Name: Brendan McCurry
Height/Weight: 5’10’’, 165
How Acquired: Drafted in the 22nd round in 2014
No member of the Oakland A’s 2014 draft class did more to raise his profile within the organization during his pro debut than Brendan McCurry. A senior pick out of Oklahoma State, McCurry dominated in his first taste of pro ball, opening up the possibility that he could be on a fast-track to the big leagues.
McCurry’s background story is different than most college pitchers taken in the draft. Primarily an infielder at Howard Junior College, McCurry made the transition to pitching more full-time during his junior season at OSU. However, it wasn’t until his senior year with the Cowboys that McCurry was 100 percent focused on pitching.
Since moving to the mound in 2013, McCurry has found nothing but success. He had a 2.74 ERA and eight saves as a junior with OSU and then topped that in 2014 as a senior. In 47.1 innings, McCurry allowed just two runs (0.38 ERA). He struck-out 54 and walked just eight while saving 19 games. McCurry was a big part of the Cowboys’ run to the NCAA Super Regionals, their first trip that far into the NCAA post-season tournament in seven years.
McCurry turned pro soon after his college career ended, and he carried over the success he had with the Cowboys right into professional baseball. After a quick tune-up in the Arizona Rookie League, McCurry was assigned to Low-A Beloit. He was one of three A’s 2014 picks to spend the majority of their pro debuts in Low-A (top pick Matt Chapman and 11th-round pick Joel Seddon being the other two). Despite having no professional experience, McCurry churned through the full-season Midwest League with little trouble. In 26.1 innings, McCurry allowed just 12 hits, one run (which came on a solo homer) and three walks. He struck-out 34.
"The ability to create pitches from those different slots and at his age is remarkable." - A's bullpen coach Scott Emerson
The A’s traded reliever Nolan Sanburn to the Chicago White Sox right before the start of the California League playoffs. Oakland turned to McCurry to take Sanburn’s place on the High-A Stockton roster for the post-season. McCurry threw a scoreless regular season inning with the Ports on the season’s final day and quickly earned the trust of Stockton manager Ryan Christensen. Although the Ports’ run in the post-season was short, McCurry pitched well in his only appearance for Stockton. He threw 2.1 scoreless innings in a one-run game that Stockton would lose, 2-1. In that outing, McCurry struck-out three and made a spectacular defensive play on the mound to save a run.
McCurry was invited to the A’s Fall Instructional League after the regular season concluded. During Instructs, he did nothing to mar the strong first impression he made on the A’s. McCurry continued to smother the competition and earned the camp’s “Mr. Perfect” award for his dominating performance.
McCurry isn’t a prototypical late-inning reliever. His fastball didn’t break the 90 MPH mark all that often during the regular season, although he did sit more in the 90-92 MPH range during Instructs. However, he throws with two different arm slots and has a huge assortment of pitches to choose from, making it difficult for hitters to zero-in on any one offering. From his over-the-top release, McCurry throws a four-seam and a two-seam fastball, as well as a change-up, slider, split-fingered fastball and a curveball. From his sidearm slot, McCurry throws a two-seam fastball, a change-up and a slider.
Eventually the A’s may have McCurry concentrate on just one arm slot and just two secondary pitches, but, for now, he uses his ability to mix his deliveries and his pitches to keep opposing hitters completely off-balance.
“[T]his guy [McCurry], talk about the competitiveness and savvy and very confident in his abilities,” former A’s minor league pitching coordinator and current bullpen coach Scott Emerson said. “The ability to create pitches from those different slots and at his age is remarkable. More times than not, you are going to tell a guy, ‘okay, let’s pick one slot. Let’s stay in this slot and let’s try to master this slot.’ But he did so well in both slots, it was kind of like, ‘hey, let’s ride this out for awhile.’
“I don’t know what the plan would be at the end of the day for McCurry, but for now, I think it’s definitely let him mix up the two arm slots and create a lot of deception for the hitter.”
McCurry turned 23 earlier this month, so he was a little old for his level in 2014. However, there is a very good chance that he will start the 2015 season in High-A and realistically could see a significant amount of time in Double-A next year if he continues to dominate Single-A hitters. The A’s have always valued relievers who throw strikes and have some deception with their deliveries, even if those relievers don’t throw all that hard. McCurry fits that bill to a tee and is in the perfect organization for his abilities.