Assessing Brackman’s Season, Part I

Setting up the playoff rotation
Callis on the Yanks' catching prospects

Two years ago, the Yankees selected righthander Andrew Brackman with their first round pick, knowing full well that he might need elbow surgery at some point, perhaps as soon as that summer. Brackman showed tremendous raw stuff and considerable potential as an amateur, the reasons why he was ranked so high in pre-draft rankings (Keith Law had him as the third best prospect in the draft class). The Yankees were willing to gamble and wait on his talent, especially with a pick so late in first round.

As expected, Brackman underwent Tommy John surgery soon after signing a Major League deal worth $3.35 million guaranteed with incentives that could push the total value of the contract to $13 million. At the time, it was potentially the richest contract in draft history. Brackman spent all of 2008 rehabbing but returned to action in the now defunct Hawaii Winter Baseball League last fall where he was ranked the number two prospect by Baseball America (subs. req’d).

Brackman’s long awaited full season debut didn’t go as smoothly as planned this year. It featured a few ups but considerably more downs. His overall season line — 106.2 IP, 106 H, 79 R, 76 BB, 103 K — isn’t pretty, and his 26 wild pitches were second most in all of minor league baseball. The way I see it Brackman’s season can be broken down into three distinct periods, which I’ll arbitrarily call Good Brackman, Bad Brackman, and Reliever Brackman.

Over the next three days, we’ll take a look at each version of Brackman in depth, starting today with Good Brackman.

* * *

Coming into the season, expectations for Brackman were high, but cautiously high, if that makes sense. As always, the most important thing was staying healthy and gaining experience. After that, we wanted to see his stuff return to what it was in college and for him to make progress with his command and mechanics. As ugly as the stat line ended up at the end of the season, Brackman actually started out pretty well, believe it or not.

The usually aggressive Yankees took the conservative approach with Brackman, sending him to Low-A Charleston instead of High-A Tampa. In his first nine starts, he threw 50.2 innings, pitching to a 3.55 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP. His peripherals were strong as well:

8.17 K/9
3.20 BB/9
2.56 K/BB
8.35 H/9
0.53 HR/9
.297 BABIP
3.22 FIP

By no means was it a blow-you-away type of performance, but it was encouraging to see Brackman take the ball every five days coming off Tommy John Surgery and miss so many bats. Even though he was older than the competition, his lack of pitching experience somewhat leveled the playing field.

He allowed two runs or fewer in seven of his first nine starts and walked no more than three batters in any of those nine starts. According to minorleaguesplits.com, Brackman was generating close to 60 percent groundballs during these starts. This was a promising figured because tall pitchers tend to be extreme flyball guys since they have trouble getting the ball down in the zone. Sure, he was a bit homer-prone in the early going, but it was too small of a sample size to consider it a trend just yet.

While the performance was solid, Brackman’s stuff wasn’t quite up to snuff in the early going. According to this BA report (subs. req’d again, sorry), Brackman’s once powerful fastball was topping out in low-90’s.

“I’m not back to being myself yet,” said Brackman, who had the surgery in September 2007 and spent all last summer rehabbing his arm. “They say Tommy John takes a while for you to come back from and your velocity is the last thing to come back. I’m waiting on that. I try every day to do what I can to build arm strength. It’s a whole lot easier to pitch when you have your velocity, and I’m so used to pitching with that.”

Brackman admitted to being impatient and frustrated but did note that without his usual blow-you-away fastball he was forced to work on his secondary pitches, particularly his changeup. Of course the real concern isn’t that Brackman’s stuff wasn’t fully back post-TJ; it’s that his stuff showed signs of decline even before the 2007 draft. Here’s part of a KLaw report from two months before he was drafted:

Brackman pitched Saturday at Boston College, and wasn’t quite the same guy. He was throwing across his body, almost as if someone told him he had to work on getting the ball to his glove side (or as if he decided it himself), resulting in erratic command in addition to the long-term injury concerns that come with those mechanics. His breaking ball was also worse than it was last summer, with a softer, early break. His command of both pitches was way off.

He’s still a superb athlete with a plus fastball (88-95 this week), and it’s too easy to let the one look this weekend erase what he showed he could do last summer.

So the question goes from “Will his stuff come back after TJ?” to “Is TJ why his stuff is down in the first place?” While the results were encouraging, the reports on his stuff were not. After adjusting his delivery in Hawaii under the guidance of pitching coach Jeff Ware (also his pitching coach with Charleston) and struggling with it, Brackman went back to his original mechanics. How much that factors into his declining stuff, we may never know.

