see the ball since he hides it so well, making the perception of his pitches look harder than 88-92, 93.
Brault has two quality fastballs, and an improving changeup, but needs improvements on his slider. He came in with a curveball and a slider, but neither showed up as an out pitch, and he will be focusing solely on the slider going forward. He’ll need to get consistent movement and a consistent break with the pitch. The safe bet would be to call Brault a number four starter one day, but his stuff could play up enough to make him a mid-rotation starter. He’ll need his slider to improve in order for that to happen. Expect Brault to move to Indianapolis at some point in 2016, with a chance to make the majors as early as the second half of the year.