It is the story of every single year in baseball. Names pop out of nowhere to provide significant impact, and storylines are written. As always it is important to preface all of this with every known warning about small samples we all know too well, but after a couple of starts, Jhony Brito has caught my interest, and he should have yours too.
The rookie right-hander wasn’t his sharpest self in tonight’s outing, struggling with control in the first inning, which saw him give up hits to the first two batters, and run up a 3-0 count to Anthony Santander. Luckily, Brito fought back in the count and battled with Santander before getting him and the following two hitters to end the threat.
The book on Brito is that everything revolves around the changeup, a pitch he used 34 and 37 percent of the time in each of his two starts. Throughout his career in the minors, Brito wasn’t much of a strikeout arm, instead relying on his command to flourish in the 2022 campaign, enough that he earned a spot on the 40-man roster. With that in mind, the six strikeouts over five frames were probably the high-end of what he can accomplish when everything clicks in a particular start, as the changeup generated 11 whiffs on 22 swings.
Don’t get me wrong, the pitch is filthy, and it gives him a very solid foundation, in particular against left-handed batters, but the early success of Brito in the big leagues is in his ability to generate soft contact. So far, in 10 innings of work, Brito has allowed seven hard-hit balls, with three against the Giants and four in his start at Baltimore last night.
As we said at the top, it is a very small sample size, but anyone who can do a good job of mitigating hard contact in the big leagues has a good foundation to succeed regardless of anything else.
Ideally, the Yankees will have Luis Severino and Carlos Rodón both back on the staff before the end of the first half, but in the meantime, the Yankees do have some wiggle room to give Brito an opportunity to establish himself as a starter for this club. Despite their early woes, one would figure that both Clarke Schmidt and Domingo Germán remain ahead of him in the pecking order, but if Brito keeps this up, there is really no reason why the Yankees couldn’t turn the fifth rotation spot to him, and potentially use Germán as a swingman.
This might be a little premature, but we’ve seen what Germán is and what he isn’t at this point. Brito’s changeup, fastball combo, with a curve he’s shown he is able to get over for strikes (seven called strikes on the curve on Saturday, in 14 pitches) shows major promise, so why not give him a shot. Brito has answered the belt both times he was called upon, and with neither Severino nor Rodon expected back in the very near future, he’ll probably receive a few more opportunities to show he can at least fight for starts.