Jake Brigham is probably a new name to most Pittsburgh Pirates fans. The Pirates signed Brigham as a minor-league free agent during the offseason after he spent time in the Texas Rangers‘ and Chicago Cubs‘ farm systems previously. While Brigham likely won’t see much time at the MLB level for the Bucs, he will serve as nice depth in the minor-leagues.
Brigham has seen time in the minor-leagues both as a starter and as a reliever. In the rookie league in 2006, Brigham pitched as a starter and put up a 3.70 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 2.9 BB/9 and 8.9 K/9 in 58.1 innings. In 2007, he played for the Rangers’ short season A-ball team where he had decent results. However, his peripheral numbers, particularly his 4.0 BB/9, suggest his success was a bit fluky. 2008 was a lost season for right-handed pitcher as he would miss the entire year after having Tommy John Surgery.
In 2009, his first season back from surgery, Brigham struggled mightily. Despite his slightly improved walk rate (3.8 BB/9) and strikeout rate (8.1 K/9), he pitched to a 5.52 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP in 89.2 innings. In 2010, the Rangers sent Brigham to high-A, but he didn’t fare very well at the higher level — a 6.93 ERA — so they sent him back to low-A. Back at low-A, Brigham would return to his prior success with a 3.36 ERA and 2.6 BB/9. Brigham would spend the entire 2011 season at Double-A where he would post a 4.49 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9 in 114.1 innings.
2012 was interesting for the righty. He would spend the first half of the season with the Rangers before being traded to the Cubs in a deal involving Geovanny Soto. He would struggle with the Cubs before suffering an elbow injury that would force him to miss the rest of the year. He would return to the Rangers for the 2013 season, signing as a free agent.
Starting the 2013 season at Double-A as a reliever, Brigham would be electric out of the bullpen. In 13.2 innings, he didn’t allow an earned run and put up a dominant 11.2 K/9. The Rangers would then send him to Triple-A where he struggled for the most part, pitching to a 4.51 ERA in 113.2 innings.
Like I said before, it will be extremely unlikely for Brigham to see much time at the MLB level for the Pirates. They already have a remarkable bullpen and a deep rotation with plenty of help already on the way from their farm system. He will probably just pitch out of the bullpen in Triple-A and serve as emergency depth in case the Pirates suffer an unfortunate amount of injuries to their bullpen in 2014.