Scouting Mets Prospect #10: Brant Rustich

The New York Mets selected right-hander Brant Rustich in the second round of the 2007 draft. Rustich, viewed as a possible fast riser in the organization, was hampered by disappointing setbacks throughout the 2008 season, but could move quickly once his kicks the injury bug and logs consistent time on the mound.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Brant Rustich
DOB: January 23, 1985
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 230
Throws: Right
Bats: Right
Status: 2nd Round Pick (2007) – UCLA

The Mets had high expectations for 6-foot-6 flame-throwing right-hander Brant Rustich when he reported last spring. After a strong rookie season in Brooklyn and performance in the 2007 Hawaiian Winter League, Rustich—who owns a powerful fastball and some of the nastiest secondary pitches on the farm—figured to quickly ascend in his second season.

But that was not in the cards as a triceps injury—later to be re-diagnosed after the season as a stress fracture in his humerus bone—delayed the start to his season when it was projected he would begin in St. Lucie. However, when he returned to action in mid-May, he was assigned to Low-A Savannah. It was a move meant to test Rustich, but he responded the only way he knew how, by pitching.

"There are guys who always hurt in baseball and it's something everyone goes through, but I had to just pitch wherever I went and make the most out of it," he said. "I just know that I've had some really good outings and pitched well considering the injuries, so I know when I'm healed I'll get to where I want to be."

He certainly showed flashes of where he will be when healthy, especially in the second half of his summer. After starting the season with a 1-2 record and 5.40 ERA in his first 11 outings—all in relief—Rustich went 2-2 with a 2.86 ERA with 35 strikeouts against eight walks over eight starts. Fine numbers considering every time he took the ball he did so with a broken bone and was relegated to throwing two pitches.

"I definitely think I started pitching a lot better. I wasn't always feeling my best or had my best stuff, but in my last starts before I got shut down, I was probably pitching the best of my life," he said.

"The last outings before I went out, I threw nothing but fastballs and changeups and not one slider because my arm was bugging me that bad. I went five innings and gave up one hit. That was the best my changeup has ever been and I think that outing was a glimpse of what I'm capable of doing."

Mets pitching coordinator Rick Waits also knows what his right-hander is capable of. Rustich is armed with a mid-90s fastball, a devastating slider, a plus changeup, and Waits feels only health is keeping him back.

"Sometimes when you have a setback with you arm, especially in Spring Training like he did, you try to make up for lost time," said Waits. "He didn't get a lot of innings, but he's got the stuff and it's a matter of getting healthy and staying in shape. He just needs to have a good year no matter the level."

"Here's a guy who for sure had two major league pitches right out of college. He knows how to pitch, but it's a matter of getting innings under his belt to get him up to pro ball," he added.

Now all of his energy points to the future. Concerns about his health will remain, but for Rustich there will be nothing else to keep him down.

"The best thing right now is that I feel great. I'm ready to go out there and do all the good things I've been doing and take it to the next level. My arm not feeling well really held me back, but I hope to come back and be stronger than I've ever been."

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

Hits

BB

K

ERA

2008

Savannah

3-4

0

49.2

42

16

48

3.62

2007

Brooklyn

2-0

2

12.2

4

1

11

2.13

2007

Kingsport

1-0

0

10.1

6

1

10

0.87



Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Changeup, Curveball

Fastball: Rustich is right up there among the hardest throwers in the organization. His four-seam fastball sits 94-97 MPH, but becomes a plus pitch because of his location. He can paint the corners with his fastball or elevate to get hitters to chase. He will start off at-bats with his four-seam but will also use it as a finishing pitch. He also throws a two-seam fastball in the low-90s with good tailing movement. Though its movement generates swings and misses, he can use it to get ground ball when needed.

Other Pitches: Rustich's top breaking pitch is his plus-slider which he throws in the mid to high-80s with nasty, late break. It is even more effective because it looks like a fastball coming out of his hand before its late snap drops it through the strike zone. It is his primary strikeout pitch and should become an even more lethal now that he will be pitching without pain. He changeup is on its way to becoming a plus pitch with its diving, split finger-like action. His changeup was established coming in, but needs to improve his sequencing with it. He also mixes in a curveball but uses with it with much less frequency compared to his other pitches. It has good break, but he is not consistent enough to rely on it in tight situations.

