Pittsburgh Pirates infield prospect Jack Brannigan could potentially make an impact for the team in 2024
The Pittsburgh Pirates selected infielder Jack Brannigan in the third round of the 2022 draft. Brannigan was taken out of Notre Dame as a two-way player: a third baseman and an RHP. The Pirates have only used Branigan as a position player thus far, but he’s been one of the team’s best minor league hitters.
Brannigan started the year at Bradenton but has already made his way to Greensboro. Between the two levels, the infielder has collected 287 plate appearances, batting .275/.390/.534 with a .418 wOBA, and 147 wRC+. Although he’s struck out at a 27.9% rate, he’s also drawn a walk in 13.9% of his plate appearances.
Brannigan has brought both power and speed to the plate. He has already reached the 20 stolen base plateau with 21 steals, and he’s already hit 15 home runs. If he were to keep up that pace over 600 plate appearances, he’d have 31 home runs and 43 stolen bases.
Brannigan has not only been one of the Pirates’ best minor league hitters but one of the best hitters in the minor leagues in general. There are currently 1013 minor league batters with at least 250 plate appearances. Brannigan ranks 35th in wRC+, 38th in wOBA, 66th in OPS, and 56th in isolated slugging percentage (.258). That puts him in the 93rd or better percentile of four of the most important rate stats.
Not only are these numbers impressive, but they’re better than what he put up in his final season at Notre Dame. In 243 plate appearances, Brannigan hit .292/.360/.540 as a junior. Like in the pro scene, he showed off some speed and power with a dozen home runs and ten stolen bases. But Brannigan has upped his walk rate from college, going from 8.2% to above 10%. The only major downgrade he’s seen is his strikeout rate from 20.2% to above 25%. But he’s improved significantly in nearly every other category.
Brannigan is only 22, but his promotion to Greensboro hasn’t slowed him down. It’s only been 86 plate appearances, but he’s hitting .324/.372/.716 with a 175 wRC+. He’s still walking at a healthy 9.3% rate, and he’s already surpassed his home run total at Bradenton, but in 115 fewer plate appearances. Though his K% has gone from 26.9% to 30.2%.
Given how well Brannigan has done at High-A, I wouldn’t completely rule out him getting his Double-A debut before the end of the season. Greensboro’s season ends on September 10th. However, Altoona’s season closes out on the 17th. But he’s done so well at Greensboro thus far, it would be hard to imagine him not getting the bump before that.
Of course, only time will tell when Brannigan gets to debut at Double-A, but that puts him on a trajectory to potentially make an impact in 2024. Next season will be his age-23 campaign, a reasonable age for a prospect to make their debut. If Brannigan does well in the first month or two of 2024, he might get a quick promotion to Triple-A. He could potentially be one step from the Major Leagues before the 2024 All-Star Break.
I am being optimistic, but not overly unrealistic. Brannigan has done outstanding this year, so it’s not unreasonable to potentially foresee him making an impact in the second half of 2024. He's going to be 23, which is an age many prospects start to see the Majors. Assuming he's healthy and able to perform well in the upper levels of the minor leagues, it would be hard to imagine him not forcing the Pirates to do something.