Our 40 in 40 series, which takes a look at each player on the 40 man roster for the Pittsburgh Pirates, continues today with a player whose role in 2018 is anything but defined, left handed pitcher Steven Brault.
Steven Brault is one of the many pitchers currently in Bradenton hoping to break camp with the Pittsburgh Pirates. And at one point it would have seemed like a given that he’d travel north with the club. He started 11 games for the Pirates over the last two seasons and pitched in a relief role in eight other games. While he has struggled somewhat at the big league level, he has pitched well in the minor leagues which in most cases would put a pitcher on a team’s radar as they assemble their roster for an upcoming season.
Last season with Indianapolis, Brault was fantastic. He compiled a 10-5 record with a 1.94 ERA in 120.1 innings of work. He struck out 109 and walked 44 and impressively allowed just five home runs. So with numbers like that, one would think that he should be a top candidate for a rotation spot or at the very least consideration for a bullpen role. However, across two seasons with the Pirates, his numbers have not been too good. He’s 1-3 with a 4.67 ERA and has walked 31 hitters in 68 innings (that breaks downs to 4.1 walks per nine innings), so he has been allowing more free passes at the MLB level compared to his track record in the minors (2.7 walks per nine innings in 540.2 innings as a pitcher in the minors).
But in the last few weeks, the reports of Brault’s role with the club in 2018 has changed. Last week there was talk that his best opportunity to make the club is as a bullpen arm. But this week reports are that he has been told to prepare as a starter. So it appears that Brault’s fate for the start of the 2018 season all rests on his left arm.
So what are the chances of Brault making the team as a starter or a relief pitchers? Let’s break down each situation. While he is probably a long shot for either role, a strong spring could get him on the team.
Making the team as a starter is probably the least likely result for Brault. With Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl and Trevor Williams basically penciled as 80 percent of the rotation, Brault’s best chance would be if the team wants to break up all of the right handers in the rotation. But the team has both Jos Musgrove and Tyler Glasnow also battling for the last spot, and those two are probably ahead of him. Musgrove because he was part of the trade package for Gerrit Cole and Glasnow because of his untapped potential and the team’s commitment to finding out what they have in him.
While the rotation lacks a lefty which could work in Brault’s favor, he has the opposite problem when it comes to the bullpen because of the number of left handed pitchers in the fold. The team has Felipe Rivero guaranteed to be the team’s closer and they also have Josh Smoker and Jack Leathersich on the 40 man roster who could be used out of the bullpen. Kevin Siegrist was also recently signed to a minor league contract, adding yet another arm to the competition. The team is only going to carry two or three lefties at maximum, so Brault must compete against a number of pitchers with more experience coming out of the bullpen.
So unfortunately for Brault, it appears that there are other pitchers who are ahead of him for consideration in either a starting or relief role heading into 2018. More likely than not, Brault will begin the season in the minors and will be a top contender to get called up if the team needs a pitcher for either role. He does not have much to learn in the minors, as his numbers from last season show. But unless he really impresses the brass this spring, it is hard to see him starting 2018 with the big club.