Pitching: With his velocity and two big league pitches Rustich has the tools needed to go right after hitters and challenge them with each pitch. He likes to work at a quick pace and pound the strike zone to force hitters to get the bat off their shoulders. His height and delivery allow him to generate a lot of power and his extension helps get pitches on top of the plate, making hitters have to speed up their decision making. He is a strikeout pitcher who limits his walks and extra bases because of his good command.

Projection: There is little doubt that Rustich has the physical traits and pitches to be in the big leagues very soon. At the peak of his projection, he will have the tools to possibly be the second man in the rotation as he boasts two dominant, big-league ready pitches with his changeup on the way. However, his size, velocity and power slider make him an attractive option at the back of the bullpen where he could become very formidable closer, a route he is probably better suited for over the long term. The organization continues to work with him as a starter but that is likely just a move to get him more innings while in the system. Despite his injuries, disappointingly low innings total this season, and questions about his make up, he could erase any concerns by pitching without incident for a full season. That more than anything will pave his path to the show.

ETA: 2010. When Rustich makes his big league debut can be a wild card. He could impress during the season that the Mets bring him up late in the year to alleviate shortcomings in the bullpen or he could begin the year in Binghamton and spend the full season on the farm. We stay down the middle and predict Rustich begins the year in Binghamton, despite less than 75 total innings over his first two seasons, in order to get him experience against higher-level hitters. We give him the benefit of the doubt that he will stay healthy and, with measurable success, get his shot in the bullpen sometime early in 2010.


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nVital Statistics:
\r\nName: Brant Rustich
\r\nDOB: January 23, 1985
\r\nHeight: 6'6\"
\r\nWeight: 230
\r\nThrows: Right
\r\nBats: Right
\r\nStatus: 2nd Round Pick (2007) – UCLA
\r\n
\r\nThe Mets had high expectations for 6-foot-6 flame-throwing right-hander Brant Rustich when he reported last spring. After a strong rookie season in Brooklyn and performance in the 2007 Hawaiian Winter League, Rustich—who owns a powerful fastball and some of the nastiest secondary pitches on the farm—figured to quickly ascend in his second season.
\r\n
\r\nBut that was not in the cards as a triceps injury—later to be re-diagnosed after the season as a stress fracture in his humerus bone—delayed the start to his season when it was projected he would begin in St. Lucie. However, when he returned to action in mid-May, he was assigned to Low-A Savannah. It was a move meant to test Rustich, but he responded the only way he knew how, by pitching.
\r\n
\r\n\"There are guys who always hurt in baseball and it's something everyone goes through, but I had to just pitch wherever I went and make the most out of it,\" he said. \"I just know that I've had some really good outings and pitched well considering the injuries, so I know when I'm healed I'll get to where I want to be.\"
\r\n
\r\nHe certainly showed flashes of where he will be when healthy, especially in the second half of his summer. After starting the season with a 1-2 record and 5.40 ERA in his first 11 outings—all in relief—Rustich went 2-2 with a 2.86 ERA with 35 strikeouts against eight walks over eight starts. Fine numbers considering every time he took the ball he did so with a broken bone and was relegated to throwing two pitches.
\r\n
\r\n\"I definitely think I started pitching a lot better. I wasn't always feeling my best or had my best stuff, but in my last starts before I got shut down, I was probably pitching the best of my life,\" he said.
\r\n
\r\n\"The last outings before I went out, I threw nothing but fastballs and changeups and not one slider because my arm was bugging me that bad. I went five innings and gave up one hit. That was the best my changeup has ever been and I think that outing was a glimpse of what I'm capable of doing.\"
\r\n
\r\nMets pitching coordinator Rick Waits also knows what his right-hander is capable of. Rustich is armed with a mid-90s fastball, a devastating slider, a plus changeup, and Waits feels only health is keeping him back.
\r\n
\r\n\"Sometimes when you have a setback with you arm, especially in Spring Training like he did, you try to make up for lost time,\" said Waits. \"He didn't get a lot of innings, but he's got the stuff and it's a matter of getting healthy and staying in shape. He just needs to have a good year no matter the level.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"Here's a guy who for sure had two major league pitches right out of college. He knows how to pitch, but it's a matter of getting innings under his belt to get him up to pro ball,\" he added.
\r\n
\r\nNow all of his energy points to the future. Concerns about his health will remain, but for Rustich there will be nothing else to keep him down.
\r\n
\r\n\"The best thing right now is that I feel great. I'm ready to go out there and do all the good things I've been doing and take it to the next level. My arm not feeling well really held me back, but I hope to come back and be stronger than I've ever been.\"
\r\n
\r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n
\r\n

