Oakland A's Prospect Profile: Brad Peacock

In trading Gio Gonzalez to the Washington Nationals, the Oakland A's dealt a durable starting pitcher with excellent velocity and a swing-and-miss curveball. Did they get one back in return for Gonzalez?

Name: Brad Peacock
Birthdate: 02/02/88
Height/Weight: 6'1''/175 pounds
How Acquired: Traded along with Derek Norris, A.J. Cole and Tom Milone for Gio Gonzalez and Robert Gilliam on December 22, 2011. Originally drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 41st round in 2006.


Background

Peacock's rise to top prospect and 2011 September call-up has hardly been conventional. The Florida native didn't even take up pitching full time until after he was selected in the 41st round of the 2006 draft by the Washington Nationals. A third baseman in high school, Peacock occasionally served as his team's closer, but amassed less than 15 innings as a pitcher during his high school career. He did get some on-the-mound experience during a summer league, but he was essentially a pitching novice when he enrolled in Palm Beach Community College for the 2007 season.

Part of the last "draft-and-follow" class (baseball's signing deadline for players drafted the previous year used to be just before the next year's draft, allowing teams to select players who would attend junior college for the following year before deciding whether or not to sign), Peacock pitched well enough during his one year of community college for the Nationals to buy him out of a commitment to Florida Atlantic University. He would make his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League in 2007. In 39.1 innings, Peacock posted a 3.89 ERA with a 34:15 K:BB ratio.

The next season the Nationals pushed Peacock to full-season baseball with Low-A Hagerstown. The right-hander proved not quite ready for that level. In eight starts, he had a 9.09 ERA and his command was all over the place. He walked 21 and allowed eight homeruns in 33.2 innings. At the start of short-season, Peacock was sent to Vermont, where he fared much better. Against New York-Penn League hitters, he had a 3.12 ERA with a 54:27 K:BB ratio and only three homeruns allowed in 75 innings.

Given another shot with Hagerstown in 2009, Peacock showed some improvement with his command. He made 17 starts and two relief appearances for the Suns and in 100 innings, he posted a 4.05 ERA and a 77:32 K:BB ratio with 10 homeruns allowed. He spent the final month of the season with High-A Potomac and had a 4.34 ERA with a 27:10 K:BB ratio in 47.2 innings with the P-Nats.

The 2010 season was another campaign of gradual progression for Peacock. He began the season with Potomac, and while his ERA was actually higher than in 2009, the improvements he made with his location were noticeable. In 103.1 innings for the P-Nats, Peacock had a 4.44 ERA, but he struck-out 118 and walked only 25. The Nationals rewarded that performance by giving him a promotion to Double-A for the final month of the season. In seven starts with Harrisburg, Peacock continued to post solid strike-out numbers (30 in 38.2 innings), but his command regressed (22 walks). He would pitch out of the bullpen during the 2010 Arizona Fall League and opened some eyes by hitting 96 MPH on the radar gun. His strong 2010 regular season and AFL performance led some scouts to predict a breakout season for Peacock going into the 2011 campaign.

Although much was expected of Peacock in 2011, no one could have predicted just how well he would pitch last season. Beginning the year with Harrisburg, Peacock dominated the Eastern League. In 16 appearances (14 starts), the right-hander posted a 2.01 ERA and a 123:29 K:BB ratio in 98.2 innings. He allowed only four homeruns and kept opposing batters to a .179 average. He would earn numerous accolades for his Double-A performance, including MLB.com's Double-A Starting Pitcher of the Year, a Topps Double-A All-Star nod and the Eastern League's Pitcher of the Year award. Peacock was also the Nationals' MLB Futures Game representative.

Peacock's season didn't end at Double-A, however. He spent the final six weeks of the minor league season with Triple-A Syracuse. Although Peacock's command wasn't quite as good with the Chiefs as it had been at the Double-A level, he still held his own during his first tour of Triple-A. In nine starts, Peacock posted a 3.19 ERA with 48 strike-outs and 24 walks. He flirted with a no-hitter in one game and held opposing batters to a .205 average.

In September, Peacock completed his journey from 41st-round draft-and-follow flier pick to major league pitcher. He appeared in three games with Washington, a relief appearance and two starts. In 12 innings, he allowed only one run on seven hits with four strike-outs. He did show signs of nerves, however, walking six.

Before being traded to the A's in December, Peacock was considered a strong contender for a spot in the 2012 Washington rotation.


Scouting Report

Although they share initials, a first name and the ability to throw hard, no one will ever confuse Peacock with Brad Penny. While not quite a "diminutive righty" in the Tim Hudson-sense, Peacock is relatively small for a right-handed pitching prospect. He is a 6'1'', 180-pounder with a solid lower-half that allows him to get power on his pitches despite not being 6'3''.

Peacock's fastball generally sits in the 92-94 MPH range, although as a reliever he has been clocked in the higher-90s. He has a sharp knuckle-curveball that is his second-best pitch and a developing change-up. In the A's system, Peacock will likely spend a significant amount of time working to refine that change-up.

Because Peacock was mostly an infielder in high school, his learning curve for pitching mechanics was a little longer than most pitchers. He has gained more consistency with his throwing motion, but he can lose his release point on occasion, especially on his secondary pitches. Peacock's fastball command was excellent in 2011.

Durability has never been an issue for Peacock as a professional, as he has thrown at least 140 innings in each of the past three seasons. Because his change-up rates behind his fastball and curveball, some scouts view Peacock more as a future closer or set-up man than a starter, but others believe that the change-up will come around and will give him enough of an arsenal to succeed as a number two or three starter in the big leagues.


Outlook

Although the A's have traded away two of their top starters this off-season (Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill) and are expecting ace Brett Anderson to miss much of the season, it isn't a foregone conclusion that Peacock will slot into the A's 2012 Opening Day starting rotation.

Even with Gonzalez and Cahill gone and Anderson out with injury, the A's still have Brandon McCarthy, Dallas Braden, Guillermo Moscoso, Josh Outman, Graham Godfrey and Tyson Ross returning from last year's rotation. The A's have also signed major league veteran Edgar Gonzalez to a minor league deal and acquired major league ready starting pitching prospects Tom Milone and Jarrod Parker in the Cahill and Gonzalez deals. A's 2011 top pick Sonny Gray is also an outside candidate for a rotation spot .

The A's view Peacock as a piece of their rotations of the future, however, so if he comes into spring training and blows away the competition, he will likely win a spot out of camp. The key for Peacock this spring will be whether he can throw strikes consistently and if his change-up is effective. Even if he starts the year with Triple-A Sacramento, Peacock figures to see significant time at the major league level at some point during the 2012 season.


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