The Yankees considered themselves fortunate when they drafted the 6’10″ right handed pitcher Andrew Brackman in the 1st round of the 2007 draft. He was expected to go much higher, but injury concerns caused him to call to the Yankees 30th overall.
He immediately had elbow surgery and didn’t pitch until 2009 in Low-A. That season he went 2-12 with an unimpressive 5.91 ERA. That showing caused many to lose interest in Brackman as a prospect, but even further away from Tommy John surgery he jumped back on people’s radar with a strong showing in High-A Tampa this season.
It was there that he took some velocity off his fastball and managed to keep his strikeout ratio the same while dropping his walks total significantly. Since then the Yankees promoted him to Double-A Trenton where he has been slightly more wild, but it’s likely he is still catching up to his quick progression. He has gone through quite a lot of change since the surgery.
Here are bits from the scouting report by former major league scout and current AOL FanHouse writer Frankie Piliere:
On his size: Brackman is downright enormous at 6-10. More important is that he clearly knows how to use that height. He gets on top of the ball well and uses his long reach to get outstanding extension. Brackman also looks to be in the most trim, athletic shape he’s been in since turning pro.
On his mechanics: What really stuck out to me with Brackman this time around was a certain comfort level with his mechanics. Last season, he was mechanical and stiff, looking unwilling to really let the ball go. On this night, his arm action looked fast and clean, and for the most part he was able to repeat his delivery very well. At times, however, his size does haunt him.
He has a long stride and at times his front side tends to drift. The stride then gets a little long, the arm lags behind and suddenly he’s up in the zone and pitching underneath his fastball and curveball. It seems to happen in an instant with Brackman. It’s a common problem for pitchers, but considering the length of his stride and where his front foot ends up on the mound, it can make it extra difficult for him to stay on top of the baseball when things go wrong.
On his fastball: It’s been a long road back from surgery for Brackman and it has taken his velocity a while to return to form. But now it is most certainly back. The big right-hander sat 92-96 mph with his fastball on Friday night, mostly settling in around 94. He peaked at 97 mph a handful of times. What impressed me more than the velocity, however, was the life and ease with which he generated it. This was clearly not the same tentative, stiff Andrew Brackman of 2009.
Brackman showed consistent, late two-seam life on his fastball and throughout the game was able to produce late, weak swings. It’s for this very reason that I’d like to see him pitch more aggressively with his fastball. The development of his secondary pitches and his trust in them is extremely encouraging, but located properly his fastball is good enough to dominate a lineup on any given night.
On his curveball: Thrown at 77-81 mph, Brackman’s curve is a true knee-buckler. On this night, he continually went at righty hitters with front-door hooks on the inner half and had a great deal of success. And, in general he showed a lot of confidence in this pitch. On one occasion, he threw one of his best hooks of the night on the 3-2 count and didn’t get the call. But it’s really the depth of the breaking ball that’s outstanding. From his height, he gets an enormous late drop on his curveball, and when he’s locating he can be close to unhittable.
On his changeup: Working at 85-88 mph, he appeared very comfortable throwing strikes with it on a consistent basis and may have thrown even more changeups than curveballs. The differential is not immense, but the spin matches his fastball well and it produced quite a few weak ground balls.
If he can feature the changeup the way he did on Friday night, this is where I also change my mind about Brackman’s future profile. He not only is showing a third pitch but looks very comfortable doing so. His changeup grades out a solid-average 5 on the 2-8 scouting scale, and couple that with his plus fastball and curve and you have a complete three-pitch pitcher.
Final thoughts: Over the past year I’ve been primarily negative on Brackman. He had yet to show me anything resembling the stuff he had in college and his command and mechanics were a mess to say the least. As of now, he still has a lot to learn about pitching, about how to read the bat, when to be more aggressive, among other things. Taken on its own you’d think he has a very long, difficult road ahead learning to be more consistent.
But given the progress I’ve seen from last year to spring training to now, I’d have to say that the righty has shown the ability to improve rapidly. He now shows solid command in the strike zone, a smooth and rather effortless over-the-top delivery, and the dynamic arsenal of a top-of-the-rotation starter. If given the time and patience to develop, he now has all the ingredients needed to make an elite big league starter. Again, there is much work to be done, but Brackman now is much more than just a guy you can dream on, and instead is a pitcher making outstanding progress.