Brault, Luplow named Pirates Prospects of the Year

Brault, Luplow named Pirates Prospects of the Year

PITTSBURGH -- Steven Brault probably expected to spend more time with the Pirates this year. Jordan Luplow didn't expect nearly as much big league time as he wound up with.

The two rookies took different paths, but both led to Minor League success, recognition as MLBPipeline.com's Pirates Prospects of the Year and potentially bigger roles for the Pirates in 2018.

Pirates Prospects of the Year
2017 Jordan Luplow Steven Brault
2016 Josh Bell Tyler Glasnow
2015 Josh Bell Tyler Glasnow
Year Hitter Pitcher

Each team's Prospects of the Year were chosen by the MLBPipeline.com staff. To receive consideration, players must have spent at least half the year in the Minors, appeared on the team's Top 30 Prospects list and played the entire year in the organization.

Brault began the season competing for a spot in the Opening Day rotation, but wound up starting for Triple-A Indianapolis. After a couple rough outings, he had an honest conversation with Indianapolis manager Andy Barkett. Brault cites that moment as a turning point, the genesis of the aggressive mindset that helped him pitch well for the Pirates in September.

What did he say?

"One day, I asked him: 'You've got tattoos and frosted blonde hair at the time, but you're trying to pitch like Tom Glavine?' It just doesn't match up," Barkett said recently. "You look like you should be Charlie Sheen driving a Harley and throwing the crap out of it.

"I just didn't see why he was trying to be somebody else. I just pointed it out to him."

Barkett took it a step further, asking Brault if he knew who Kenny Rogers was. "The singer?" Brault, 25, responded. No, the lefty. Barkett sat down with Brault to watch footage of Rogers during his dominant 2006 postseason.

"This is you one day at your best," Barkett told Brault. "It just changed his whole thought process about how to go about things."

The point hit home for Brault, who started filling the strike zone with fastballs. He finished 10-5 with a 1.94 ERA, a 1.07 WHIP and 109 strikeouts in 120 1/3 innings for Indianapolis. He will enter next season competing for a spot on the Major League staff.

"Having that mindset has helped me be a lot more consistent than I've ever been in my entire life," Brault said. "The biggest thing I've learned is that it works."

Luplow, who just turned 24, spent Spring Training in Minor League camp, hoping to earn a spot on the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 Draft in December. He got much more than that.

Luplow's first career homer

"It's funny, every morning I wake up, and I'm like, 'I'm in the big leagues,'" Luplow said. "I get to look in the mirror and say that. I'm thankful for that every day."

Luplow hit .302/.381/.527 with 23 home runs in 117 games for Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis. He earned a big league callup in July and a permanent roster spot in late August and may factor into the Pirates' fourth-outfielder mix next season.

"It was a different guy than we saw last year," Barkett said. "I saw a young man this year that had the makings to be a really productive Major League player. I didn't think it was going to happen this fast -- I don't think he did either -- but baseball changes every 24 hours. He was playing well, there was an opportunity, and he's made the most of it."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.