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Arizona Fall League Pitch F/X

The Arizona Fall League has given us an opportunity to get an extended look at three of the most interesting pitching prospects in the Brewer system. I'm just generalizing about their stuff here and not making any specific conclusions about their velocity based on one outing. I just wanted to give everyone a general idea of what these guys are throwing when we discuss them this offseason. 

Zach Braddock

He's a lefty who has had a lot of injury trouble in his career so far but is loaded with potential. He threw 42 innings in the minor league season, working on a schedule by throwing short outings every third day. 13.7 K/ 1.5 BB per 9 in the regular season. With that kind of ratio it's not hard to see why he's an exciting prospect. 64 strikeouts, 7 walks. In the AFL he's thrown 10 2/3 innings with 7 Ks, 4 BBs, and 1 run allowed.

I'll look at his outing on November 6th, in which he got a save, throwing a clean inning with 1 strikeout. It took 10 pitches-- 9 fastballs and a slider. His fastball average was 93.7 with a maximum of 94.6. That's impressive velocity and consistency for a guy with this kind of command of the strike zone. He also showed very good consistency in his release point for the fastball, and only dipped down a little bit on the slider. The slider was 83 and had some pretty good break of 4.5 inches towards a righty hitter. As far as I know, he also throws a changeup-- but probably hasn't needed to use it working in relief. Throwing 94 with good command is plenty for him right now. 

The Brewers will face a bit of a dilemma next year as they decide what to do with Braddock. He's probably ready to pitch in the MLB right now as a reliever, but sticking him in that role will limit his upside. If Braddock could stretch out and solidify his role as a starting pitcher down the road, we could be looking at a remarkably valuable player. There are only about 5 left-handed starters in the majors that are capable of averaging 92-93+ with the fastball, and Manny Parra is one of them. I know many people are down on Parra, but remember that Parra once was an injury-plagued lefty but had good stuff and control. He didn't make it to the majors until age 25. As exciting as it would be to have Braddock in the 2010 bullpen, the Brewers should weigh the benefits against what they could have down the road if they are patient. 

Mark Rogers

We all know the story here. He's even more of an underdog than Braddock considering he didn't even throw a pitch in a minor league game in 2007 or 2008 following 75 innings back in 2006. No one really expected anything from Rogers at this point, but the velocity is still there. In 63 innings at High-A Brevard County, he put up a K/BB ratio of 8.7: 4.7. He has really struggled in the AFL, but we can still learn plenty about his stuff. 

Rogers was roughed up in 27 pitches on November 13th, but it's the best sample of his stuff available. His average fastball was 93.6, and he hit 95.4. Rogers is continuing to work on a starter's repitoire, throwing 4 changeups, 8 sliders, and a curve along with 14 fastballs. The change averaged 84.2, a very nice complement to the fastball-- the approximate 9 mile per hour gap is close to ideal. The slider is also hard, at about 84, and seems to have tight break on it. The curve he threw came in at 78-- which qualifies as a pretty hard curve.

The stuff he has shown indicates that with health and time he easily has the upside of a high-quality major league starter. It's going to be a while, but he'll probably start next year with a cautious schedule in AA and the Brewers will have to see how things go from there.

Josh Butler

He was one of the fastest risers in the Brewers system this year, starting as a pitcher too old for high A. He had an interesting progression-- I was very skeptical of his promotion to AA because his A+ peripherals did not support his low ERA. But after being promoted to AA and then AAA, he was an entirely different pitcher: he had a K:BB ratio of about 5: 4 in high A and improved that to about 7: 2 in AA and AAA.

Butler described his stuff like this on his blog:

I am a power sink pitcher that works in the 88-92 mph range with my fastball for the most part. I also throw a curve, slider and change-up.

Looking at Butler's outing on October 22nd, when he faced Stephen Strasburg, it appears he undersold his fastball velocity a bit. 34 fastballs averaged 91.1 mph and he topped out at 93.4. And there's quite a lot of break on that fastball, 11 inches towards a righty on average is good stuff. He also seems to rely heavily on the curve and changeup, throwing 15 and 13 respectively to go with 3 sliders. The changes averaged 83.6, which is a little hard, and the curves were also power versions of that pitch, coming in around 79. The slider is pretty typical, about 84 without a whole lot of break.

Butler will probably get a decent look at a bullpen spot come spring but I think the Brewers will decide to start him at AAA to develop him as a starter. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him up as a replacement at some point in 2010, especially if he can post some solid numbers there. I'll be intersted to see if he keeps up the peripheral success he started to achieve at AA and AAA last season.