The Oakland A's as an organization has always valued pitchers over throwers. The A's have had a history of developing major league pitchers who are known more for their command and ability to change speeds than their pure stuff or velocity.
Stockton Ports' left-hander Jake Brown is definitely a pitcher, and not a thrower. The Georgia Southern alum's fastball rarely breaks 89 MPH, but he has a deep arsenal of secondary pitches and impeccable command.
Brown was drafted in the 26th round of the 2010 draft by the A's. In 2011, he began the year with Low-A Burlington. Early in that season, he and A.J. Griffin – another pitcher in the A's system known more for his command than his stuff – were the co-aces of the Bees' rotation. Brown had a 1.62 ERA in 50 innings for the Bees before earning an early season promotion to High-A Stockton along with Griffin.
Since that time, Brown's development path has stalled with the Ports. He spent the rest of the 2011 season and all of the 2012 campaign with the Ports, and he is back with Stockton again this season. With the Ports, Brown has struck-out 180 while walking only 50 in 277.2 innings. However, his ERA is 5.02. This year, the A's have moved Brown from the rotation to the bullpen, and he is starting to see improved results.
In 14 relief appearances for the Ports this season, Brown has a 3.06 ERA and a 28:5 K:BB ratio in 32.1 innings. In three starts this year, his ERA is 5.54 (13 innings).
Brown was a reliever in his first pro season in 2010 and he says that he is fine with the switch from the rotation to the bullpen.
"[Role] doesn't matter to me," Brown said. "Whatever gets me to the big leagues, really. That's the overall goal. Whatever they see me as, I just want the opportunity to be able to throw the baseball and help whatever team I am on win."
Brown is a defensive player's dream, as he works quickly and pounds the strike-zone. In 357.1 career innings, Brown has walked just 61 batters (a 1.5 BB/9). At the start of this year, Brown threw 30.1 innings before he walked his first batter, a walk that came on four pitches.
"I told myself even during spring training that I wasn't going to walk anybody all year," Brown said. "I made that goal and I kept it in mind and strived towards by continuing to pound the ‘zone with strikes on every pitch."
Brown throws a four-seam fastball, curveball and slider, but his best pitch is his change-up, which he can thrown both to left-handers and right-handers. He often throws the pitch early in the count.
"Change-up [is the go-to pitch]. It's always low in the ‘zone and I can spot the corners with it," Brown said. "If I am behind in the count, I can throw it for a strike to get the count even or get ahead of the count. It's usually a strike-out pitch for me too. It's been a really great pitch for me."
Brown's style and throwing motion reminded former A's minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson of current Toronto Blue Jays left-hander Mark Buehrle. According to Brown, that is no accident.
"He's my favorite pitcher," Brown said of Buehrle. "He's awesome. I love watching him pitch whenever he's on TV."
Brown can't control his progress through the A's system, so he is working hard on improving with the Ports with the hope that he will catch the eye of the A's development staff and get an opportunity at the Double-A level.
"The focus this season is just to put up good numbers, like it is every year," Brown said. "Every outing, go out there and be consistent. Basically prove them wrong upstairs.
"Basically come out here every night and help the team win. The defense has been great and the hitters have been great. The overall goal is to win."