[image title="brackman-in-st" size="full" id="24012" align="center" linkto="full" ]Andrew Brackman is a better pitcher than most people realize. That’s a bit odd, because Brackman has also mostly been a disappointment to fans since he was drafted. In his freshman and sophomore years in college, Brackman was a 100 mph fireballer. That and his size earned him routine comparisons to Randy Johnson, and it was probably deserved. He was likely to be considered for the 1st overall pick in the draft, and quickly move on to become a major league ace.
Of course, we all know that things worked out differently. He didn’t recover fully from his elbow injury (perhaps because he waited to be drafted and handled $4 million dollars before undergoing it), and had trouble adjusting to both a long layoff and reduced velocity. Nothing was really working for him a year ago. Now, he’s completed the Double-A level, has recovered to 93-95 mph, and has some of his mechanics better locked down.
In a perfect world, Brackman would be given at least one more year to pitch and settle down his mechanics. That’s not really something you can do in the major leagues. He would be allowed close to a full season at Triple-A, a 160+ inning workload, and be pressed into service when he would be most likely succeed. Unfortunately, two factors make this difficult. First, the Yankees have a need, and Brackman may present the best option right now for a MLB pitcher to help the Yankees win the AL East. And second, and more importantly, Brackman has only one option year left. For some unknown reason, the Yankees signed him to a major league deal at the draft, despite knowing that he would immediately undergo Tommy John surgery. This means that once Spring Training 2012 ends, he must either be on the MLB team (mostly likely in the rotation), put on waivers, or traded.
I think that the Yankees interest and Brackman’s development plan may align somewhat. Brackman, if he doesn’t make the team out of spring training, will begin 2011 at Triple-A. Around the middle of the season, assuming he is pitching well, the Yankees could call him up and make him a regular member of the rotation. He’ll be allowed to pitch 60-100 innings at the level, and then prepared for a permanent spot in 2012. The Yankees probably wouldn’t be ready to commit to Brackman’s rotation spot out of spring training unless their hand was forced, which it is. I think this is a good thing – if the Yankees are pressured by Brackman’s lack of options to commit to his 2012 rotation spot, then they’ll have to do the necessary call up in 2011 (especially if they need starters, which they probably will) to make that happen. If he’s pitching well enough to deserve that call up, this actually works out well both for the short term team interests and Brackman’s long term development.
Of course, this could all be moot if Brackman either makes the team out of spring training, or goes back to pitching poorly. Hell, if the Yankees look at Brackman in spring training and his mechanics are all clean, and he’s throwing 96 mph, and they don’t bring in another starter, they would wise to go straight with him. Pitching and physical abilities aren’t what the man lacks. Its just all mechanical. But I don’t think that’s likely – just like in 2009, Brackman may need some time to get going before everything’s working well. He needs less Triple-A experience than he simple needs experience.