Name: Brooks Brown
Draft: 34th overall, 2006
Position: Right Handed Pitcher
Weight: 205 lbs
History: Brown was a pretty unremarkable pitcher until his junior season, when he led the Georgia Bulldogs to the second highest win total in school history and an appearance in the College World Series. That was enough for the Diamondbacks to select him with the 34th overall pick in the June draft and offer him a signing bonus just under one million dollars.
Brown soon justified the Diamondbacks' enthusiasm, tearing through A-ball and handling Double-A reasonably well in his first full pro season. He then began the 2008 season at Double-A and continued to perform, carrying a 3.54 ERA through his first 20 starts. His final half-dozen starts produced a 6.40 ERA, however. That, combined with the struggles of his BayBears teammates, made his overall 2008 stat line look like it does not belong to a top prospect.
Statistics Courtesy of The Baseball Cube
In an effort to help regain confidence, Brown was assigned to the Arizona Fall League. There, he only enjoyed mixed success, as he went 2-0 with a 0.71 ERA over his best three fall starts, but 0-3 10.38 in the remaining four. He figures to begin 2009 in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, where his ability to induce groundballs will prove paramount.
Makeup: Brown is solidly built and uses good mechanics, answering the health and durability questions surrounding him after his miserable August. He does fall off to the first base side considerably after his release, which makes him more susceptible to a freak injury than the average pitcher.
Mentally, Brown has shown the ability to bounce back from poor stretches and keep hitters off-balance with only two quality pitches deep into games. There was an incident that rattled Brown in college in which he hit a batter in the face with a pitch. While he has certainly recovered from that incident, it shows that he is not impervious to psychological wear.
Pitches: Fastball, Slider, and Changeup
Brown's fastball usually sits in the 92-93 MPH range, but it was more like 89-91 throughout the 2008 season. It still has excellent sinking action, but when he left it up in the zone at that reduced velocity, it got hit hard. Actually, a disturbing trend can be seen in his ground-out-to-air-out ratio from Visalia '07, to Mobile '07, to Mobile '08: 1.75, 1.45, 1.28.
When he isn't inducing ground outs, he can still miss some bats with his excellent slider. That hard breaking pitch has good movement, both vertically and horizontally. The one knock on the pitch is Brown's inconsistent command of it.
When the fastball is at full blast and he can throw the slider for strikes, that is enough for Brown to be an effective starter. But even then, Brown can get hit hard the second and third time around in the order by good hitting teams because his changeup still isn't fully developed. He has made good progress on the pitch since his Georgia days, but that development seemed to hit a wall this year, and Southern League hitters weren't fooled by it.
Major League Clone: Ryan Dempster
Prediction: Many scouts believe that Brown's future is in the bullpen because he only has two major league quality pitches. It's easy to forget that he does not turn 24 until June and has just over two calendar years of professional instruction under his belt. Brown could yet develop a third pitch - perhaps a splitter, if the straight change doesn't work for him - and become the workhorse, middle-of-the-rotation starter that the club envisioned when they drafted him.
ETA: Difficult to say with the ups and downs he experienced last year. The Diamondbacks currently have four spots open on their 40-man roster, and Brown could find himself added to the fold before spring training. That would allow him to make a few spot appearances at the major league level last year the way Billy Buckner did in '08. The soonest Brown could become a mainstay in the majors is 2010, and it may take him until 2011 to become a really effective starter.
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