As pro debuts go, Andrew Brackman’s has been far worse than expected. On the season, he is a woeful 1-11 with a 6.72 ERA in 85.2 innings. He has given up four more hits than innings pitched, but more alarming are his walk totals.
Brackman has issued 64 walks this year, and 46 of those have come in his last 35 innings. In six of his last ten starts, he has walked more than he has struck out. Opponents are hitting .277 against him, and the B word — the dreaded bust label — has been swirling for the last few weeks.
When the Yankees drafted Brackman in 2007, they did so knowing that he would be both expensive and injured. He signed a $4.55 million dollar deal with $3.35 million signing bonus and was ranked among the top 100 prospects in the game. He could hit the upper 90s with his fastball and had a plus curve as well as a change up. At six-feet, ten-inches, Brackman was drawing comparisons to the Big Unit.
As the Yankees try to figure out what they have in Brackman, numerous theories are out there. He is but a season removed from Tommy John surgery and has plenty of development time left. He could still turn it around next year or the year after and emerge as an effective, if old, prospect. The problem might very well be our expectations.
No matter the bonus, Brackman was the 30th pick of the first round in 2007, and those picks do not have much of a track record of success. In fact, since 1996, when the Devil Rays and Diamondbacks entered the draft, only two 30th picks have amounted to much. The full list is available here, and I’ll spoil it: Only Noah Lowry and Jack Cust have had any sort of Major League success as 30th picks in the June amateur draft.
Before the expansion of the draft in 1996 and after the initial increase in the draft with the onset of the Marlins and Rockies in 1992, the 28th pick was the last of the first round, and those four picks — Charles Johnson, Jamey Wright, Kevin Witt and Michael Barrett — have been better than most of the 30th picks. Before that, from 1977 through 1991, the 26th pick was the last of the first round. Those were a crap shoot as well. Alan Trammel, Dave Henderson, Rico Brogna and Dan Plesac had long careers, but beyond that, the round is marked by those with brief Major League appearances.
In the end, the problem with Brackman may just be time. He could need some more seasoning to get past his surgery. But the problem could just be one of tempered expectations. As the 30th pick of the draft — holding down the last spot in the first round — he shouldn’t be that good. The money might say otherwise, but history is not on his side.