Pittsburgh Pirates Top 30 Prospects: Ranking 12-7

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
3 of 5
Pittsburgh Pirates
Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

#10, Shortstop Cole Tucker

The Pirates took Cole Tucker in the first round of the 2014 draft and signed him to a $1.8 million signing bonus.  It was a surprise pick, and in fact was below value.  Four of the last six first round picks by the Pirates have been infielders, and one of those who has not is now at third base in Connor Joe.  This trend was started by Tucker in 2014 after he was the first infielder taken by Huntington in round one since his first draft when he took Pedro Alvarez with the second overall pick.

Tucker tore his labrum in 2015, and he missed the last two months of that season and April of 2016.  His return season did not go well, posting an 84 wRC+ in 396 plate appearances.  In the final two months of 2016, he was even worse, posting a wRC+ of 51.  But he was coming off a torn labrum.

Despite the shoulder surgery, Tucker should stick at short defensively.  He has the range to play it and provides speed on the offensive side.  His bat is a concern, as he has not shown much offensively yet.  He possesses a 6’3″ and an 185-pound frame, giving him room to add power, something he currently lacks.

Tucker is only 20, and won’t turn 21 until July.  Kevin Newman has passed him on the organizational depth chart, and if Newman can stick at short, Tucker will likely be moved to another position.  His offense needs improvement, and hopefully, a full season of health can help that.  To me, he seems like a future backup, but given his draft position just three years ago and his young age, he ranks in our top 10.

#9, Left Handed Pitcher, Steven Brault

The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired the Regis University product and another arm in Stephen Tarpley in February of 2015 when the team dealt Travis Snider to the Baltimore Orioles.  The 2013 11th round pick flew through the minors and made his Major League debut last season against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Brault ended up pitching in eight games last season for the Pirates, seven of those he started.  His 121 ERA- and 126 FIP- (small sample) were in line with Jeff Locke‘s 135 ERA- and 120 FIP-.  Brault didn’t really help the club, and he was rather inefficient.  He averaged just 4.5 innings per start and walked 10.2 percent of the hitters he faced.

The potential is still there for the 25-year-old to be a quality backend starter, and he could very easily fill that role coming out of spring.  He relies on three pitches, a fastball, slider, and changeup.  Last season in the big leagues he only threw the changeup 8.5 percent of the time, but as continues to grow and develop, he will need that third offering, especially against right-handed hitters.

Brault is said to have better command than he showed in the majors last season, he was in the zone only 41.3 percent of the time.  He’s shown control in the minors in the past, but he did walk 11.2 percent of hitters he faced in Indianapolis in 2016.

Brault’s floor is high, despite a very low ceiling.  He will be a backend starter for years to come, and that can happen this year.  Brault has a great chance to impact the Pirates this season, and if he does not make the roster out of spring training, he likely will be the first one called up for injury or ineffectiveness.  This proximity to the big leagues also helps him be ranked in our top 10.