Prospect Profile: Brad Sullivan

When the Oakland A's selected right-handed starting pitcher Brad Sullivan in the first round of the June 2003 draft, they envisioned him at the front-end of their future rotations. However, after a disappointing first full professional season in 2004, Sullivan's star has waned a bit. Does the power righty still have what it takes to make an impact in a major league rotation?

Brad Sullivan, RHP, 6'1'', 190

Year

Team

Lg

Age

W/L

ERA

IP

H

R

ER

BB

K

HR

H/9

BB/9

K/9

2003

KANCTY

MID

22

1-1

3.18

11.0

9

4

4

7

9

1

7.2

5.6

7.2

2004

MOD

CAL

23

8-11

4.65

147

180

89

76

48

99

13

11.0

2.9

6.1



In college, Brad Sullivan was a gun-slinger in the Texas tradition of Roger Clemens and Kerry Wood. During his career at the University of Houston, the slender right-hander was consistently among the NCAA leaders in strikeouts. Sullivan averaged over 11 K:9 in his last two seasons for the Cougars. He was also named the Most Valuable Player of the USA vs. Japan Collegiate All-Star Series as a member of Team USA in 2002.

All of those achievements may have taken a physical toll on Sullivan, however. Sullivan was the staff ace for Houston and Team USA and, at times, was over-worked, as those teams tried to ride his arm to victory. When he signed with Oakland after being taken in the first round of the 2003 June Draft, A's General Manager Billy Beane expressed concern that the toll exacted on Sullivan's arm would affect his future professional performance.

Beane may have been prophetic. Oakland was cautious with Sullivan after he joined the organization in July 2003. Although he began his career against higher competition at low-A Kane County (as opposed to short-season-A Vancouver), Sullivan was limited to six relief appearances (11 innings) for the Cougars. He struggled with his control during that limited action, walking seven batters in those 11 innings. However, at the time, it appeared that those struggles were a result of end of the season weariness.

There were high hopes for Sullivan entering the 2004 season. He was assigned to high-A Modesto, where it was anticipated that he would regain the form he displayed in college. And while that form would appear in small doses for Sullivan, inconsistency marred his 2004 efforts. Sullivan began the season throwing his fastball four or five miles per hour slower than he had in college. In addition, Sullivan's bread and butter pitch – his slider – wasn't used much early in the year. Once he reintroduced it into his regular arsenal, Sullivan's slider was not as sharp as it had been in the past. Sullivan was also working with a new throwing motion much of the season. The results weren't pretty.

Sullivan struggled to miss hitter's bats and didn't strike out nearly as many batters as he had during his college career. He allowed 11 hits per nine innings and only struck out 6.1 per nine innings while walking nearly three batters a game. His fastball, slider and change-up were inconsistent. Some games, Sullivan would be throwing his fastball in the low-90s and his slider would have sharp bite to it; other games, his fastball would sit in the mid-80s and his slider would hang in the hitter's zone at 70. He also struggled with his command, falling behind hitters early, which contributed to that high WHIP.

There was some good news for Sullivan in 2004. His throwing motion became smoother and more consistent as the season went on. His velocity also improved by the end of the year. In addition, his change-up showed good promise.

So what does 2005 hold for Sullivan? It will begin in major league spring training camp, where he will get some time with A's pitching coach Curt Young to work on his new motion further. He will then likely head to AA-Midland to start the 2005 season. Although 2004 was very disappointing, at age 23, Sullivan still has time to rebound and show the stuff that made him such a coveted pitcher in college. 2005 will be a huge season for Sullivan. If he can't show consistency as a starter in 2005, he may be moved to the bullpen by 2006. If he can regain his form, Sullivan could quickly become the A's top right-handed starting pitching prospect.


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