The numbers were pretty good in the early going, not quite what you’d expect out of such a highly touted draft pick, but certainly nothing that would trigger any red flags from someone on the outside looking in. That goes double for a guy coming off major arm surgery. However, the first nine starts of Brackman’s season show exactly why stats, especially those in the low minors, are just a tiny piece of the equation. The scouting report had changed in a bad way, and the worst was yet to come.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at Bad Brackman — a ten-start stretch in the middle of the season when not just the wheels but the axles and drive train came completely off the bus.

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Setting up the playoff rotation
Callis on the Yanks' catching prospects
  • JobaWockeeZ

    In before the bust comments come.
    Seriously give him a year before you write him off.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Of course. Give him more than a year, give him four or five if he needs it.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Give him more than a year, give him four or five if he needs it.

        That.

        This is a marathon, not a sprint. We have the resources advantage to bet on longer odds and show them the patience to pan out.

        • jsbrendog

          agreed. although it kinda stinks he takes up a roster spot the whole time on the 40 man

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            True.

            My half-hearted quasi-retort: If Brackman wasn’t on the 40-man at the moment, Cody Ransom probably would be.

            BOOOOOOOOM, THAT JUST HAPPENED. IS YOUR MIND BLOWN?!?

        • Mattingly’s Love Child

          This weekend I heard some disturbing, unsubstantiated rumors from someone who knew him at NC State. The source was plastered, and apparently “friends” with Brackman’s gf. So everything that was said was probably bullshit, but worrying nonetheless. Most talk of him centered on him “trying anything and everything” in terms of supplements and other things….

          I want to be patient, but then I hear crap like that and the damn cynic in me starts to doubt whether the stuff will come back.

          • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

            Well, the drug policy in the minors is really tough, much more stringent than the one in the big leagues. They even test for drugs of abuse down there.

            • Chris

              But the point is that maybe he was on something in college, and then off it in the minors. That could explain his decline in stuff. Not that I believe a friend of a friend of someone on the internet when the comments were made while drunk…

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                Not that I believe a friend of a friend of someone on the internet when the comments were made while drunk…

                I read somewhere that Andrew Brackman attracts bears. The bears can smell his surgically rebuilt elbow.

                • jsbrendog

                  you see that axisa? you’re putting the whole BLOG IN DANGER!

            • Mattingly’s Love Child

              I know. Logic tells me if he used to get away with it in college, but couldn’t now…that could be the reason for the diminished stuff.

              But I’m sure if the goofball that I met this weekend knew about it then other people had to know too. So maybe he’s just full of shit (most likely).

              • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

                Yeah, that’s true.

              • Zack

                NCAA doesnt have testing?

                • Mattingly’s Love Child

                  From what the drunko said, they were pretty loose with the testing, as in let them know when they were coming.

                  As a big UConn fan, I know that Kevin Freeman, PF on the ’99 Championship team, was a HUGE pothead. As in a UUUUUUGE pothead. And the NCAA tests for that as well.

                • jsbrendog

                  oh yeah at my school they told players when it was coming, and they told them what it was for. soemtimes it would be for steroids so they could smoke pot or whatever and then other times it was for other drugs.

                  the baseball players took all sorts of supplements, the wrestlers smoked tons of pot and diet pills and the lacrosse kids smoked and sold sooo much weed. craziness. and this is a 1-AA school.

                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68http://riveraveblues.com/2009/09/assessing-brackmans-season-part-i-16790/#comment-579681 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                  I don’t want to be the one to break this to you, jsb, but…

                  …DeVry is not a 1-AA school.

                • Mattingly’s Love Child

                  You give him too much credit. I was going to say CSB wasn’t I-AA. (Connecticut Schools of Broadcasting).

                • jsbrendog

                  you’ll rue the day you crossed me

                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68http://riveraveblues.com/2009/09/assessing-brackmans-season-part-i-16790/#comment-579681 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                  you’ll rue the day you crossed me

                  I’ll take the, uh, ape tit thing for $200.

  • Zack

    “After adjusting his delivery in Hawaii under the guidance of pitching coach Jeff Ware (also his pitching coach with Charleston) and struggling with it, Brackman went back to his original mechanics.”

