Prospect Profile: Dallas Braden

It isn't often that 24th round draft picks get noticed. It's even more rare when they get noticed during their first professional season. But it isn't often that a left-handed pitcher throws a screwball. However, Dallas Braden isn't your everyday prospect.

Dallas Braden, 6'0'', 175.

Year

Team

Lg

Age

W/L

ERA

IP

H

R

ER

BB

K

HR

H/9

BB/9

K/9

2004

VAN

NW

21

2-0

2.76

16.0

15

7

5

3

26

1

8.3

1.7

14.3

2004

KANCTY

MID

21

2-1

4.70

23

22

13

12

6

33

2

8.6

2.4

12.99


Oakland A's prospect Dallas Braden is, in some ways, a typical "Moneyball" player. He is the kind of pitcher traditional scouts scoff at. Braden is relatively small at six feet and 175 pounds. He doesn't throw hard and rarely overpowers hitters. And yet he averaged close to a strikeout an inning at Texas Tech due, in large part, to an unusual out pitch: a screwball. In the grand tradition of Billy Beane draft choices, Braden follows the path of players like Jeremy Brown and Brant Colamarino whom the A's chose not because they possessed all of the traditional baseball "tools" but because they used the skills they had to contribute something unusual to the team.

After signing with the A's, Braden began his first professional season in short-season Vancouver, surrounded by players drafted significantly higher then he was. Yet despite being on the same staff as high draft choices like Michael Rogers, Braden was arguably the best pitcher for the Canadians in 2004. Pitching out of the bullpen, Braden threw 16 innings, allowing only 15 hits and three walks for a 1.10 WHIP. Braden struck out 26 batters for a 14.3 K:9 ratio.

After that outstanding start, the A's promoted Braden to low-A Kane County. Once he arrived in the Cougars' clubhouse, he was switched out of the bullpen and put into the starting rotation. Against more experienced competition, Braden struggled a bit more then he did in Vancouver to keep runs off the board. However, he continued to rack up the strikeouts at an outstanding rate, whiffing 33 batters in only 23 innings. Braden continued to display pinpoint control, as well, walking only six batters over that stretch. In his final game of the season – a Western Division playoff game for the Cougars – Braden struck out 15 hitters over a seven inning span. In total, Braden struck out 56 batters and walked only nine in 39 regular season innings pitched.

So how does a pitcher with average velocity blow away so many professional hitters? The secret is in that screwball. Some have described it as a beach ball that deflates right as it reaches the plate. Others have likened the pitch to a slow, sinking change-up. The screwball is especially useful against right-handed hitters, as it moves away from them at the last moment. In a lot of ways, Braden is the mirror image of former Oakland right-handed reliever Jim Mecir, who used his screwball to get left-handed hitters out with the same efficiency as a left-handed specialist.

So what does the future hold for Braden? Probably a lot of time in the bullpen. Although he was a starter in college and a starter at Kane County, he will likely be more effective long-term as a reliever. His screwball is his only true out-pitch at this point, and without a dominating fastball, he will likely be more effective the first time through the batting order.

However, as the A's are short on left-handed starting pitching prospects, they may choose to leave Braden in the starting rotation for the next season or two in order for them to see if he can develop that second out-pitch to go along with his screwball. Either way, Braden is one of the A's brighter left-handed pitching prospects, and he will be watched closely over the next two years.


Oakland Clubhouse Top Stories