Maybe forgotten is the wrong word, I mean most of us knew he was here and that he’d pitch every five days or so. What I’m talking about is the fact that Steven rarely comes up in conversations about future rotations and he almost never is mentioned as someone the Pirates could trade.
In fact Steven arguably get’s more conversations started when people want to display their displeasure with the lineup by way of noting their preference for a pitcher to take their at bats.
I have a soft spot for Brault, I’ve never thought he was a terrible pitcher, but I’ve also never given him his due as a possible solution for the Pirates, but the reasons to think of him as exactly that are starting to pile up, and last nights 2 hit complete game, 1 run effort against the Red Birds didn’t hurt.
Importantly, that game wasn’t the norm for Brault. It’s by far the best start he’s ever had in the Bigs but it’s impossible to ignore it also happens to be the best start anyone on the staff has had too. In fact it’s the best start for any Pirate since 2018.
The worst part of discussing what he could be for the Pirates is the simple fact we don’t know who will or won’t be here anymore when the cleats hit the grass in Bradenton next February. Almost everyone has tried to project what the rotation might look like next season and Brault is rarely in it, hell he was barely in anyone’s projections for 2020 and forget about 2019, he was out there too.
Brault is almost never brought into the fold yet he was arguably the best starter in 2019 and after finally completing the pitch restrictions he began this season with due to a Spring Training injury he put together that 110 pitch masterpiece last night.
Let’s be honest about why that is, he doesn’t look spectacular. He doesn’t have a curve ball that falls off the table, his fastball is fairly average, the slider is probably his best secondary pitch but it too doesn’t have the type of movement most would get amped about. He’s added a change up and used it effectively last night to keep the Cards off balance.
It feels like Steven has been fighting to have a spot in the rotation ever since he got here, and that’s probably because he has been. He and Trevor Williams came up in 2017 and both started in the bullpen, Williams got his chance first and to his credit did well. Injuries would provide Steven with his shot, and I think it’s fair to say that’s been the same every season he’s been here. At some point is Brault the one who get’s the spot that someone else needs to take from him?
Let’s take 2020, if Archer is healthy he gets a spot right? Then you have Musgrove, Williams, Keller and you’re left with Kuhl, Brault, Holland, Brubaker. Brubaker wouldn’t have gotten a shot, let’s just lean on what we know to be true here, and I doubt they do the split start thing as it was an answer to not having enough healthy starters so they probably go with Holland.
I’ve already said we don’t know who will be here next season but let’s try anyway. Taillon, Musgrove if not traded, Keller, OK the top three is pretty easy, right? Then you have to make room for Kuhl I’d think, and how could you not give Brubaker a look. That’s five and guess who didn’t make it. Just like every season Brault isn’t in the mental rotation, but maybe he should be. I didn’t even mention Williams.
He has one thing going for him that all the others don’t, he’s a lefty. And having a pitching staff at PNC Park without one is derelict of duty. Problem is, he doesn’t pitch like it, his splits aren’t typical for a lefty in any way.
One start does not a pitcher make, but for someone who isn’t supposed to be a starter he sure does start a whole lot. For someone who isn’t ever supposed to be in the rotation he manages to make his way there every year doesn’t he? Maybe it’s time for the Pirates to open themselves to the idea that maybe Steven is in fact deserving of a spot, before the IL makes it necessary.
Brault will be entering his first year of arbitration next season and is under team control through 2023. Feels like he’s been around much longer than that doesn’t it? He could be an attractive trade piece, or he could be an answer right here, add Steven to the list of players to watch as we move forward because all he’s done is out pitch most of the guys many didn’t feel he belonged with.