    Was that the Yankees decision to have him go to his old mechanics?

    • Mattingly’s Love Child

      That is a good question. Why would they let him go back to the very mechanics that results in the TJ surgery? Obviously there is more story there than we all know.

  • CB

    Brackman’s stuff in Hawaii was reportedly very good. His fastball was in the in the mid 90’s. His control wasn’t great but there was a reason why BA was very positive about him coming out of Hawaii.

    The question to me is why did his stuff drop so much between Hawaii and Charleston? That’s the key question, IMO.

    It seemed like the more he threw this year the worse his stuff and his command got until he was put in the pen.

  • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

    While I may be getting ahead of Mike’s series here, I wonder where the Yanks send Brackman next spring. He would be far too old for another go-around in Charleston, but his stuff and numbers don’t suggest that he’s ready for Tampa.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      EXST for a month? Keep him with Nardi, refining mechanics, experimenting with things, and then if he looks okay, he joins Tampa in May?

    • Chris

      He should go where his stuff plays regardless of his age. I would guess either EXST (as TSJC suggests) or Charleston, with the expectation of an early promotion to Tampa.

  • Makavelli

    What was Brackman’s potential comparable to in the Majors or perhaps out of recent other young guys that has come up through the system(Joba/Hughes/Kennedy)?

    • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

      Just a shot in the dark, I’d say Joba–bigger frame, big time stuff.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        I’d more say Brackman is like a tall AJ.

        Power riding fastball with an absolute killer, mind-erasing, uber-nasty curveball, but really inconsistent and relies on little more than his incredibly dominant stuff… which means it’s prone to disappearing.

    • whozat

      His ceiling is righty-Randy-Johnson. His floor is Daniel Cabrera.

      He was a huge, raw pitcher with a devastating fastball. I’m not sure what his offspeed stuff was like, but I’m pretty sure he had one good offspeed pitch too.

      • A.D.

        His floor was complete bust, there was no guarantee he makes it out of the minors.

        • Mattingly’s Love Child

          I thought that was his ceiling too….

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68http://riveraveblues.com/2009/09/assessing-brackmans-season-part-i-16790/#comment-579681 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        He was a huge, raw pitcher with a devastating fastball. I’m not sure what his offspeed stuff was like, but I’m pretty sure he had one good offspeed pitch too.

        According to this article (sourced by Wiki), he had two good offspeed pitches (knuckle curve and changeup), with unsubstantiated rumors of a third (slider):

        Scouting Report: This is where Andrew Brackman starts to shine. Brackman has a two-seam and four-seam fastball, regularly 92-97MPH, and he’s touched 99 before. His two-seamer has good movement. He throws a knuckle-curve 78-81 MPH with good movement. He throws a changeup 82-84MPH; it has plus-pitch potential. He has good command of his fast stuff but a little bit lesser command of the breaking stuff. He also might have a splitter (though I have yet to see video of it), which is rumored to be a plus pitch also. The biggest knocks on him, however, also come in scouting. His mechanics are inconsistent. In addition, this spring he hasn’t pitched due to what’s being called a “dead arm”, and there have been rumors of Tommy John. In addition, he’s never been able to pitch a full college season and there are lots of things to be scared about in terms of durability.

        http://baseballexchange.wordpr.....h-overall/

        • Tom Zig

          Does he throw a gyroball?

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68http://riveraveblues.com/2009/09/assessing-brackmans-season-part-i-16790/#comment-579681 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            In Japan, gyroballs are called “Brackmans”.

            • Tom Zig

              Sidd Finch is an anagram for Andrew Brackman.

      • Chris

        Interestingly, Brackman and Cabrera’s stats in low A (Cabrera’s only full minor league season) are pretty similar. Cabrera was a year younger and slightly better, but he also wasn’t coming back from TJ surgery.

  • currambayankees

    Patients is what is needed with this kid. This is his first full year back from TJ surgery and he’s also a guy who really doesn’t have much experience pitching. Let’s see what he does in the 16 months.
    I do want to see him working w/Nardi to get his mechanics down and hope he’s not throwing accross his body cause he’ll be back injured. If we can get the Twin Towers going they could be a LETHAL combo for NY. Imagine the two 6’7″+ Brackman and Betances on the mound for the Yankees and throwing well. That would be awesome.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Patients is what is needed with this kid.

      http://www.beawesomeinstead.co.....tience.jpg (safe)

    • Doug

      i WAS imagining just that going into the season. now i’d be thrilled with just one.

