Oakland A's NRI Profile: Brock Huntzinger

The Oakland A's have signed several minor league free agents this off-season. In past years, a number of their minor league free agent signings have played a role for the big league team. Can recent signee Brock Huntzinger help the A's in 2015? We profile the big right-hander.

Name: Brock Huntzinger
Position: RHP
Height/Weight: 6’3’’, 200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Age: 26
Originally Drafted: BOS in 3rd round 2007


Overview

Coming out of high school in Indiana, Brock Huntzinger was a well-regarded prospect. As a senior in high school, he had an 0.29 ERA and a 95:7 K:BB. The big right-hander had a commitment to pitch at Indiana University, but he turned down that opportunity to sign with the Boston Red Sox for a reported $250,000 after being selected in the third round of the 2007 draft. Huntzinger made only three appearances in 2007 as a pro, allowing two earned runs in seven innings.

Huntzinger spent the first half of his first full professional season at extended spring training. He made his regular season debut in the New York-Penn League and pitched very well as a starter for Lowell. In eight starts, he had a 0.64 ERA. Huntzinger allowed just 25 hits and seven walks in 42 innings and he struck-out 32. That performance earned Huntzinger his first taste of full-season baseball.

Competing as a teenager in the Low-A Sally League, Huntzinger ran into his first challenge as a pro. He was hit around in six starts, allowing 21 earned runs and 12 homeruns in 26.2 innings. Huntzinger struck-out only 11 and walked six.

The next season, Huntzinger returned to the Sally League, and he showed marked improvements. In a career-high 125.1 innings, Huntzinger posted a 4.09 ERA. He allowed just seven homeruns and had a solid 102:32 K:BB.

In 2010, Huntzinger continued his steady rise through the Red Sox’s organization, moving up to High-A. He spent the entire season at that level. While his ERA was very similar to his 2009 number (4.14), some of his peripherals declined considerably. He struck-out just 69 in 134.2 innings and his homeruns allowed total doubled from seven to 14.

Despite the decline in strike-outs and the rise in homer totals, Huntzinger moved up to Double-A in 2011. The more advanced hitters at the Double-A level took advantage of the fact that Huntzinger was always around the strike-zone. He posted a solid 123:41 K:BB in 124 innings, but he allowed 159 hits, 23 homers and a 6.17 ERA. That off-season he pitched in the Arizona Fall League. Huntzinger did a good job throwing strikes in the AFL (22:3 K:BB in 26.2 innings), but he allowed 35 hits and 16 earned runs.

Huntzinger repeated at the Double-A level at the outset of the 2012 season, but after just a few starts, it was clear that Double-A hitters were having no trouble getting to Huntzinger, especially the second time through the line-up. He requested a move to the bullpen at that point and the Red Sox accommodated him. The change was a career-saver for Huntzinger. As a starter in Double-A that year, Huntzinger allowed 16 earned runs in 15.2 innings. As a reliever, he had a 2.44 ERA in 55.1 innings. His K:BB was 43:18. Batters hit just .181 against him and he allowed only four homeruns. Huntzinger got his first taste of Triple-A that season, making two appearances with Pawtucket. Huntzinger returned to the AFL that off-season – this time as a reliever – and he had a 1.93 ERA in 14 innings with a 12:6 K:BB.

The 2013 season was Huntzinger’s final year under his original minor league contract with the Red Sox. He split the season between Double-A and Triple-A and pitched well at both levels. Unfortunately for Huntzinger, with the Red Sox in the post-season hunt, he wasn’t given a September call-up. In 68.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, Huntzinger had a 1.83 ERA and a 62:28 K:BB. Batters hit only .208 against him and he allowed only three homeruns.

Huntzinger garnered plenty of interest on the minor league free agent market that off-season. The Baltimore Orioles came calling and gave Huntzinger a non-roster invitation to big league spring training. He was very impressive in three appearances in big league camp, but Huntzinger was sent to Triple-A to the start the year. He would spend the entire season with Triple-A Norfolk. In 81 innings, Huntzinger had a 3.00 ERA with a 76:25 K:BB. He signed with the A's this off-season and was given another invite to major league camp.


Scouting Report

Huntzinger is a three-pitch pitcher who doesn’t have overwhelming stuff, but he pitches aggressively and throws a lot of strikes. The right-hander’s fastball sits generally 90-93 and gets a little late movement, although it is mostly straight. He also has a slider that can be a strike-out pitch for him when he is throwing it well and a change-up that mixes in well with his other two pitches.

Throughout his career, Huntzinger has primarily been a flyball pitcher. He has occasionally been prone to giving up the longball, although he has been much better at keeping the ball in the park since becoming a reliever. Huntzinger is a good athlete who keeps his composure well on the mound and has proven to be durable throughout his career. Although he has plenty of experience as a starter, he profiles best as a reliever who can work multiple innings.


Outlook

Although Huntzinger has been a professional since 2007, he is still just 26 years old. He will turn 27 midway through the season. He has proven that he can get upper level hitters out the past three seasons but has yet to be given an opportunity at the major-league level.

The A’s have a decent amount of depth in their bullpen going into the 2015 spring training, but with Luke Gregerson leaving via free agency, there will be an open spot in the bullpen up for competition this spring – unless the A’s sign a veteran reliever. Huntzinger should get a chance to show what he can do during big league camp. If he pitches well, he should be on the radar for in-season opportunities with the A’s even if he doesn’t make the team out of camp.



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