Pittsburgh Pirates: Three Prospects Who Could Climb End of Season Rankings

What Pirates prospects will likely move up prospect rankings by the end of the season?
Jun 19, 2022; Omaha, NE, USA;  Notre Dame Fighting Irish third baseman Jack Brannigan (9) drops the
Jun 19, 2022; Omaha, NE, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish third baseman Jack Brannigan (9) drops the / Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
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Jack Brannigan

Jack Brannigan was selected out of Notre Dame in the third round of the 2022 draft. There were some that believed Brannigan could be a two-way, infielder/relief pitcher. However, the Pirates have had Brannigan focus solely on his hitting. After all, while he did occasionally pitch in college, hitting was by far his primary role and the one he was the best at.

Brannigan started off the year at Bradenton where he batted .253/.398/.451 with a .403 wOBA, and 136 wRC+. Brannigan both hit for power and walked a lot. He had a .198 isolated slugging percentage while also drawing a walk in 15.9% of his plate appearances. Brannigan had an OPS over .990, and wRC+ approaching 200 in the final month he spent at Bradenton.

The only knock on Brannigan’s game was his sub-par 26.9% strikeout rate. Because of his blazing hot month, the Pirates moved him up to Greensboro where he’s continued to be a massive threat at the dish.

Through 60 plate appearances, Brannigan is batting .327/.400/.654. Brannigan has already teed off four times. The infielder has continued to walk at a solid pace of 11.7%, but he’s maintained relatively the same strikeout rate at 26.7%. It is a small sample size, but that’s an OPS over 1.000 (1.054), a wOBA well over .400 (.453), and wRC+ at 175.

Brannigan is primarily a third baseman, but the Pirates have gotten him work in at both second base and shortstop. Although speed wasn’t his calling card, he’s been aggressive on the basepaths, going 22-for-24 in stolen base attempts. As a pitcher who was firing 95+ MPH fastballs, there’s no question Brannigan has the arm to play on the left side of the infield.

The Pirates aren’t giving Brannigan time at second base or shortstop because they’re worried as to how he’ll handle the hot corner. If anything, it’s because they want to maximize his defensive value. He’s shown great instincts at third base, and good athleticism.

The one thing that’s holding Brannigan back from becoming a really good prospect is that he has some questions about his hit tool. Brannigan has run into some questions about his swing and miss this year. He’s been able to play more than good enough to outweigh said issues, though it’s easily his worst tool, and could possibly hinder his raw power in the long run.

Because of how well Brannigan has looked defensively, along with his bat coming along nicely, I don’t see how Brannigan doesn’t garner some more prospect attention. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the Bucs’ 28th best prospect, though FanGraphs is a little less bullish as they rank him as the team’s 35th best prospect.

Even though there are some concerns about how his hit tool will play, I definitely think that Brannigan has shown enough to at least be recognized for the work he’s done this year. This isn’t a Mason Martin situation, and there’s still a good chance given his athleticism that Brannigan can cut down on the strikeouts.