Brault is coming off a career year in 2020 during which he posted a 3.38 ERA and a 3.92 FIP in 42.2 innings across 11 games (10 starts). While his 12.4% walk rate was a career high, so was his 21.3% strikeout rate. Brault also ranked in the 89th percentile in baseball in opponent exit velocity (85.8 MPH), 83rd in opponent barrel rate (4.4%) and the 76th percentile in opponent hard hit rate (32.7%).
The run of success Brault is on dates back to May 2019. In his last 30 games, 27 starts, Brault has logged 139.2 innings for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He has posted a 4.19 ERA, 4.24 FIP, 0.77 HR/9, 10.9% walk rate and a 19.8% strikeout rate, all very respectable numbers for a middle-to-back of the rotation arm.
Unfortunately, entering the 2021 season, Brault sits at the top of the rotation for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
As for Keller, this is the most important season of the former top 25 overall prospect’s career. Keller has made 16 career MLB starts, posting a 5.81 ERA and a 4.30 FIP in 69.2 innings pitched. While his career 25.8% strikeout rate is strong, it plummeted from 28.6% in 2019 to 18.4% in 2020. Additionally, his walk rate rose from 7.0% to an abysmal 20.7%.
After a .475 batting average on balls in play, literally the highest in MLB history for a pitcher with atl east 40 innings pitched, led to a 7.13 ERA in 2019, an unsustainably low .104 BAbip led to a 2.91 ERA in 2020. His Deserved Run Average these two seasons were 4.18 and 7.06.
If he is ever going to reach his full potential and once sky high expectations, it may be now or never for Keller in 2021.
Newly signed left-handed starter Tyler Anderson is also a lock to be in the Opening Day starting rotation. If Anderson can pitch well for the Pittsburgh Pirates then he should turn into a hot trade commodity come July.
If he is not traded, Chad Kuhl will also be locked into the starting day rotation. That said, a Kuhl trade should not be ruled out just yet. However, with pitchers and catchers now in Bradenton the odds of a Kuhl trade do appear to be dwindling.
Other than Keller, Kuhl has the highest ceiling of these four pitchers. Due to this it may behoove the Pirates to hold onto Kuhl for now to see if he can start to reach this potential and really boost his trade value, or potentially even pitch his way into being a building block piece for the Bucs.