Thursday, June 17, 2010

When Prospects Strike Brack

Andrew Brackman's tenure in the Yankees organization has been frustrating to say the least. The 6'10" right-hander had Tommy John surgery shortly after being drafted 30th overall in the 2007 Amateur Draft, missing the entirety of the 2007 and 2008 seasons as a result - something that the Yankees were expecting when selecting Brackman at the end of the first round. As a result, Brackman has also come to embody the phrase "high-risk, high-reward" - his stuff has never been doubted (high-90s fastball with movement and a plus-plus knuckle-curve), but his precarious injury history cannot be overstated.

Brackman's 2009 debut left a great deal to be desired, at best. In 106.2 IP, Brackman walked 76 batters (6.4 BB/9) and tossed 26 wild pitches, both of which contributed greatly to his 2-12 record and 5.91 ERA. His fastball was also a bit slow (low-90s) and his knuckle-curve was all but uncontrollable. A deeper look at the numbers, however, did show some positive signs - 8.7 K/9 and only 0.7 HR/9, as well as a solid groundball to flyball ratio.

Heading into 2010, there seemed to be a notion that this was a make or break season for Brackman. The Yankees rewarded the righty with a $3.55 million signing bonus (broken up over six years) in 2007, yet had not seen the flashes of brilliance that many had hoped for. Through his first few starts, Brackman was eminently hittable, but his stuff and control appeared to be improving markedly. A few weeks ago, Brackman put it all together - over his last five starts, he's allowed only six runs while striking out 34 in 29 IP.

While Brackman's ERA (4.75) and WHIP (1.26) don't scream "elite," his peripherals do just that. 8.3 K/9, 1.1 BB/9, 7.29 K/BB, and a 2.35 FIP are stellar numbers that speak for themselves. Granted, Brackman is a bit old for Tampa - but he's also not terribly experienced, which should be considered. Additionally, Kevin Levine-Flandrup tweeted that Brackman's fastball is now sitting around 93 MPH (reaching as high as 96 regularly) and that the knuckle-curve has been replaced by a devastating 87 MPH slider (a la Joba Chamberlain circa 2007). Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus also points to Brackman's improved velocity, as well as his two distinct breaking balls (the new slider and a fledgling curve) and an improving change-up.

Here's hoping things continue to look up for Mr. Brackman.

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