The Brackman Experience

Before heading over to Greensboro last night to watch Andrew Brackman pitch for the Charleston RiverDogs, I checked out his line here on FanGraphs to see how he’d been pitching as of late. It was ugly – a BB/9 over 6 was the main culprit of a FIP near 5.00 in low-A ball. That’s not good, but plenty of pitchers have struggled in the minors while coming back from arm surgery. More than the results, I was interested to see what he was throwing.

In the first inning, he sat 90-92 with the fastball, going to the outside corner against RHBs. The pitch had some decent movement down and away, and profiled as the kind of pitch that could get groundballs. His command was poor, as expected, walking the leadoff batter, but even once he got ahead in the count, it became obvious he didn’t have anything else besides the fastball. On an 0-2 count, he threw a 73 MPH curve with no tilt that bounced about a foot in front of the plate. He came back with another weak 72 MPH curve that just hung in the strike zone begging to be hit. He went back to the fastball and got through the first inning, but wasn’t impressive.

Then came the second inning. The fastball dipped down to 88, but he still popped 92 occasionally, but the breaking ball was just awful, and the Greensboro hitters were sitting on his fastball. His command went in the toilet, and the movement on his fastball ran right into LHBs wheelhouse, giving them a chance to take batting practice. Kyle Skipworth, who isn’t exactly a good hitting prospect, launched one of Brackman’s fastballs deep into the night sky. Every left-hander just pounded the fastball, and the curve simply wasn’t good enough to keep hitters off balance.

At one point, with the bases loaded and nobody out, Brackman abandoned the fastball and threw nothing but curves. Foul, Foul, Roped down the line. That didn’t work so well. His breaking ball just wasn’t anything close to being a major league pitch.

Seven runs scored in the second, but Brackman came back out for the third. At least, until he walked a couple more hitters, and Charleston’s manager had seen enough. 2 1/3 innings, 6 hits, 5 walks… and he looked even worse than that.

Brackman needs a lot of work. His command is a 30 or 35 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and he’s currently pitching without good stuff either. He’s got nothing – no velocity, no breaking ball, no ability to throw strikes. If I didn’t know who Brackman was before the game, I’d have written him off as a very tall non-prospect.

Yankee fans hoping for Brackman to get to New York someday better hope he finds his velocity, because the current version is never going to get out of A-ball.

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Dave is a co-founder of and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

19 Responses to “The Brackman Experience”

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  1. Greg F. says:

    Something clearly changed after his 5/21 start.

    From 4/9 – 5/21 (9 GS), his line was: 50.2 IP, 47 Hits, 3 HR, 20 ER, 46 strikeouts to 18 walks.

    From 5/22 to today (9 GS), his line is: 32.2 IP, 36 Hits, 4 HR, 37 ER, 30 strikeouts to 41 walks.

    My first thought was that he was injured, but I trust that the Yankees wouldn’t be throwing him out there if he was. So my next guess is that he is fatigued coming back from surgery. In his first 9 starts, he never walked more than 3 batters and has done that in most of his starts since then.

    I really don’t have a clue what is up with him, he could just be terrible, but those splits make me wonder if there is something else going on.

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  2. YC says:

    I was kinda expecting a plot twist at the end, something like he is a 16 year old that started playing baseball just a couple months ago. I was wrong.

    I also checked over at The Baseball Cube to see how he did in past seasons, and found an intriguing error in his 2009 season stats. For some reason, in 2009, Brackman has an 111-0 Record, 0.81 ERA, 321 hits in 89 innings, 0 walks, 22 strikeouts, and 85 saves. Weird.

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  3. truantbuick says:

    Was his curve ever really any good? I thought it was merely “projectable” in college.

    I think it was silly to expect much from Brackman in the first place, and I say that as a Yankee fan. I’ve had it up to here with the comparisons to Randy Johnson. It’s hardly better than attaching yourself to some bookish looking 6-footer with an 89 mph fastball and expecting him to become Greg Maddux.

    He’s 23; he had a mediocre track record in college; he has no control, no command, no polish; he was injured all the time.

    Everybody got so excited about this “high risk, high reward” strategy since Joba was such a success, but he and Brackman shouldn’t ever be mentioned in the same breath (except when emphasizing how different they are). He’s a big guy with (or was with) a big fastball and those guys always have some level of potential, but he isn’t a guy who should be picked in the first round or be met with any expectations.

