Prospect Profile: Andrew Brackman

Boras starting the A-Rod negotiations
Torre gets another endorsement

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.  

Pro Debut
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.

2008 Outlook
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.

My Take
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.

Boras starting the A-Rod negotiations
Torre gets another endorsement
  • E-ROC

    The Yankees pitching talent is getting ridiculous. I cried with happiness from reading this column. I will not feel bad when the Yankees are dominating opposing teams with a rotation of Wang, Joba, Kennedy, Hughes, and Brackman. Then close the door with Horne, Marquez, Melancon, Whelan, Cox, and Humberto Sanchez, if all of these prospects work out. God, I love the Yankees. Thank you Cash & company.

    • Joseph P.

      For got one: Betances. Rock on.

      • E-ROC

        I don’t know how I could miss Betances.

    • James Varghese

      It’s funny – even with that list, there’s still a bunch of guys that most other systems would take in a heartbeat.

      Christian Garcia (though the luster has probably faded off him by now), Dan McCutchen, Zach McAllister, Mike Dunn, George Kontos…and relievers Ohlendorf & Robertson…and who knows what we’ve got in Pope.

      You gotta figure that at least a few of these guys will work out, right?

      • Mike A.

        The scary part is that if it all goes right, Christian Garcia might be the best of the bunch. He’s probably got the best stuff in the system (Joba included) when fully healthy, which sadly, is far too infrequent.

        • The Scout

          A few dissenting notes:

          1. Too many righties; not a convincing starting lefty in the bunch.

          2. No guarantee that Brackman, Sanchez, Garcia, Cox, or Melancon ever make it all the way back from injuries. Some will, others won’t.

          3. The urgent need is in the bullpen. Some of these guys may be dealt to address that.

          • Mike A.

            I’m agree in that Im bothered by the lack of a good LHP prospect. I almost wish they’d gotten Greg Smith instead of Ross Ohlendorf in the Unit deal, but what can you do. I’m a big Mike Dunn fan, maybe he can make it.

            Don’t ever trade young prospects for relievers. Relief pitchers are so volatile, it’s foolish to give up something of value for them, unless you know you’re getting an absolute stud.

  • Mac

    Can’t wait to see what Nardi Contreras and Billy Connors can do with this kid. Exciting stuff. What in God’s name are we going to do if these guys all work out? Talk about a logjam you’d love to have.

    • Mike A.

      They won’t all work out, trust me. I’m shocked that Hughes-Joba-IPK have had so much success, it’s very, very rare that a team’s top 3 pitching prospects do what they did.

  • JP

    You’re right – after reading this the Brackman pick seems much better. One thing that I didn’t originally like about the pick was that Brackman seemed so similar to Betances and it’s very risky to take a lot of players with there body type and background. But I guess like you mentioned, we already have the foundation in place and now is the time to take those types of risks. If one of them reaches there potential it’s all worth it – if both of them top out you could have a dynasty.

    One thing that still bugs me about the draft is that we missed Porcello by just one draft spot. If you had the chance, which one would you choose?

    • Mike A.

      I woulda taken Porcello, I was screaming like a maniac when that bastard Dombrowski took him (and it was 3 picks before the Yanks, not 1). There’s less injury risk, and Porcello is younger. But he got a crazy deal for a high schooler, something like a $7M ML deal.

  • E-ROC

    What’s Dellin Betances potential?

    • Mike A.

      Ridiculous. Frontline, top-of-the-rotation starter, and not in “Wang is an ace” kinda way, in a “CC Sabathia, Johan Santana, Jake Peavy is an ace” kinda way.

  • EJ

    Mike, that was a ridiculously good profile.

  • pettitte’s Stare

    I would have taken Porcello if I had the chance. I like his stuff and make up and while statistics may prove me wrong I like high school pitchers that the yankees can develop rather then being overthrown or not taught well at the college ranks.

    It is incredible the success of Hughes, IPK and Chamberlain this year. listening to Nardi say that he sees next year a rotation of Wang, Hughes, IPK and Chamberlain was extremely gratifying. It will also be nice that Hughes, IPK and Chamberlain will all have a few years of service by the time we might see Brackman and Batences. While it is wonderful to see these young kids, every pitching staff needs veteran presence as well.