    • Charlie

      it’s something to hope for I guess, but that twin towers dominating in NY is pretty damn unlikely. I’d say the chances of both Betances and Brackman making the majors at all is about 5 %, tops. I’d be suprised if either is ever a successful major league starter. I know i’m being pessimistic, but I’d rather look forward to Vizcaino, Heredia, and Man-Ban than those guys.

  • pat

    “They say Tommy John takes a while for you to come back from and your velocity is the last thing to come back. I’m waiting on that.

    I was under the impression that control was the last thing to come back after TJ.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68http://riveraveblues.com/2009/09/assessing-brackmans-season-part-i-16790/#comment-579681 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      They’re both the last thing to come back. As is the mechanics, and the confidence.

      Velocity, control, mechanics and confidence are all the last things to come back.

      • Doug

        so basically, pitching

        • king of fruitless hypotheticals

          and ruthless efficiency!

      • Mattingly’s Love Child

        So you’re saying there’s a chance?!

      • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

        I didn’t expect some kind of Spanish Inquisition.

        • http://www.richardiurilli.com Richard Iurilli

          Tough crowd.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68http://riveraveblues.com/2009/09/assessing-brackmans-season-part-i-16790/#comment-579681 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside
        • king of fruitless hypotheticals

          NOBODY expects the spanish inquisition!

          • Tom Zig

            Nick Swisher does.

            • king of fruitless hypotheticals

              Nick Swisher NICK SWISHER does.

              you’re right, a thousand pardons :(

      • Jake K

        I don’t need this or this. Just this ashtray. And this paddle game, the ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need. And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that’s all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp. The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that’s all I need. And that’s all I need too. I don’t need one other thing, not one – I need this. The paddle game, and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches, for sure. And this. And that’s all I need. The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, this magazine and the chair.

  • Reggie C.

    Focusing solely on the 50 inning stretch consisting of “good Brackman” , I was surely cementing Brackman as a top 3 prospect in the system. I really expected Brackman’s next 50 innings to mirror the first 50 … and I was gonna chalk that up as growing pains.

    Who knew that the next 50 innings would tell us that Brackman was essentially incapable of adjusting to maturing Low-A hitters. And he was healthy , reportedly.

  • Mattingly’s Love Child

    I think a lot of the frustrations this year for Brackman are because of this decent start. If he started like a complete trainwreck, people would have either chalked it up to coming back from TJ or that he was a bust. Instead, he came back decent, gave us all hope, then completely pooped the bed. Which in turn caused all sorts of consternation in the burrito microwave nation.

    • Doug

      agreed. and he was strong in hawaii too

      • Mattingly’s Love Child

        Exactly. I know I saw that and had visions of a Joba like run through the farm this year. Completely UNREALISTIC.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68http://riveraveblues.com/2009/09/assessing-brackmans-season-part-i-16790/#comment-579681 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      I just hope we take the lesson learned from that Brackman episode to heart in 2010 during the Fat Sanchezes Watch.

      • king of fruitless hypotheticals

        for those a$$holes that weren’t paying attention, why dont remind them–and then castigate them for not paying attention.

        (not me…those other a$$holes…)

      • Doug

        should just go with a hitter. less chance of absolute failure.

        • Mattingly’s Love Child

          Right now sounds like the track record has been pretty shitty. How about following a top Red Sox prospect and see if we can spread around some of the suck?

          • Tom Zig

            The Kelly Watch sounds good to me.

      • Mattingly’s Love Child

        I don’t need to watch the Fat Sanchezes poop the bed next year. Thanks!

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68http://riveraveblues.com/2009/09/assessing-brackmans-season-part-i-16790/#comment-579681 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          But they’re so jolly!

          • scooter

            If they grew thin moustaches, they’d be the Dirty Sanchezes

          • jsbrendog

            guys + being fat + poop + beds = no thanks

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68http://riveraveblues.com/2009/09/assessing-brackmans-season-part-i-16790/#comment-579681 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

              Agreed. That sounds like a night with pat, not an enjoyable RAB sidebar feature.

              • pat

                You sir, are not getting a Christmas card.

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68http://riveraveblues.com/2009/09/assessing-brackmans-season-part-i-16790/#comment-579681 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

              2 pitchers 1 cup

              • jsbrendog

                2 pitchers 1 cup bed

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