The Pirates Prospects 2016 Prospect Guide is now on sale. The book features prospect reports on everyone in the system, the 2016 top 50 prospects, and the most comprehensive coverage of the Pirates’ farm system that you can find. Subscribers to the site get free and discounted books, with Top Prospect subscribers getting the 2016 book for free, and Annual subscribers getting $10 off. Both levels of subscribers can also get the book for just $5. Details on all three promotions can be found on the products page, and you can subscribe to the site or upgrade your current plan on the subscriptions page.

While the top 50 prospects are exclusive to the book, we will be releasing the top 20 prospects over the next few weeks. The reports will only be available to site subscribers, including those with a monthly plan. You can subscribe here, and if you like these reports, be sure to purchase your copy of the book on the products page of the site to get much more analysis on every player in the system.

To recap the countdown so far:

20. Willy Garcia, RF
19. Clay Holmes, RHP
18. Mitch Keller, RHP
17. Max Moroff, 2B
16. Chad Kuhl, RHP
15. Cole Tucker, SS
14. Stephen Tarpley, LHP

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.

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  1. Tom Glavine comes to mind when I hear Brault talked about. If he can do a third of what Glavine did he would be a huge steal.

  2. Man, that Travis Snider trade was grand larceny. Brault definitely appears to be similar to Jeff Locke with better command. Locke is darn inconsistent. He’ll go 8-9 starts with a 2.50- ERA and then have a 6.0 BB/9 for a half dozen or more starts. A consistent Locke with good command is actually a strong #4.

    • See, these comments bother me. Not long ago Rudy Owens was highly praised here. People need to pump the brakes on the kids man. One of them very well could be the next Morton or Locke that people constantly bitch about.

      • Agreed. I’m hoping these guys do well, but…before proclaiming the trade a success…let’s see the guys play in the majors.

        Hoping these two are studs one day, buy I also hoped that for four guys we got for Jason Bay in that trade everyone proclaimed we ‘won’.

        • Very much disagree on these guys needing to contribute in the Majors before calling this trade a success simply because from a value standpoint, these two *still* outpace Snider. Huntington sold at the absolute right time and capitalized on the only good month and a half of Travis Snider’s career.

          That alone makes this a success, unlike simply saying a given draft pick succeeds just for turning into a prospect.

          • I get your point, but I tend to look at it from the perspective of: if the players acquired don’t contribute at the major league level, nothing was added by their addition. Hypothetically, if the Pirates get Profar for S-Rod tomorrow…if Profar never plays in the majors again, no matter how incredible that deal looks at the time, I wouldn’t call that ‘winning’ down the road.

            That said, for this trade to be a ‘win’, you really don’t much…if the Pirates get a solid BP arm, they won. If they end up with a legit #4, it was a fleecing. Anything more than that is just showing off.

      • If these guys see a velocity dip like Owens did after that year of consistently sitting over 90 mph, there’s little chance they become ML regulars (like Owens failed to do).

        Id take Locke production as a middle ground. Wont be their ceiling, wont be them flaming out totally.

      • I think both of them are better prospects than Owens though. Just pull up their fangraphs stats. Tarpley and Brault are far better than Owens in FIP. Owens had one good season. Locke was always a better prospect than Owens too and he doesn’t have as good numbers as Brault and Tarpley. The Pirates system is way deeper now and they are both legit prospects with fairly above 50% chances of starting in the majors.

            • The whole conversation?

              Yes, some of those guys will be good maybe even great pitchers. But the majority will be average or below. A couple will probably never get through the rigors of 162 game season.

              Sorry man. Sometimes reading things in the article and the comments make it sound like the Pirates have ten top of the rotation guys at AA and AAA. I’ve followed enough ball since the early 90s to know that’s not true…didn’t mean to come off the way it did. Sorry.

                • I thought my initial comment was optimistic, not unrealistic. My head’s not in clouds. I’m just saying it was a really good trade and IF both these guys reach their potential, they could both be solid major league pitchers. I’m not comparing Brault to Glavine or something like that. I think there is some credence to the Locke comparison. They both have similar profiles.

          • I’m not saying they are guaranteed to be good. I’m just saying there are reasons for optimism. Nothing is guaranteed but I like Brault. Of course, I hope there’s no room for him in Pittsburgh.

  3. So, of the two – Tarpley and Brault – who do you think ultimately will be the better and more successful pitcher in the long run?

    • Tarpley is higher risk higher ceiling. Brault lower risk lower ceiling higher floor. Obviously if Tarpley hits his ceiling he could be a solid 2-3 IMHO. If I was a gambling man, I’d say Brault is the safer bet.

  4. I think deception from a lefty is a huge weapon. Look how much Fiers fastball plays up at 89 mph because of the deception. Obviously Fiers is a righty but my point is I’ve seen countless times where he throws an 88-89 mph fastball and the batter is wayyyy behind it.

