When Andrew Brackman was picked by the New York Yankees with the 30th pick in the first round of the 2007 draft, Yankees GM Brian Cashman knew that Brackman would need immediate Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
Yet Cashman believed so much in Brackman’s ability he still gave the pitcher a $4.5 million signing bonus and a coveted spot on the 40-man roster. All that, knowing Brackman would not pitch for a Yankees-affiliated team until the 2009 season.
With only 75 percent of former major league pitchers who get TJS able to come back to the major leagues, giving Brackman those two huge bonuses was a big gamble.
The gamble became even bigger when Brackman started off very slowly in the Low A South Atlantic League with the Charleston RiverDogs. Over his first 19 games (all starts) Brackman was 1-11, 6.72 ERA, 1.78 WHIP, allowing 64 walks over 86 innings pitched. His batting average against (BAA) was .277. He also contributed 22 wild pitches!
Three Charleston players actually fell asleep in the field during one of Brackman’s appearances.
His control issues are not a recent phenomenon, as he was very wild during his college days at North Carolina State and during his first pro experience in the 2008 Hawaiian Winter League.
But are those control issues now a thing of the past? Has Brackman found his calling within the Yankee system?
After those 19 starts, Brackman was sent to the pen, as the Yankees could not afford to have Brackman implode every five days, and they also wanted to limit his innings during his first full season back form TJS.
It usually takes a pitcher a full year to begin pitching competitively again, but about another season to get back to the level he was before the surgery. This includes getting the mechanics worked out and the head on straight.
Brackman’s last start was vintage Andrew. It was a 2+ inning disaster—6 hits, 7 ERs, 5 walks and two wild pitches. On a positive note, only one RiverDog outfielder fell asleep during that appearance*.
*If a pitcher really wants to jack up his ERA, then he should walk hitters, go deep into the count on others and take their sweet time on the mound between pitches. That forces their fielders to play on their heels and not get motivated for each pitch. When fielders get lazy, more balls put into play find holes and extra hits and runs are generated.
To be effective, a pitcher needs to throw strikes, work quickly and keep his fielders in the game.
But since coming in from the pen, a new Brackman has emerged. His last nine appearances (all in relief) have the 23 year old Brackman throwing strikes more consistently, and continuing to improve himself in each group of appearances over this five week stretch.
Brackman’s relief outings have revealed a line of:
1-1, 3.00 ERA, 18 IP, 14 H, 6 ER, 0 HR’s, 12 BB, 21 K’s, 1.44 WHIP and .206 BAA.
Even better are Brackman’s last seven appearances:
1-1, 2.40 ERA, 15 IP, 11 H, 4 ER, 0 HR’s, 10 BB, 15 K’s, 1.40 WHIP and .204 BAA.
But his last three appearances should make Yankee fans excited:
1-0, 0.00 ERA, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K’s, 0.428 WHIP and .125 BAA.
Yes, that is ZERO walks for Andrew Brackman over his last seven innings, and no wild pitches in his last five games!
The Yankees are doing an interesting thing with Brackman coming out of the pen, as they are bringing him in a game every five days. They are staying on a regular starting rotation scenario and letting him go at least two innings every appearance, with his last appearance, on September 2, covering three innings.
Looks like the Joba Rules are in effect for Brackman, too!
I was not a big fan of the Cashman pick two years ago in the draft, and would have opted for Rutgers IF/OF Todd Frazier, a local Jersey kid. In that 2007 draft, the Yankees were eagerly awaiting the continued falling in the draft of Rick Porcello, but the Detroit Tigers selected the New Jersey High School product at No. 27, three spots ahead of where the Yankees took Brackman.
I have also advocated leaving Brackman off the 40-man roster this winter, hoping that no team will select the hard-throwing right handed pitcher who has major control issues. But if those control issues continue to lessen, Brackman would be a big part of the 40-man roster, and maybe the 25-man roster within a year or two.
You know how quickly the Yankees like to move durable relievers up the ranks.