Photo by Kimberly Contreras

Oakland A's 2017 top-50 prospect scouting report: Sam Bragg, RHP

Our Oakland A's 2017 top-50 prospects list is out. Now find out more about the players on that list. In this piece, a close look at top-50 prospect Sam Bragg. Bragg put aside a slow start to finish strong in 2016. Can he make the leap to the bigs in 2017?

Name: Sam Bragg
Position: RHP
Height/Weight: 6’2’’, 190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Age: 23
How Acquired: Drafted in the 18th round of the 2013 MLB Draft

An experiment gone awry got Sam Bragg’s 2016 season off to a bad start, but the right-hander recovered to finish the season pitching like one of the top relief prospects in the Oakland A’s system. After a strong stint in the Arizona Fall League, will Bragg push for a big league spot in 2017?

http://www.scout.com/mlb/athletics/story/470233-oakland-a-s-top-50-prosp... Despite good numbers and promising stuff, Bragg has flown mostly under-the-radar during his professional career. A junior college pick out of Georgia Perimeter in 2013, Bragg has been young for his level throughout his career but has always held his own against the older competition. In his pro debut season, Bragg breezed through the A’s two short-season levels, allowing only four earned runs in 27 innings before throwing two scoreless innings for Low-A Beloit to end the year.

In 2014, Bragg began what has been a gradual climb through the A’s system. He spent the entire season in the Snappers’ bullpen, serving as a longman and occasional closer. He converted seven-of-nine save opportunities and posted a 3.23 ERA with a 68:26 in 75.1 innings. Bragg continued in a similar role in 2015 with the High-A Stockton Ports. In 74 innings, he had a 3.65 ERA and 23 walks. His strike-out rate went way up, however, as he K’d 92 Cal League batters.

Bragg’s K:BB ratio with the Ports piqued the interest of A’s minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson, who returned to the A’s from the New York Yankees in-between the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Patterson felt that with Bragg’s ability to miss bats and throw strikes, the right-hander had a chance to be developed as a starter. As a result, Bragg began the 2016 season as part of a tandem starting rotation with the Double-A Midland RockHounds.

Sam Bragg Stats

Year Team IP ERA H HR BB K WHIP
2016 Midland 65 4.29 60 9 19 68 1.22
2016 Mesa (AFL) 13.2 1.98 11 1 1 12 0.88
Career 243.1 3.40 208 23 79 265 1.18

Bragg was paired in the tandem rotation with Joel Seddon, and both halves of the pairing struggled badly in April. Bragg’s struggles were even greater than Seddon’s, and the experiment ended at the end of April when Bragg landed on the disabled list. He didn’t appear in a game from April 25 until May 19. Bragg’s April line was ugly: four appearances, 15.12 ERA in 8.1 innings. He allowed 11 hits, six walks and 14 earned runs during that stretch. Bragg also gave up five homeruns. When he returned in May, he came back in his more familiar role as a full-time reliever.

Once he was back in the bullpen, Bragg picked up where he had left off with Stockton in 2015. He threw 56.2 innings from May 19 on and posted a 2.70 ERA with a 60:13 K:BB. He allowed only four homeruns and 49 hits. Bragg’s overall numbers never fully recovered from his poor April, but he still finished with a 4.29 ERA and a 68:19 K:BB in 65 innings for the RockHounds.

Patterson says that moving Bragg into the rotation at the start of the season was a mistake.

“I still thought it was a good idea to try that with someone who had the high strike-outs and low walks, but it just seemed like he was more comfortable in that relief role,” Patterson said. “I don’t think having him start those games did anything to make him better. I think he was just better because he was more comfortable in that role.” 

Bragg got the opportunity to make up for the innings he lost to the disabled list and the rotation experiment with a stint in the Arizona Fall League this off-season. Like all of his A’s teammates on the Mesa Solar Sox's staff, Bragg excelled during the fall league, helping to bring home the AFL title. Bragg made eight appearances for the Solar Sox, allowing three runs on 11 hits and one walk in 13.2 innings. He struck-out 12. Bragg was also part of the AFL’s “Rising Stars” game, which is an All-Star game, of sorts, that highlights top prospects and performers during the AFL season.

Sam Bragg Scouting Video

 

Bragg has good arm speed and uses a three-quarters delivery that hides the ball well, especially to right-handed batters. His fastball is firm and sits 92-94, touching 95. He can locate the fastball well to both sides of the plate and isn’t afraid to bust righties inside with it. His curveball is his best pitch. It is a swing-and-miss offering that sits in the low 80s and has big bend and break to it. Bragg’s change-up wasn’t used much coming into this year, but he focused on the pitch during his stint as a starter and he continued to use it when he moved back into the bullpen. It’s more of a change-of-pace pitch right now, but it could become an effective weapon for Bragg as he continues to work it into his regular repertoire. 

Bragg is a strike-thrower who aggressively goes after hitters and has proven to be durable. He has the swing-and-miss stuff to be used in late-innings, but he has also been effective working multiple innings in the middle of a game. Bragg has traditionally been slightly more of a flyball pitcher than a groundball pitcher, and he can occasionally be burned by the homerun ball. However, he doesn’t give up a lot of hits or walks, so those homeruns are often of the solo variety. Bragg throws a little harder and doesn't throw quite as many strikes, but he is similar in a lot of ways to former A's reliever Evan Scribner. He could fill a similar set-up role in the big leagues to the one Scribner had during his final season with the A's.

Bragg is eligible for the Rule 5 draft later this week. Given his success in the Fall League and his experience in Double-A, he could be a target for a team looking for some relief help this year. If Bragg does remain in the organization, he will be competing for a spot in Triple-A this spring. Even if he does start the year in Double-A, Bragg could enter the big league conversation by late summer if he pitches like he did from May on in 2016.


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