Three bold predictions for Pirate prospects who could join top 100 lists in 2024

Which top Pirates prospects will be on top 100 lists at the end of this year?

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Jack Brannigan

Jack Brannigan was the Pirates’ third-round pick in 2022 and has a similar profile to Lonnie White Jr. He’s a great defender with the potential to be a plus power hitter. But he’ll need to build off his strong 2023 season and continue to improve his hit tool. But if he can achieve this, Brannigan could be a 20/20 middle infield threat with good enough defense to stick at a premium position.

In Brannigan’s first pro season, he hit .275/.390/.524 with a .415 wOBA, and 146 wRC+. He had a .249 isolated slugging percentage and 19 home runs in 374 plate appearances. On top of that, he went 24/27 in stolen base attempts. Last season, there were only nine minor league players with at least 20 stolen bases and an ISO of .240 or greater in 300+ plate appearances. Brannigan was one of them. He also walked at a 14.2% rate, but came at the cost of a 29.9% strikeout rate.

The rate at which Brannigan strikes out is a tad worrying. His strikeout rate at Low-A Bradenton was 26.9%, which while not good, was only slightly worse than the league average rate of 24.2%. But once he got promoted to Greensboro, he saw his strikeout rate jump to 33.5%. Just over a third of his plate appearances ended in a strikeout.

The league average strikeout rate in the South Atlantic League was slightly worse than in the Florida State League at 25.8%, however, Brannigan was much worse than the league average. In his defense, Brannigan upped his offensive production as his wRC+ went from 135 with Bradenton to 159 with Greensboro.

The Pirates originally drafted Brannigan as a two-way player from Notre Dame. Brannigan had shown off a big fastball in college that sat around 97 MPH and could reach triple-digits. However, the Pirates have yet to let him take the mound. He has only played the field with third base being his primary position. He has no issues making deep throws from third base, but the Pirates were so impressed by his defensive prowess at third that they gave him some reps up the middle at both second base and shortstop. He played more games at short than at third base for Greensboro, and only saw games up the middle in the Arizona Fall League.

The infielder has continued to show off some of his raw power during Spring Training. It is a small sample size of only nine batted balls, but he has four over 98 MPH and a 25% barrel rate. He’s yet to get a hit, but at least the Statcast data thus far is promising. It should be fun to see him play the rest of Spring Training.

Brannigan should open the year with Double-A Altoona. This is his age-23 campaign, and Double-A will be a real test of his skills. However, I believe he can improve his game. If he cuts his strikeout rate down below 30%, and continues to be a power/speed threat, and proves he can handle shortstop full-time across an entire season, you might see him make some significant steps forward on prospect lists.