It is admittedly difficult to think beyond Jameson Taillon’s shoulder while there’s still uncertainty about his health, but it’s worth taking some time this afternoon and talking about Steven Brault, the pitcher called up to replace him, however temporarily.
Just a couple of days ago, I was going back over the Travis Snider trade, and I was surprised to see that Brault was actually the throw-in in the deal. It was announced as Snider for Stephen Tarpley, with Brault named later as a player-to-be-named. Tarpley was initially viewed as the best prospect, while Brault fell under the category whimsical category of “guys the Pirates like” (the way that Brault has zoomed through the minors with the Pirates is a reminder that sometimes teams like players for a reason, even if that reason isn’t immediately apparent).
That changed pretty quickly, though, because Brault was good with Bradenton and great after his promotion to Altoona. In 15 Double-A starts last year, he had a 2.20 ERA and 80 strikeouts to go with 19 walks in 90 innings. He’s been as good or arguably better with Indianapolis this year, despite missing a bit of time with a leg injury. In his eight starts with Indy, he’s got 44 strikeouts and 15 walks in 35 innings. It’s probably splitting hairs a bit right now to try and figure out if he’s ahead of or behind Chad Kuhl on the ultimate Pirate pitching depth chart, so let’s just say that he’s a similar back-end starter type of prospect right now. You can check out a more complete scouting report over at Pirates Prospects, but like all young Pirate pitchers, he builds off of his fastball. In this case, he’s got mid-to-low-90s velocity on it, so he’s not exactly a Zach Duke soft-tosser here. His breakthrough has come as his changeup has developed, and he’s working on a breaking ball as his third pitch, as well.
My hunch is that this is a short-time promotion while Taillon is hurt and Cole is rehabbing, but I suppose if he’s impressive he could stick in the spot that Kuhl is in right now (for a while, at least). Brault’s promotion is a great sign, though, because it means that we’re entering the part of the season that we’ve been waiting for since April; the Pirates started this year with an all-prospect rotation in Indianapolis, and they’re no longer afraid to use it.
Everything else aside, the late promotion and the match-up are good for Brault here; as a lefty he matches up nicely with the Cardinals, and since he’s only got eight Triple-A starts, they likely wouldn’t have a ton to study up on, even if they had more than 24 hours to prepare for him. I’m guessing that’s why he’s getting the start here; there’s a chance to drop him into a favorable situation and get his feet wet before Cole comes back. I’m excited to see how he looks tonight.
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