  • Andrew

    The same, which is to say unlimited at this point.

  • Andrew

    Sorry, I was replying to E-ROC.

  • yankz

    I’m not disappointed with the pick, but why did they have to give up that much money? Wasn’t Brackman ineligible to return to school? What’s he going to do, threaten to take a year off?

    • Mike A.

      Like I said in the post, it’s only $4.55M guaranteed, which is nothing. The money is already in the scouting budget, might as well use it. And besides, it’s not like a difference of $4.55M will be a dealbreaker for Mo, Posada, A-Rod, etc.

  • E-ROC

    There is nothing like talking about prospects to get the mind off what happened in the playoffs.

  • jason

    The pitching depth and potential is unbelievable. Can we talk a bit about positional players. I know AJax and Tabata are on the rise and Gardner might make it to the Bronx soon, I feel the positional talent is about two years behind the pitching (Montero, this years draft class, this years international signings). What is the projection to restock an outfield that will likely lose Abreu, Matsui and Damon in the next two years or so, for first base, for third (if Alex leaves), and for catcher. There are potentially numerous holes to fill.

    • Mike A.

      Very true jason, but the beauty of it all is that young pitchers are the greatest currency in the game. If/when the Yanks dangle some of these guys for trades (and believe me, they will dangle some of ’em), they’ll be able to fill any holes they have.

  • Malcard89

    i’ll be the first to say that i was a major brackman disbeliever. i realized the trick is not to see him alone as one player, but rather one of three very-high 90s starters in our system (garcia, betances, brackman), which when added to what we already have in either the high minors (sanchez) or major leagues (hughes, ipk, joba), the future looks pretty insane. great profile.

  • Travis G.

    i know he years away, but dont forget about Jairo.

    • Travis G.

      btw Mike, what’s the return timetables for Sanchez, Melancon, Garcia and Cox?

      • Mike A.

        Blasted pull-down menu. See below for your answer Travis.

  • Mike A.

    I don’t know exact dates obviously, but Melancon and Garcia had their surgeries in the fall, so they’re just about ready to come back at full strength. Melancon was supposed to pitch in Hawaii this winter, but got yanked back in the last second. Both will be able to start 08 at full strength.

    Sanchez and Cox had their surgeries in the spring, near the end of Spring Training, so they’re still a good 4 or 5 months out. They won’t be 100% until mid-season. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I think the timing of the injuries basically set Sanchez and Cox back 2 years as opposed to 1, because they won’t be able to legitamitely help the big league team until 2009, whereas they definitely woulda contributed this year if healthy.

  • jason

    Visualizing an all Yankee rotation and bullpen is intriguing but probably unlikely. These are the Yankees after all. There has been some talk in Boston (I am about a five iron from Fenway Park) about Crisp, Bucholz, Lester for Santana. As it was said before, having an amazing stock of prospects is vital currency. I could see something on the order of Melky or Garder (even Jackson if necessary) and some combination of Kennedy, Clippard, Desalvo, Horne, Whelan, Ohlendorf for Santana or someone of his quality. With the depth, and tremendous ability of the already to the majors crew of Wang, Huges and Joba giving away of the second tier (amazing that Kennedy and Horne are second tier, but given Hughes and Chamberlain they are) for a true, young, lefty, ace is in my opinion not unreasonable.

  • Pingback: Don’t stay up late for the Torre decision | River Ave. Blues | A New York Yankees blog

  • dan

    I read the following excerpt (from april 2006, before the draft) here:

    Teams looking for pure projection have been traveling to Brooklyn, New York of all places to check out righthander Dellin Betances, pitching for Grand Street Campus. At 6’9″, Betances delivers mid-90s heat on an extreme downward plane, and has shown the ability to spin a hammer curveball that has a long way to fall because of his height and high release point. Like many players in the Northeast, Betances doesn’t have the experience of players in warm weather climates, and will be a long-term project for whoever drafts him. “He does offer a lot to dream on,” said one scouting director. “But his command is all over the place and he’s extremely crude.” Another scouting director added, “I’m not taking him, but if somebody sees him on the right day, they could be easily convinced that he’s worth seven-figures.”

    • Mike A.

