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An autopsy of Jhony Brito’s clunker

Jhony Brito, like Daniel Powter, had a bad day.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at New York Yankees Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve all had bad days. Jhony Brito had one on Thursday. His bad start was preceded by two good ones, and honestly, if I had one bad day for every two good ones, I’d take it.

Let’s remember how deep we are into the system’s pitching depth. Brito was starter number eight or nine in a preseason list. Getting two out of three solid performances out of your replacement fifth starter making his major league debut is a best-case scenario. Brito stepped up big time and silenced doubts about his viability in his first two turns. This third one, well, let’s chalk it up to growing pains and dive in to his 34-pitch clunker to extract the good and bad.

At a granular level, Brito’s disastrous outing validates scouts’ tepid perception of him as a prospect; he’s ranked 30th in Baseball America’s rankings and 27th according to MLB Pipeline. In his 0.2 innings, he exemplified exactly what we already knew, that his lack of command of a third pitch dampens his projection into a long reliever at best.

Out of eight batters, five of them scorched a ball at over 95mph EV. Brito threw 12 changeups, 10 sinkers, six curveballs, and six four seamers, and the sequencing to each hitter echoed the flaws that kept him low on Yankees prospect lists. His chart for the day indicates a lot of pitches left middle-middle and a lot of non-competitive takes.

To the leadoff hitter, Edouard Julien, Brito started with a fastball way upstairs, then a dangerous changeup middle-middle and a low changeup to fall behind 2-1. Kyle Higashioka, trying to guide the rookie through, wanted a four seamer up in the zone and Brito left it too low. With 10th percentile spin on his heater and 26th percentile extension, that’s a bad miss. Hitters in general looked comfortable with his four seamer and sinker, the swings remarkably on time for 97mph. Julien tattooed the pitch at 104.4mph and played wall ball with the W.B. Mason sign.

Higgy called two sinkers and Brito landed both for a strike, albeit belt-high. After missing with a fastball he threw three belt-high changeups, the third of which Correa slapped for a base hit despite Anthony Volpe’s best efforts.

Brito’s changeup isn’t just his out pitch — it’s the glue that holds his arsenal together. Scouts have observed this clearly. Brito is just not a major league pitcher without his changeup working.

He then walked Byron Buxton to load the bases. I empathize with Higashioka in this situation — It’s clear by the time Buxton came up that he started to break out the kitchen sink, except ... there is no kitchen sink. Brito’s third pitch, the sinker, was consistently up in the zone. His fourth pitch, his curveball, was ineffective. He had no feel for his best pitch at this point, as his usually sharp changeup floated in the middle of the zone to the first three hitters.

On the bright side, the cleanup hitter Trevor Larnach swung through a dandy of a changeup for strike one. In his first two starts, Brito flashed a great changeup as well. This is why the outing deserves a silver lining — it’s an encouraging trend and further proof that he has a legitimate out pitch.

Brito then missed with a curveball and, on a crucial 2-2 pitch with the bases loaded, Higgy called for Brito’s best pitch. He left it up over the plate and Larnach whacked it 97.8mph for a loud sac fly.

José Miranda then split the gap at 98.6 mph on a belt-high sinker. It’s deceptively simple: Brito is a guy who needs to keep the ball down to succeed, and he failed to do that with both his changeup and sinker.

Next, facing Donovan Solano, Brito tried to get ahead with two curveballs. One missed and one hung. The third pitch, yet again a belt-high sinker, was lined into the right field corner at 96.8mph.

His two-pitch at-bat facing Nick Gordon was his best of the day. Gordon whiffed on a well-located curveball on the outside corner, then rolled over to Anthony Rizzo on the best sinker of the day running in on his hands.

Higashioka, sensing that Brito had feel for the curveball back, called two against Christian Vázquez and both missed. On 2-0, Brito offered yet another belt-high sinker that Vázquez drilled for a double.

Higgy tried a similar sequence to Michael A. Taylor, and Brito spotted a curveball on the outside corner for strike one. Then, the coup de grâce: a 104mph, 418 foot blast into Monument Park. Guess what pitch and location? (sinker, belt high).

Jhony Brito’s day mercifully came to a close after the two-run homer. The damage: six hits, seven earned runs, and a whole lot of hard contact.

Brito is fully capable of going back out there in five days and putting up five quality innings as he did his first two starts. Scouts’ worries came to fruition Thursday though, and Brito will need to pick himself up off the mat. If he can keep the ball down, he’s got a shot at major league success. One outing does not make a pitcher, and this is far from Brito’s last opportunity.