Andrew Brackman | RHP
Born and raised in Cincinnati, OH, Brackman starred in two sports at Cincy’s Moeller High, a school rich in baseball tradition (the school’s list of alumni includes Buddy & David Bell, Adam Hyzdu, Barry Larkin, and Ken Griffey Jr). It’s debatable whether Brackman had a better baseball or basketball career as a prepster.
On the court, Brackman averaged over 20 points & 6 rebounds per game, and led his conference in scoring and field-goal percentage (.654) as a senior, while finishing second in free throw percentage (.882). He was named Ohio’s Division 1 Player of the Year, first-team All State, and was runner-up for Ohio’s Mr. Basketball honors. On the mound, Brackman emerged as one of the top high school arms in the country. He finished his Crusader career sporting the seventh best ERA in Ohio history (1.04), helping his school to state and conference championships in his career. Baseball America rated Brackman as the 4th best prospect in the state for the 2004 draft.
Despite all his accomplishments, teams shied away from Brackman in the draft because of his two sport status, as well as a minor bout with tendonitis. After going undrafted, Brackman headed to North Carolina State where he majored in economics and was able to play both baseball & basketball. Brackman played sparingly for the NC State basketball team as a freshman, but he dazzled for the baseball squad.
Despite not making his debut until early April because of conflicts with the basketball schedule, Brackman still made 3 relief appearances and 7 starts for the Wolfpack, all of which resulted in wins for the team. Brackman was outstanding down the stretch for NC State, twirling 6 scoreless innings at East Carolina, followed by a 12 K performance against Andrew Miller and the 7th ranked North Carolina, and topped off by 7 innings of 1 run ball in a victory over 8th ranked Miami in the first round of the ACC tournament.
As you probably suspect, there were very high expectations for Brackman’s sophomore season. Unfortunately things didn’t go as planned, as a stress fracture in his hip ended his season after only 7 appearances. Prior to the injury however, Brackman played in all 32 games for the basketball team, helping the squad to the Sweet 16. After rehabbing from the injury, Brackman decided to quit basketball and focus solely on baseball.
In an effort to make up for lost time, as well as build up his draft stock, Brackman headed to the Cape Cod League in 2006. He finished with a 1.06 ERA in 6 appearances (2 starts) for the Orleans Cardinals, but he left the team early to join the USA Baseball team, with whom he threw 4 scoreless innings. Even though he left the Cape early, Baseball America still ranked Brackman as the number 2 prospect in the circuit behind South Carolina first basemen Justin Smoak, who is in the conversation for 1st overall pick in the 2008 draft.
Free from the hardwood, Brackman headed into his draft year at or near the top of most draft boards. He was dominant early in the year, giving up no runs against 18 strikeouts in his first 17.1 IP, all wins for the Wolfpack (including this game vs Boston College). Brackman began to tire down the stretch, having eclipsed his innings total from the previous 2 years combined. He also suffered from a bout with elbow tendonitis, and spent time away from the team after an ex-girlfriend was killed in a car accident. Brackman didn’t pitch after May 31st.
A legitamite candidate for the #1 overall pick in January, Brackman’s sub-par season/injuries/price tag caused teams to shy away on draft day. It wasn’t long ago that the Yanks actively sought out safe, conservative & cheap players in the draft, but it became blatantly obvious when they selected Brackman with the 30th overall pick that that draft philosophy was dead. After much negotiation, Brackman agreed to a 4-year Major League deal that could potentially become the richest in draft history.
After months of speculation, Brackman finally had Tommy John surgery in late August, wiping out any chance he had of seeing game action.
The kid’s got a Golden Arm, and there’s not a reasonable person alive that would say otherwise. He pitches at 94-96 with his fastballs (both four & two-seamer), and he’s touched 99 on more than one occasion. He uses his massive size to his advantage (6′-10″, 240 lbs), pitching on an extreme downhill plane with his fastball. When Brackman is at his best, it’s nearly impossible for hitters to get any lift on his hard stuff. His heat is good and he knows it, challenging hitters in zone.
As good as his fastball is, his spike curveball may be even better. A true sledgehammer, Brackman’s curve comes in around 84 mph and just disappears out of the zone. It’s a legit put away pitch. His greatest accomplishment over the last 18 months has been improving his changeup, which went from barely usable to above average, with a chance to be more.
Brackman is an outstanding athlete as well, which is kind of a prerequisite for playing 2 sports at the Division I level. He earned major makeup and work ethic bonus points with me by spending his winter rehabbing in Tampa, as opposed to going home for the first few months like most TJ patients.
Being a 6′-10″ pitcher has some major pitfalls, none bigger than hindering his delivery & mechanics. He’s still developing comfortable, consistent mechanics and is learning to keep all his limbs in check during his motion. You have to be patient, it’s likely to take years, not months, before he gets it right (see Randy Johnson or Jon Rauch). You can check out his delivery here.
Despite being a college pick, Brackman is still pretty raw. He’s figuring out the nuances of pitching, and generally just going through the motions of learning how to translate his immense talent into results. Oh, and the whole Tommy John surgery thing kinda sucks too.
Brackman will spend 2008 rehabbing from TJ. A typical rehab schedule sets the following milestones for him:
- Late-December/Early-January: begin throwing from flat ground
- Late-February/Early-March: being throwing from a mound
- Late-MarchEarly-April: begin throwing breaking balls
- May-June: begin throwing batting practice/simulated games
- August-September: return to game action
Return to game action for Brackman likely means short, closely monitored appearances in Extended Spring Training, followed by participation in fall Instructional League. Winter ball isn’t out of the question, but only if he comes back feeling super stong. More than likely, Brackman’s coming out party is set for 2009.
For the second straight year I found myself defending the Yanks’ first round pick in the days and weeks following the draft, but the Brackman situation differs greatly from the Ian Patrick Kennedy situation. Look, I can understand if people question drafting a guy with elbow troubles, and I can certainly understand questioning the contract, but the draft doesn’t happen in a vacuum. No player drafted after Brackman comes close to matching his talent nor his upside (very few drafted before him fit that criteria as well). I think Lane Meyer of NoMaas fame put it best:
In reality though, the Yankees weren’t taking Andrew Brackman as the foundation upon which to construct the future, and then building atop and around him with subsequent draft picks. The foundation had already been built, and despite his status as the “first-round pick” Brackman was actually the last addition to the plan; the new wing to a well-built mansion.
Yes there’s risk in the pick, but there’s risk in every draft pick. But think of the cost: $4.55M guaranteed. That’s nothing. It’s less than 11.4% of what the Yanks are paying Carl Pavano. Just do yourself a favor and sit back, and enjoy watching what the kid can do. It’s going to be fun.