Andrew Brackman was a top talent in the 2007 Major League Baseball June Amateur Draft. Questions about his health and contract demands pushed him all the way to the end of the first round, where the Yankees happily selected him with the 30th overall pick.
The Yankees knew that he would need Tommy John Surgery, as did every other club. Brackman missed all of 2007 and 2008, and began the 2009 season as a top 100 prospect according to Baseball America.
He struggled in 2009, but what pitcher wouldn't? It was Brackman's first professional season, he hadn't pitched since his days at North Carolina State, and he was coming off of major surgery.
In 2010, he regained his top prospect status after tossing 60 innings at High-A Tampa with a 3.12 FIP and 80 2/3 innings at Double-A Trenton with a 3.32 FIP.
But what has gone wrong in 2011?
Brackman began this season as Baseball America's 78th best prospect, and he had gained the support of scouts. Even Frankie Piliere, who had been pessimistic about Brackman, was on his bandwagon:
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.
But in 2011, Brackman has fallen off a cliff and lost his spot in the Triple-A rotation. As a starter, Brackman was 2-5 with a 6.75 ERA and an awful 40:39 K/BB ratio.
A move to the bullpen was necessary, and the Yankees thought pitching him every other day would help him repeat his delivery and keep his mechanics in check. However, the results have been even worse.
Donnie Collins has more on the subject.
The Yankees moved him to the bullpen in hopes that he could build his confidence and get his mechanics in order by pitching more regularly. But in those six relief outings, his ERA is an unthinkable 15.63. He has allowed 11 runs in 6 1/3 innings. He has issued eight walks, and all of this is so much worse than it looks when you consider this:
In two outings against Columbus on June 16 and 18, he was practically untouchable. He pitched three innings in those games, didn’t allow a hit, walked just one and struck out five.
Take those away, and here are his numbers in his other four relief outings: 3 1/3 IP, 9 h, 11 R/ER, 7 BBs, and 2 K’s. That’s a 29.70 ERA and a 4.80 WHIP.
So what's the problem? No one has said anything about an injury concern, so for now it is safe to rule that out. But if there is no injury, where is the fastball that sat between 92-96 mph and touched 97 mph?
According to Collins, on June 21st, Brackman sat 90-91 mph and touched 92. In a game in early June, Collins spoke to a scout that said he sat between 88-89 mph with his fastball. On top of the velocity issues, Brackman has had trouble commanding his fastball, as evidenced by his 7.4 BB/9 in 2011.
Brackman will keep getting the ball in hopes that he finally figures it out and rebuilds his confidence. Maybe the fastball velocity will return in the process.
But how long will he keep getting the ball? The Yankees have a responsibility to develop Brackman, and with the ups will come downs. However, as Collins notes, the Yankees have other players to develop, too.
The question needs to be asked. When is enough, enough?