      That was pretty much the consensus. But the Yanks took him in the 8th round, and he’s far, far better than your typical 8th round player. From what I’ve heard, he’s done a good job of cleaning up his control since turning pro. Course that doesn’t mean it’s a-okay yet.

  • zack

    Mike, any more news on Betances’ elbow?

    Also, Jason, I don’t think either of those packages lands Santana. Nobody wants Crisp, although that package would be a lot better than the Yanks one you throw out there. Any package for Santana would pretty much HAVE to include Hughes or Joba. I’d still say go for it, though if the Sox traded Crisp, Ellsbury AND Buchholz, they would have a great rotation but NO pitching in reserve. And no CF

  • Jamie

    I just came across this. Prob old news. I didnt realize Garcia had knee surgery also.

  • yankz

    I hate to be that guy, but…TINSTAAPP. Yanks will be lucky if a handful of these guys pan out, Hughes/Joba/IPK included. Which is exactly why Cashman/Oppenheimer are geniuses.

    Melancon getting delayed is pretty damn discouraging. I know he was really highly touted, but I’d really love to see him start pitching sometime soon. Mo might be gone next year…

    • Kyle

      I agree, that is why I like this strategy so much. Prospect pitchers fail at a high rate so there are two ways to tackle it. One is to avoid young pitchers the other is to draft tons of them. The Yankees chose the second. We have 10-15 guys in the minors who have a legitimate shot to turn into major league starters, so even if 80% fail we still end up with 2-3 quality starters very cheap.

      The next part of the equation, and the harder part, is figuring out early which ones aren’t going to make it and trading them before other teams find out. Cashman needs to evaluate what the probability of these guys making the bigs is and trade the guys who arent gonna make it

  • Brian Foley

    Guys, I am a big Red Sox fan but picking Brackman that high is a reach. I really don’t think Brackman is worth a first round pick when he is already having elbow issues with limited college innings.

    • yankz

      I think you missed the entire point of this post.

  • Pingback: Prospect Profile: Bradley Suttle | River Ave. Blues | A New York Yankees blog

  • Pingback: River Ave. Blues » Prospect Profile: Adam Olbrychowski

  • Pingback: River Ave. Blues » Brackman to begin throwing next week

  • Pingback: cool personal check

  • Pingback: River Ave. Blues » Prospect Profile: Bradley Suttle

  • Pingback: River Ave. Blues » 2008 Preseason Top 30 Prospects

  • Pingback: River Ave. Blues » Don’t stay up late for the Torre decision

  • kevin b

    I grew up watching Brackman in high school at Moeller. He and Eric Surkamp were dominating duo. When Brackman is healthy he could be an ace for the Yanks in a couple years. I would of liked the Reds to get him but they past on him cause of injuries. The yanks got a great pick

  • Pingback: River Ave. Blues | At long last, Andrew Brackman

  • VO

    When is he going to make his debut?

  • Baseball Benz

    OMG ! Bomber Pitching ! MAJOR LEAGUE : CC Sabathia(lhp), A.J. Burnett, Chin Mein Wang, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Alfredo Aceves, Phil Coke(lhp), Alan Horne, Chase Wright(lhp), Ian Kennedy, Dan Giese, Edwar Ramirez, David Robertson, Jonathan Albaladejo, Jose Veras, Sam Miltre, Brian Bruney, Humberto Sanchez, Damaso Marte(lhp), Mariano Rivera. (21)
    MAJOR LEAGUE TALENT : Mark Melancon, Andrew Brackman, Dellin Betances, Jairo Heredia(Little Pedro), Jeremy Bleich(lhp), David Phelps, J.B.Cox, Zach McAllister, George Kontos, Michael Dunn(lhp), William DeLa Rosa, Christian Garcia, Angel Reyes(lhp), Anthony Claggett, Kevin Whelan, Pat Veditte(r&lhp), Bo Hall, Craig Heyer, Tim Dennehy(lhp), Luke Greinke, Jonathan Hovis, Ryan Pope, Francisco Castillo and Eric Hacker ……….Whoooooooosh ! (24)
    Total – (45)
    There’s plenty more ………… But First Let’s Dump : Kei Igawa(lhp), Eric Milton, and Whatever Zambrano.

  • Pingback: Roster Rundown #1: Andrew Brackman « The Baseball Diarist