What is the best way to handle Brackman this season?

[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.

E.J. Fagan been blogging about Yankee baseball since 2006. He is a Ph.D. student at University of Texas at Austin.

8 thoughts on “What is the best way to handle Brackman this season?

  1. oldpep

    It’s possible the Yankees are waiting to see what happens through May and even June before making any trades involving the B’s or any of their other chips. (At least I hope so.)

  2. matcohen

    I think that 2011 is a transition year. Boston and Philly are going to be very good so I doubt that we can do much to have a strong chance at winning it all. Having said that, we should win the wildcard.

    The Yanks need to see how Montero performs in the bigs at some point and also see which of the 8 top pitching prospects (Brackman, Banuelos, Betances, Noesi, Nova, Phelps, Warren and Stoneburner) can be solid 1-2 starter contributors (if any). The only way to catch the Red Sox and Phillies (short of waiting for them to age) is to get lucky with a few pitchers. The Yanks have wasted their natural payroll advantage with overpays (ARod, Jeter, Posada, Burnett) and are competing on equal financial footing with the Sox who have more young, cheap talent at this point (Lester, Buchholz, Pedroia, Bard).

    Let’s hope that the Steinbrenners learn from this.

    • Dave

      Oh please. What a stupid way to look at things. Don’t overate the Red Sox or Phillies. The Sox are overpaying Crawford. He is a good player, but is being paid like a top ten guy. As he loses speed, his contract will become a huge burden. They will pay A-Gone what we will pay Tex. They are far from any juggernaut. And the Phillies have great pitching, but also have a lot of age in their lineup.

  3. As much as I like the idea of Brackman making the team out of spring training, I think it would be best to see how long another fifth starter, probably Mitre, can last before turning to Brackman. Although Brackman obviously has a much higher upside than say someone like Mitre, it is very possible that the two would provide similar numbers at this time as a major league starter considering where each pitcher is in his career. In addition, I think it would look much to fall back onto Brackman if Mitre fails than it would to fall back onto Mitre if Brackman fails. Once Brackman is in the rotation, I don’t think it would be wise to pull him unless a disaster happens.

  4. Dave

    Occasionally throwing 100mph with bad mechanics is what ruined his arm in the first place. Brackman sat mostly 92-97 in college. He would unleash a few high 90’s fastballs a game that would get swung at by college hitters to give the appearence he was dominate. He was clocked at 100 mph only 4 times in college. Last year he was sitting 88-91 and had nothing on his breaking pitches. At the end of this year, his velocity came back. He was sitting 92-96 topping out at 97. He throws the ball just as hard as in college, but now with much better control and purpose. And with less chance of injury.

    So there is no concern about his velocity. In fact, it is his strong point now.

  5. China Joe

    There’s more to Brackman than just mph. Pretty much every scout raves about the sick movement on his fastball, and of course at his height he’s got a great downward plane to work with. What we saw last year when he lopped like 4 BB/9 off his 2009 is the difference good mechanics makes with these freakishly tall pitchers. If Brackman can stay solid with mechanics right out of the gate in 2011, they won’t be able to keep him out of the rotation. If his mechanics are even a little out of whack, everyone will know right away and he’ll be in AAA.

  6. matcohen

    Uh yeah – ignore the facts. Red Sox Project to a 100+ win team. Crawford is not an overpay. He is an underpay in the first few years and an overpay in the last few – it should balance out. The Phillies will be a juggernaut because of that staff.

    • Mattchu12

      Here are a couple facts to remember:

      1. The Red Sox replaced Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez with Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. Truth be told, they probably hurt themselves from 2010 simply because instead of having someone with potential like Ryan Kalish in their lineup, they will have Jarrod Saltalamacchia. It’s not like they went and added to the 2010 roster, they simply replaced two guys with two other guys. A-Gon is better than either Beltre or V-Mart, but I seriously doubt that Crawford will be better than either of them.

      2. The Yankees have essentially the same team they had in 2010 minus Andy Pettitte. They will have a better offense because Posada will be an improvement on Thames/Berkman and Montero/Martin will be an improvement both offensively and defensively (imagine that) over Posada/Cervelli.

      3. Just as we do with the bullpen every year, throwing a bunch of crap at the wall and seeing what sticks will work in the rotation. Not that the following guys are crap, just a saying. At least one of Brackman, Noesi, Nova, Phelps, Warren and Stoneburner will work in the rotation. AJ will be better than 2011 AJ, Hughes is set to improve, and CC will obviously be CC. It’s not like we can’t make a trade and Andy Pettitte has not said he will retire.

      The only ‘bridge’ in the 2011 Yankees’ plans is the one you seem keen on jumping off of.

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