Third Base - Jack Brannigan
By this point next season, Jack Brannigan might still be on this list, but at shortstop instead of third base. Brannigan was the Pirates’ third round pick in 2022, and his 2023 breakout campaign was huge. He was one of the Pirates’ best hitting minor leaguers who had a massive second half. He has some sneaky athleticism, which could help him make the transition to the more demanding position of shortstop.
In his first full professional campaign, Brannigan slashed .275/.390/.524 with a .415 wOBA, and 146 wRC+. Although Brannigan struck out in nearly 30% of his plate appearances (29.9%), he offset that with a strong 14.2% walk rate. Brannigan, who is known his power, went yard 19 times in 374 plate appearances and had a .249 isolated slugging percentage.
Brannigan missed nearly a month in mid-April and May. However, once he was back in action, he was nearly unstoppable at the plate. From May 27th onward, Brannigan was the owner of a .967 OPS, .432 wOBA, and 156 wRC+. All but one of Brannigan’s extra base hits came from this point onward. He had just one triple to his credit up until his hot streak that lasted throughout the end of the year.
Brannigan also brings some speed to the table. He went 24-27 in stolen base attempts. Brannigan had no trouble making the deep throws from third base. The Pirates took him as a two-way player out of Notre Dame, and he was firing upper-90s four-seam fastballs as a reliever. Brannigan is also athletic and projects as a plus defensive third baseman.
But the Pirates seem to be very confident in Brannigan’s defensive abilities. The also gave him time at both middle infield positions. Brannigan was promoted to High-A Greensboro, and the Pirates felt so confident in his defensive ability that he played 58 more innings at shortstop (159.2) than at third base (101.2). He also logged 67 more innings at the keystone while playing for the Grasshoppers.
Brannigan could get the nod to start the year at Altoona, or at least he should. 2024 will be his age-23 campaign, and Brannigan had a wRC+ approaching 160 at Greensboro. We shall see if the Pirates continue to let him take more reps at shortstop than third base. If he can make the transition without a much of a fault, he could become a sneaky prospect to watch.