The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted two-way player Jack Brannigan in the third round of the 2022 draft, but is his future on the mound, at the plate or both?
The Pittsburgh Pirates picked some outstanding talent in the 2022 draft. Termarr Johnson was the big prize, but Thomas Harrington, Hunter Barco, and Micahel Kennedy added three more pitching prospects with a high ceiling. Their third-round pick Jack Brannigan was drafted as a two-way player. But is his future brighter as a pitcher or a third baseman?
Brannigan was more of a position player than a pitcher for Notre Dame. He took a total of 504 plate appearances in college, batting .289/.369/.508 with a .470 wOBA. Brannigan showed off some solid pop with 19 home runs and a .219 isolated slugging percentage. Brannigan had his best college season in 2022, slashing .291/.360/.540.
The downside is he has a so-so plate discipline. Brannigan struck out in 24.6% of his college plate appearances while having a 9.5% walk rate. On the plus side, he did cut down on the strikeouts in 2022. Brannigan struck out at a 20.2% rate; however, his walk rate decreased to just 8.2%.
Brannigan only took the mound a total of 21 times for Notre Dame. In total, he pitched just 23.1 innings, allowing 18 earned runs on 14 walks and two home runs. His 13.3% walk rate isn’t anything to brag about, but he did strike out over a third of the batters he faced. Brannigan clocked in with a 35.2% K%. He did show off good stuff, though. Brannigan consistently worked in the 95-97 MPH range while topping out at 100 MPH. His slider is a wipeout pitch, and he has displayed a solid change-up.
So far, the Pittsburgh Pirates have only used Brannigan in the field and at the batter’s box. Entering play on Friday he had combined for 45 plate appearances between the Florida Complex League and Low-A Bradenton, collecting 12 hits, including a pair of doubles and homers. He’s also drawn six walks to oppose his nine strikeouts.
Brannigan’s future on the mound is more about potential than it is performance. He’s a guy who consistently throws in the high-90s and can hit 100 MPH. He also has a wipeout slider. Sure, there’s more projectability and a higher ceiling as a pitching prospect, but I believe the floor is much higher for him as a position player.
Brannigan’s performance and scouting reports suggest he’s more of a thrower than he is a pitcher. Sure, he can chuck it at 99 MPH every other fastball, but he doesn’t know where it’s going most of the time when he does. Of course, he could improve. We saw Tahnaj Thomas, a similar type of pitcher, shave down his walk rate from 12.5% to 9.2%. Maybe a full-time focus on the bullpen and just on his two pitches (fastball and slider) would do good for him.
Brannigan has the proto-typical risks of both a hard-throwing reliever and a big power hitter. I don’t think the Pirates should completely give up on Brannigan ever being a pitcher, but he should be developed as a position player first. There is less risk as a position player, and he could be a good power-hitting prospect in the near future. If he continues crushing it at Low-A for the rest of the season, we could see him at Greensboro sometime early next season.