Left-handed pitcher Steven Brault made his Major League debut with the Pirates in 2016. He pitched in eight games, seven starts, but is his future in the rotation or the bullpen?
When the Pittsburgh Pirates traded Travis Snider to the Baltimore Orioles prior to the start of the 2015 season many Pirate fans were upset. Even though Travis Snider is not very good, a lot of fans overvalued him. In return for Snider, the Pirates received two left-handed pitching prospects. These pitching prospects were Stephen Tarpley and Steven Brault.
Stephen Tarpley is no longer in the Pirate organization. This is because the Pirates traded him to the Yankees, along with Tito Polo, for Ivan Nova this past August. However, Steven Brault reached the Major Leagues with the Pirates last summer.
In 2016 Steven Brault pitched in eight games for the Pirates while making seven starts. Brault pitched 33 1/3 innings averaging 7.83 K/9, 4.59 BB/9, and 1.35 HR/9. He posted a 1.86 WHIP, 4.86 ERA, 5.07 FIP, and a 4.77 xFIP. All of this led to Brault posting a 0.0 WAR in 2016.
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At times in 2016 Steven Brault flashed good things. There were also times that he flashed some not so good things. Ultimately, his biggest problem is his pitch selection.
Steven Brault only throws two Major League quality pitches. These two pitches are his fastball and slider. It is nearly impossible to make it as a starting pitcher in Major League Baseball with just two quality pitches. Just ask Juan Nicasio.
Steven Brault also throws a change up. However, his change up needs a lot of work. And, right now, it is nowhere near being a pitch capable of getting Major League hitters out.
While climbing through the Minor League ranks Brault also threw a curve ball. But, for whatever reason, Brault no longer features a curve ball. And this is something that now hurts him.
Another major issue for Brault is his control. His 4.59 BB/9 he averaged in 2016 is a sign of this. As is his home run problem. A big part of the home runs Brault allowed was due to him throwing too many meatballs. Often times, this is due to control issues.
The control issues are one thing I believe Brault can fix. Control issues is common among Major League pitchers early in their careers. Additionally, Ray Searage is one of the best in baseabll at fixing control issues.
Moving forward the real issue with Brault will be a lack of a third pitch. Due to this, I do no think he will ever make it as a starting pitcher in the Major Leagues. Right now, Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Chad Kuhl have spots in the 2017 Pirate rotation locked up. This leaves two spots up for contention. And, in my opinion, Steven Brault should not have one of these two spots.
I believe Steven Brault’s best chance to succeed in the Major Leagues is as a left-handed relief pitcher. In fact, I believe he could be a very good reliever. In my opinion, a good comparison for Brault is former Pirate Zach Duke.
Zach Duke had an up-and-down career as a starting pitcher. However, after moving to the bullpen he became a top flight left-handed reliever. I believe Steven Brault could follow a similar career path.
I would like to see Steven Brault open the 2017 season in the bullpen at Triple-A Indianapolis. The Pirates are currently in very good shape in terms of left-handed relievers. However, this is sure to change in time and having Brault in reserve can not hurt. Plus, as I have said, I do not believe Brault will ever make it as a starting pitcher in the Major Leagues.