Year

\r\n

\r\n Team

\r\n

\r\n W-L

\r\n

\r\n SV

\r\n

\r\n IP

\r\n

\r\n Hits

\r\n

\r\n BB

\r\n

K

\r\n

\r\n ERA

\r\n

\r\n 2008

\r\n

\r\n Savannah

\r\n

\r\n 3-4

\r\n

\r\n 0

\r\n

\r\n 49.2

\r\n

\r\n 42

\r\n

\r\n 16

\r\n

\r\n 48

\r\n

\r\n 3.62

\r\n

\r\n 2007

\r\n

\r\n Brooklyn

\r\n

\r\n 2-0

\r\n

\r\n 2

\r\n

\r\n 12.2

\r\n

\r\n 4

\r\n

\r\n 1

\r\n

\r\n 11

\r\n

\r\n 2.13

\r\n

\r\n 2007

\r\n

\r\n Kingsport

\r\n

\r\n 1-0

\r\n

\r\n 0

\r\n

\r\n 10.1

\r\n

\r\n 6

\r\n

\r\n 1

\r\n

\r\n 10

\r\n

\r\n 0.87


\r\n
\r\nRepertoire: Fastball, Slider, Changeup, Curveball
\r\n
\r\nFastball: Rustich is right up there among the hardest throwers in the organization. His four-seam fastball sits 94-97 MPH, but becomes a plus pitch because of his location. He can paint the corners with his fastball or elevate to get hitters to chase. He will start off at-bats with his four-seam but will also use it as a finishing pitch. He also throws a two-seam fastball in the low-90s with good tailing movement. Though its movement generates swings and misses, he can use it to get ground ball when needed.
\r\n
\r\nOther Pitches: Rustich's top breaking pitch is his plus-slider which he throws in the mid to high-80s with nasty, late break. It is even more effective because it looks like a fastball coming out of his hand before its late snap drops it through the strike zone. It is his primary strikeout pitch and should become an even more lethal now that he will be pitching without pain. He changeup is on its way to becoming a plus pitch with its diving, split finger-like action. His changeup was established coming in, but needs to improve his sequencing with it. He also mixes in a curveball but uses with it with much less frequency compared to his other pitches. It has good break, but he is not consistent enough to rely on it in tight situations.
\r\n
\r\nPitching: With his velocity and two big league pitches Rustich has the tools needed to go right after hitters and challenge them with each pitch. He likes to work at a quick pace and pound the strike zone to force hitters to get the bat off their shoulders. His height and delivery allow him to generate a lot of power and his extension helps get pitches on top of the plate, making hitters have to speed up their decision making. He is a strikeout pitcher who limits his walks and extra bases because of his good command.
\r\n
\r\nProjection: There is little doubt that Rustich has the physical traits and pitches to be in the big leagues very soon. At the peak of his projection, he will have the tools to possibly be the second man in the rotation as he boasts two dominant, big-league ready pitches with his changeup on the way. However, his size, velocity and power slider make him an attractive option at the back of the bullpen where he could become very formidable closer, a route he is probably better suited for over the long term. The organization continues to work with him as a starter but that is likely just a move to get him more innings while in the system. Despite his injuries, disappointingly low innings total this season, and questions about his make up, he could erase any concerns by pitching without incident for a full season. That more than anything will pave his path to the show.
\r\n
\r\nETA: 2010. When Rustich makes his big league debut can be a wild card. He could impress during the season that the Mets bring him up late in the year to alleviate shortcomings in the bullpen or he could begin the year in Binghamton and spend the full season on the farm. We stay down the middle and predict Rustich begins the year in Binghamton, despite less than 75 total innings over his first two seasons, in order to get him experience against higher-level hitters. We give him the benefit of the doubt that he will stay healthy and, with measurable success, get his shot in the bullpen sometime early in 2010.
\r\n
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