At the beginning of the month, I got around to analyzing a trade between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles. The Bucs sent veteran outfielder Travis Snider to Baltimore in exchange for left handed pitcher Stephen Tarpley and a player to be named later. Well, its later, and that player has been named. Fellow southpaw Steven Brault will be joining the Pittsburgh organization after just two seasons with the Orioles.
Photo courtesy of the Regis Rangers
After playing high school ball in San Diego, Steven Brault went to school at tiny Division 2 school in Colorado, Regis University. A two way player in college that also played center field, Brault focused on pitching full time after being selected by the Orioles in the 11th round of the 2013 First Year Player Draft, signing for an undisclosed amount. The 6'1, 175 pound portsider was a vocal performance major at Regis, and according to Baseball America, he actually sang the National Anthem prior to an Aberdeen IronBirds playoff game in 2013.
Speaking of the IronBirds, that was the organization Brault was initially sent to after signing with the Orioles. He made 12 starts as a 21 year old, handcuffing the New York-Penn League to a 2.09 ERA and 2.61 FIP over 43 frames. He struck out 38 (22.5%) while issuing 12 free passes (7.1%) with 35 hits and a solitary home run allowed. Both his .293 BABIP and 73.5% strand rate were near league average while a 47% ground ball rate and 1.34 ground to air out ratio. While there's not much of a sample size to work with, left handed hitters only hit .194/.275/.222 off him over just 40 plate appearances. Right handers were marginally better, hitting .237/.295/.331 over 129 PA's.
The 2014 campaign brought his full season debut with Low A Delmarva. One 6+ inning relief appearance and 21 starts later, he had accumulated 130 innings pitched with a 3.05 ERA, a 3.09 FIP, and a 1.04 WHIP. He posted an excellent 4.1 K/BB as he punched out 115 (22.2%) and walked 28 (5.4%) with just 107 hits and only four home runs allowed. Once again he posted a near-league average strand rate of 70.3% and .286 BABIP. A 45.1% ground ball rate was a hair over the South Atlantic League average, as was a 19.5% line drive rate, and he also posted a 1.20 GO:AO ratio. He ranked 5th in the South Atlantic League in ERA among starters with at least 100 IP, had the 6th most strike outs, issued the 7th least amount of walks, and allowed the 5th least amount of home runs.
In mid August, the organization rewarded Brault with a promotion to A+ Frederick for his last three starts of the year. He went into the promotion on a roll, allowing just nine earned runs in his previous 40.2 innings, and kept on dominating for those last three appearances. Over 16.1 innings with Frederick, he posted a 0.55 ERA and 2.78 FIP with nine strike outs, two walks, and just seven hits allowed. Granted we're talking about a super small sample size, but he limited Carolina League hitters to a .127/.158/.145 triple slash in his first crack at the league. For the entire year though, the opposition posted a .570 OPS with both left and right handed batters failing to eclipse a .580 OPS.
The scouting report on Brault shows a four pitch mix headlined by an 88-91 mph fastball that tops out around 92 mph with good sink and great command. He can spot it where he wants while also creating deception by hiding the ball until the last second and using an up tempo, Mark Buerhle-esque pace. His change up and slider are ahead of the curve, with the first two grading out to about average while residing in the low 80's. His slider has good lateral movement and does a good job starting it in the zone and letting hitters chase it outside the zone. Brault sells his change up well by showing the same arm speed as his heater. While the hook is a below average, eye-level changing pitch, he commands all four pitches well and knows how to change speeds. The lack of plus stuff will always be a knock on him until one of his pitches takes a leap forward, and due to that, I can't really see more than a fringy #5 starter.
Pittsburgh will likely sent Brault to A+ Bradenton out in the Florida State League. The Marauders won't have the star power of the 2014 squad headlined by Tyler Glasnow, but should be competitive as they will be lead by Brault, Luis Heredia, and Cody Dickson.
Video courtesy of Nathaniel Stoltz via YouTube
For a scouting report on Tarpley and quick overview of Snider, click here to re-read the original article.