Beachy Makes Braves Rotation

The rag to riches story of Brandon Beachy continues with the announcement he has won a job as a member of the Atlanta Braves’ rotation to start the 2011 season. Since joining the organization as an undrafted free agent in 2008, Beachy has been on an accelerated path through the system. After starting the ’08 season in rookie ball, he ended 2010 with the big league team. Now he finds himself a week away from his first opening day roster spot.

Beachy, 24, has worked his way quickly through the organization on the strength of fantastic peripherals at the minor league level. Without overpowering natural ability, the right-hander has been a control freak thus far. He allowed just 49 walks in more than 200 innings as a minor leaguer and owns a career K/BB of nearly five.

After posting a rather normal 7.5 K/9 in 2009, Beachy struck out 148 batters in 119 innings splitting time at the Double and Triple-A levels (11.2 K/9) in 2010. In his brief time as a major leaguer, he gathered 15 more strikeouts in 15 innings. As a relatively neutral pitcher according to statcorner.com, he has shown the ability to keep the ball in the yard throughout his career. He allowed just five balls to clear the fence last year, and just eight home runs total since turning pro.

Beachy has been able to achieve stellar strikeout numbers despite having rather pedestrian stuff. Although his fastball can touch the mid-90s, he generally works in the low-90s. His secondary offerings: a changeup and a curveball have been described as works in progress; the boys over at the Capitol Avenue Club, however, had some nice things to say about the off-speed pitch.

The change up featured pristine fastball separation at 81-84 MPH and had some fade.  He had no trouble spotting it and used it as an effective out pitch both in the zone and below the knees.  He generated several swing-and-misses with the change and relied on it heavily during the middle innings when his fastball/curve ball weren’t all there.

Even though he has shown some monster peripheral numbers, Beachy is still pretty raw when it comes to experience. In three seasons since joining the professional ranks he has made 79 total appearances. Of those appearances, just 24 have come in the form of starts –including three at the major league level. In terms of innings pitched, he has topped the century mark just once, pitching a combined 134.1 innings last season.

Because of this, his workload could become a concern at some point during the season. The fatigue point is interesting since of the reasons that probably helped him win a job this spring was to limit the workload and service time of Mike Minor. While Beachy may show more polish, Minor has more upside. On the other hand, depending on the severity of Jair Jurrjens injury, both could end up in the starting rotation come next week regardless of Minor’s recent demotion. Looking at the rest of the Braves’ rotation, there could also be some time to make up with a pair of 30-somethings in Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson anchoring the staff.

If everything goes well, the Braves’ player development team will have found another useful member of the pitching staff from an unlikely source. The Marcel projection of a sub 4.00 ERA seems optimistic; albeit in a projected small sample size of less than 70 innings. Even if Beachy gets bumped from the rotation by Minor or another talented Atlanta youngster, his stuff and experience in the bullpen could be an asset to a team that is ready to contend right now in whatever role they may need. Not bad for the undrafted kid from Kokomo, Indiana.



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Tommy Rancel also writes for Bloomberg Sports and ESPNFlorida.com. Follow on twitter @TRancel


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