    • Blanton adjusting to make his fastball more deceptive made it far less hittable, as well. Of course, one wonders how much of an effect the move to the bullpen had, as well, but deception plays stuff up for sure.

    • He amazes me. That is such a rare thing for a righty to do that. Throwing under 91-92 usually a damning thing for a righty. Littlefield’s regime leaned to much towards “pitchability” and I think this fo might shy away from it a little too much. (Especially with righties.) Some guys just can pitch…problem is it takes some of these pitchability guys until almost 30 to toil and figure it out.

  5. If Brault confronts a logjam in the ML rotation, he could get his feet on the ground as a LOOGY. Watson was a failed starter who became a dominant reliever. Brault isn’t a failed starter. He’s a starter in a very deep system. Relieving also would permit him to air it out. Watson added 3-4 mph to his fastball after he moved to the bullpen.

    The pitching depth will add tremendous value going forward. Sampson for Happ is just one instance of this value.

    • I’m glad you mentioned Watson, because he not Locke is a better comp imo. Watson relies on his two seamer and change and his breaker is barely above average, he throws mid 90’s as a reliever, as a starter he was 90-91 with the two seam fb.

  6. Ironic that Brault falls on the day that so much discussion on Jeff Locke has been generated.

    If Brault can carry the strikeouts he found in AA over to Big League competition, you’re looking at similar stuff with the command that Locke lacks, which as we all know is what holds him back from being a quality starter.

    • Brault still needs an out pitch for that to happen. But I do think “Jeff Locke with better command” is an easy comparison for him as far as value. That said, Brault has much better movement on his fastball, so when you get to the specifics, they’re very different pitchers.

        • Locke gets his strikeouts due to the curve. Brault was getting them with his fastball, which is good, but I don’t know how sustainable that is without a strong breaking pitch to fall back on.

          Also, Brault had a 16.5% strikeout rate in A+, and only threw 90 innings in AA. Locke’s Double-A numbers came in 182.2 innings, and reflected what he did in High-A the year before.

        • Agree. See the response below. The reason I think he needs an out pitch is that I’m not banking on the two seamer to be a strikeout pitch in the majors, based on 90 innings in Double-A.

    • Agreed on the Locke comment. When Locke isn’t getting his calls on the corners for strikes he’s usually in real trouble.

    • You know, I thought the same thing, but when I looked up the numbers, their BB% are not as different as I expected them to be coming up through the minors. Locke’s command problems didn’t really show up until he got to the Majors. The differences between their minor league performances have been largely less than a percent.

      Unless Brault’s command *inside* the zone is different from Locke’s in a way which BB% fails to illustrate, we might have to hold the same concern for Brault that hinders Locke’s performance.

      On the other hand, Brault might have better movement than Locke, so even if the Ks and walks are similar, Brault may prove a more effective contact manager.

      • Locke had some horrible command problems right before being traded to the Pirates, which led to him being traded. The Pirates fixed him, but there were still some command issues that didn’t show up in the stat line, and which would have led to problems against upper level hitters (which is what has happened in the majors).

        • I did not know about that part of his history. Coming up through the system, I heard a lot about how good his control was, though, probably from sources who paid attention only to his BB/9 or something. He must have done a great job of masking that issue to make it work in AA and AAA.

          • I believe it was around 2012 when I wrote a lot about the turn he was adding to his delivery (which he’s now removing), which was aimed at getting better command of his pitches. His walk rates weren’t bad leading up to that, but the Pirates felt there was a need to fix his game before he arrived in the majors.

  7. Tim,
    I know you said he was hitting 93 consistently in the AFL. My question is, I’m assuming it would be too much to say he was “sitting” 93 in the AFL? And what was the highest you’ve seen him touch?

    I know this will sound crazy but I’m looking at the #s Matz put up at a similar age in the Eastern League in terms of K-BB% and I know Matz threw a little harder but going into 2014 they had Matz sitting 93-94 and topping out at 96.

    • Hitting means that was the upper end of his velocity. He hit that number a few times. This is what he was doing.

      Sitting means that’s what he was consistently throwing.

      For another example, Tyler Glasnow sits 94-96 MPH, but can hit as high as 100 MPH. That means most of his stuff will be in the 94-96 range, but a few will be higher.

      • Right but I guess I didn’t clearly convey my question.

        Where was he sitting in the AFL vs where he was sitting with Altoona? Or wasn’t there much difference.

        Would it be fair to say he was sitting 91 in the AFL?

  8. So pumped up for this kid. If he can pick up a few ticks of velocity watch out because I think that ceiling would improve considerably.

  9. I foresee a future in the Majors for Brault which involves many commentators referring to him as “crafty.”

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