By Jason Shetler
After a strong second half in 2014, Travis Snider was dealt to the Baltimore Orioles for pitching prospects Steven Brault and Stephen Tarpley. Tarpley has since been traded to the New York Yankees as part of the Ivan Nova deal, while Brault, of course, still remains in the organization.
Brault began the 2016 season with the Indianapolis Indians. In 16 games pitched (15 starts), he posted a 3.91 ERA, along with a 3.59 Fielding Independent Pitching and a K/9 of 10.2. The Pirates called up Brault in early July. There were struggles however, as he put up an ERA of 4.86 and allowed 45 hits in 33.1 innings pitched for the Bucs.
Entering Spring Training this year, Brault was in competition for the Pirates fifth starter spot. Despite a good showing, he was cut the final week of Spring, and optioned to Indianapolis.
April started off okay for Brault, with a 3.86 ERA and a WHIP on the high side at 1.44. However, he was lights out in May, posting a 1.26 ERA, while holding opponents to a .186 batting average. In his last start, which was June 1st, he tossed seven scoreless innings, allowing no walks and striking out eight versus the Phillies AAA club Lehigh Valley.
Brault has been throwing the two-seam fastball more this season, resulting in a 55% groundball rate, which is much better than the 41% mark he had combined with the Indians and Pirates a year ago. His terrific work, especially from this past month, makes him deserving to rejoin the Pirates rotation. Trevor Williams is currently in the rotation, but would likely be moved back to the bullpen, once Jameson Taillon returns soon. Tyler Glasnow and Chad Kuhl have both been struggling. Glasnow in particular has really scuffled and seems to be showing very little progression. While it may seem hard to fathom, the Pirates might just have to option the former top prospect to Indianapolis and recall Brault, who would give them a much needed lefty arm in the rotation.