Full Scouting Report: Andrew Brackman
As he gets further and further away from Tommy John surgery, Brackman is looking more comfortable letting the ball fly, and also with his mechanics in general. The Brackman that threw on Friday night in Trenton had a strong resemblance to the pitcher that scouts salivated over heading into the spring of 2007. Here is what I saw from Brackman on Friday night in Trenton:
This doesn't take much explanation. Brackman is downright enormous at 6-10. More important is that he clearly knows how to use that height. He gets on top of the ball well and uses his long reach to get outstanding extension. Brackman also looks to be in the most trim, athletic shape he's been in since turning pro.
As noted above, size is a major part of Brackman's game and a big part of his delivery. Working from a full windup, his plus fastball is even more difficult to hit than usual considering the extension he creates with his height and length. In other words, he's releasing the ball much closer to the plate than a typical pitcher.
But, what really stuck out to me with Brackman this time around was a certain comfort level with his mechanics. Last season, he was mechanical and stiff, looking unwilling to really let the ball go. On this night, his arm action looked fast and clean, and for the most part he was able to repeat his delivery very well. At times, however, his size does haunt him.
He has a long stride and at times his front side tends to drift. The stride then gets a little long, the arm lags behind and suddenly he's up in the zone and pitching underneath his fastball and curveball. It seems to happen in an instant with Brackman. It's a common problem for pitchers, but considering the length of his stride and where his front foot ends up on the mound, it can make it extra difficult for him to stay on top of the baseball when things go wrong.
It's been a long road back from surgery for Brackman and it has taken his velocity a while to return to form. But now it is most certainly back. The big right-hander sat 92-96 mph with his fastball on Friday night, mostly settling in around 94. He peaked at 97 mph a handful of times. What impressed me more than the velocity, however, was the life and ease with which he generated it. This was clearly not the same tentative, stiff Andrew Brackman of 2009.
Brackman showed consistent, late two-seam life on his fastball and throughout the game was able to produce late, weak swings. It's for this very reason that I'd like to see him pitch more aggressively with his fastball. The development of his secondary pitches and his trust in them is extremely encouraging, but located properly his fastball is good enough to dominate a lineup on any given night.
The only time he will run into trouble is when he loses his mechanics and begins to pitch underneath the ball. He then loses that good movement and flattens out up in the zone. At that point, some of his confidence in his fastball seems to evaporate and he goes more to his changeup. The sooner he realizes that hitters are looking most helpless against his fastball than any of his other pitches the better off he'll be.
The curveball is really a measuring stick for what kind of feel Brackman has for his mechanics at that particular moment. If his stride is giving him problems then suddenly he's underneath the curveball and it's ending up over the righty hitter's head or heading to the backstop. Right now, that feel for his curveball seems to change inning-to-inning. But when he can be more consistent with it, and I now feel he eventually will, it's a dominant swing-and-miss pitch that grades out as a 7 on the 2-8 scouting scale.
Thrown at 77-81 mph, Brackman's curve is a true knee-buckler. On this night, he continually went at righty hitters with front-door hooks on the inner half and had a great deal of success. And, in general he showed a lot of confidence in this pitch. On one occasion, he threw one of his best hooks of the night on the 3-2 count and didn't get the call. But it's really the depth of the breaking ball that's outstanding. From his height, he gets an enormous late drop on his curveball, and when he's locating he can be close to unhittable.
Although the fastball and curveball are really the go-to pitches for Brackman he also featured a quality changeup against Binghamton on Friday. Working at 85-88 mph, he appeared very comfortable throwing strikes with it on a consistent basis and may have thrown even more changeups than curveballs. The differential is not immense, but the spin matches his fastball well and it produced quite a few weak ground balls.
If he can feature the changeup the way he did on Friday night, this is where I also change my mind about Brackman's future profile. He not only is showing a third pitch but looks very comfortable doing so. His changeup grades out a solid-average 5 on the 2-8 scouting scale, and couple that with his plus fastball and curve and you have a complete three-pitch pitcher.
Over the past year I've been primarily negative on Brackman. He had yet to show me anything resembling the stuff he had in college and his command and mechanics were a mess to say the least. As of now, he still has a lot to learn about pitching, about how to read the bat, when to be more aggressive, among other things. Taken on its own you'd think he has a very long, difficult road ahead learning to be more consistent.
But given the progress I've seen from last year to spring training to now, I'd have to say that the righty has shown the ability to improve rapidly. He now shows solid command in the strike zone, a smooth and rather effortless over-the-top delivery, and the dynamic arsenal of a top-of-the-rotation starter. If given the time and patience to develop, he now has all the ingredients needed to make an elite big league starter. Again, there is much work to be done, but Brackman now is much more than just a guy you can dream on, and instead is a pitcher making outstanding progress.
Frankie Piliere spent the last three seasons working as a scout, most recently in the professional scouting department for the Texas Rangers in 2009. He now serves as the National Baseball Analyst here at FanHouse.