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    • AndrewYF says:

      There wasn’t really too much on the board at number 30. The Yankees were all set to take Rick Porcello, but the Tigers got there first. High-risk, high-reward is the philosophy the Yankees have taken in the draft for a while now. Why is anyone surprised when one of them doesn’t work out? That’s why it’s called high-risk. It doesn’t mean the philosophy is bad.

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      • truantbuick says:

        There’s a difference between “high risk, high reward” and drafting a kid for his body with no other saving grace.

        Joba was a hell of a pitcher in Nebraska. He had the stuff, he had the control. He was just bogged down by a knee and triceps problem because of his weight.

        Brackman is only a prospect because of his height.

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      • truantbuick says:

        Also, there were other guys to take at that point who would seem quite reasonable. Todd Frazier comes to mind off the top of my head.

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  4. alskor says:

    “If I didn’t know who Brackman was before the game, I’d have written him off as a very tall non-prospect.”

    You would have been right.

    He’s a big goofy kid who can’t repeat his mechanics. Tons of moving parts in his delivery like Daniel Cabrera. BA must feel silly for actually putting this guy on a top 100 list. He was always the longest of long shots. Just a terrible draft pick by the Yankees – who already suspected he needed TJ at the time.

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  5. Mark R says:

    We wouldn’t even know this guy’s name if he weren’t a Yankee prospect, right? How many pitchers with the exact same sort of profile are there in every system in the majors? At least a couple, I’d venture.

    Brackman is a top-level prospect like Austin Jackson is a budding superstar.

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  6. Rob in CT says:

    The Yankees rolled the dice on upside when they picked Brackman, with Porcello going to the Tigers. They knew he needed TJ surgery and did it anyway. It was always gonna be a longshot. I’m unsurprised it’s not working out. Most lotto tickets don’t pay off.

    I handn’t heard that he’d lost his fastball. That’s the one thing he had going for him – velocity (and nothing else). If he’s lost that, he’s got absolutely nothing. As Greg pointed out, he was doing ok early on this season and then absolutely imploded. I wonder if there is an explanation for that.

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    • Ant says:

      I am hoping it’s just a dead arm period.

      I know the results are shitty but at least hes still getting innings in. As long as he still is taking the ball every 5th day I won’t be severely disappointed.

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  7. Ant says:

    You’re wrong. Brackman name is known because he was a highly touted prospect coming out of college that only fell to the Yankees because of injuries and signability concerns.

    Before surgery he was hitting as high as 100 mph and sitting at 95 consistently with a hammer curveball.

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  8. C says:

    I think people are rushing to judgement. He was throwing mid 90s gas in the HWL and then he had a decent start to the year. All these stuggles seem to be within the last couple of months, like GregF noted. Hes a guy who is coming of TJS and never topped 90 IP at college.(When you combine the 34 HBL innings with the 50.2 innings from GregFs comment above, you get close to 90). Plus hes learning new mechanics. You have to expect struggles.
    In my mind this season hasn’t really impacted his prospect status at all. You don’t like him for what he is, but for what he could develop into two or three years from now. I don’t think thats changed.

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  9. Daniel says:

    Brackman was a better basketball player than a pitcher in college – no joke

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  10. Andy S says:

    Dave, while it definitely sounds like he has command problems, I hope you’re not saying this mostly based on the one start you saw of him…all pitchers have bad days.

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  11. Rich says:

    It’s too early to reach a final conclusion on Brackman, but perhaps TJ surgery isn’t has “routine” as some have recently maintained. For example, Humberto Sanchez and JB Cox have also had less than overwhelming recoveries from the surgery.

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  12. matt says:

    Maybe everyone should wait until after next year to bury Brackman. Does anyone remember a guy named Daniel Bard? How was his first minor league season. Brackman is coming back from TJS and clearly his stuff has not returned to what it was pre-op. Let’s wait and see if it does next year or if he will never be the same again. He is clearly not 100 percent back if he is topping at 92 when he was in the high 90’s in college.

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  13. Dylan says:

    I saw Brackman’s first professional victory this May and my observations were basically the same.
    MLB hitters, even MiLB hitters, aren’t going to chase bad breaking balls in the dirt. In the game I saw, he was throwing that bad curve when he was ahead in the count and batters happened to bite. However, if he’s not tossing a good fastball and it’s sitting at 88-90 (nowhere near the high 90’s we expected from him), he’s going to learn how to pitch, not just blow guys away or have them chase bad balls.
    I didn’t know his velocity had dipped so much. He was working consistently in the low to mid-90’s when I saw him.
    Here’s my write up of the game:

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  14. frank says:

    Couldn’t help but laugh at all this now. It’s amazing what a little patience will do.

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