The Pittsburgh Pirates are reportedly receiving calls about left-handed pitcher Steven Brault. Could the SF Giants be interested?
Pittsburgh Pirates lefty Steven Brault had one of the most under-the-radar breakout seasons in 2020. According to a report by Jon Morosi of MLB Network, teams around the league have been making inquiries into the starting pitcher. Given the SF Giants obvious needs in their rotation, it would seem to fit that they would be one of the teams interested.
After spending his career bouncing between the back-of-the-rotation and a long-reliever role in Pittsburgh, Brault easily had the best season of his career. Across 10 starts (11 appearances), he posted a solid 3.38 ERA and 3.92 FIP. However, his production was highly reliant on a career-low 5.9% HR/FB% and a .243 BABIP. Given the shortened season, it’s easy to be concerned about the sustainability of that success.
Brault’s lacks dominant stuff but has limited hard contact. The question is whether he can do it well enough to be a solid 4 starter long-term. It’s also worth noting that Pittsburgh limited how deep he worked in outings. He averaged less than 5 innings an appearance in 2020.
Noah Wright over at Rum Bunter analyzed Brault’s breakout campaign and came to the following conclusion:
"if Brault can keep up the soft contact rates moving forward, he should be a solid pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Baseball Savant’s expected batting average, which takes into account factors like launch angle, exit velocity, what type of batted ball (ground ball, fly ball, line drive, etc.), and even how fast the batter is, puts Brault above average at .231. His expected slugging is also above average at .359."
Brault was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 11th round of the 2013 MLB draft out of Regis University. Never a top prospect, Brault was sent to Pittsburgh as a player to be named later to complete the Orioles acquisition of Travis Snider in 2015.
The following season, he made his big-league debut. In 8 appearances (7 starts), he performed like a fringey back-end starter. Over the next three years, that was about how he consistently performed.
From 2016-2019, Brault made 35 starts and 54 appearances out of the bullpen, managed a 4.88 ERA with 7.7 strikeouts per nine innings and 4.6 walks per nine innings. While his peripherals were not exceptional, his 4.80 FIP suggests his performance was right alongside expectations.
While Brault debuted in 2016, he’s still under team control for three more seasons through arbitration. If he’s a legitimate starter, his contract situation should be a boon for any team. However, if he returns to his pre-2020 form, he will probably be non-tendered after next season.
Brault matches some of the characteristics the Giants have targetted in pitchers. He is left-handed, limits hard contact, and is under team control. However, he also lacks the overpowering stuff that gives him the upside they have looked for as well. Brault fits the Tyler Anderson mold, but Pittsburgh will likely want prospects in return. Unless the Pirates would be willing to accept a minor piece like Chris Shaw or Andrew Suarez, it’s hard to foresee San Francisco making the most aggressive offer.
The SF Giants need to add starting pitching depth. Pittsburgh Pirates Steven Brault could obviously give them some insurance. Given the team’s acquisition trends though, it’s hard to envision Farhan Zaidi surrendering any legitimate prospects for someone of his profile.