May ended up being a very strong month for two pitchers in the system. Steven Brault put up the best ERA for a starter with a 1.26 mark in 28.2 innings. He also had a 1.08 WHIP, a .186 BAA and a 2.00 GO/AO ratio, to go along with 26 strikeouts. Pedro Vasquez led the system with 33.2 innings pitched, while putting up a 1.87 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP. It was a close battle and each pitcher had some impressive outings throughout the month, but in the end, Steven Brault was named the Pirates Prospects Pitcher of the Month for May.
Brault started his month with one run over five innings, striking out seven batters. It was a bounce back from his worst start of the season, when he allowed four runs over 4.2 innings on April 28th. In his second start in May, Brault gave up one run over six innings, then matched that performance five days later. He followed that up with seven shutout innings before ending on a little bit of a down note. He last outing was only 4.2 innings long because he ran up his pitch count due to five walks. High pitch counts have been the one thing holding Brault back, but it’s also what he has been working on recently.
The first start for the 25-year-old lefty in June was his best of the season, which is a good sign from someone who was the best pitcher in the farm system for the previous month. Brault didn’t allow a single walk, and it’s because he practiced what he has been trying to preach. He sometimes tries to be too fine, so instead of attacking hitters with two strikes, he’s trying to make the batter get himself out on a ball out of the strike zone. Brault has been relying on his sinker more often, which has led to more ground balls, and will hopefully help his pitch count issues. His fastball gets up to 94-95 MPH, and he’s been mixing his off-speed pitches well recently, while also working inside on batters.
Brault admitted in early May that not attacking hitters was his biggest issue, but until his seven shutout innings on June 1st, he never really fully embraced that thinking. He went right after batters all game and afterwards, Indianapolis manager Andy Barkett basically said that he pitched a perfect game. That’s not in the baseball sense of a perfect game, but rather that he did everything right and saw the desired results. There were no questionable pitch selections or sequences, he stuck to the game plan throughout the entire game. He trusted his stuff to get outs in the zone and it worked. When a pitcher can post a 1.26 ERA over an entire month and then show major improvements in his next start, you know he is on the right track.
Brault has been in this position before. He was our Pitcher of the Month back in August 2015 while with Altoona. That helped him get to Indianapolis last year after just a half season of Double-A, and while a hamstring injury during the season took away some of his effectiveness, he was still able to make his Major League debut last July. He ended up making seven starts and one relief appearance for the Pirates. Brault is in a position now where he’s ready in case the Pirates need a starter. He’s more experienced than last year, healthier, and he’s pitching better than we have seen at any point in the past. As Barkett said after his start on June 1st, Brault just had “a Major League outing.”
PITCHERS OF THE MONTH BY LEVEL
Indianapolis – Steven Brault, LHP (1.26 ERA, 26:12 K/BB, 28.2 IP)
Altoona – Austin Coley, RHP (2.03 ERA, 17:7 K/BB, 26.2 IP)
Bradenton – Pedro Vasquez, RHP (1.87 ERA, 29:7 K/BB, 33.2 IP)
West Virginia – Cam Vieaux, LHP (2.01 ERA, 15:5 K/BB, 22.1 IP)