Name: Aaron Breit
DOB: April 19, 1986
In 2005, San Diego selected Breit in the 12th-round and came to terms with him as a draft-and-follow – waiting until days before the 2006 Draft after his season with Garden City Community College.
The Padres saw the projectable frame and knew one day he would be throwing harder than they could imagine.
This was a kid that didn't touch 90 MPH until his senior year in high school, but thanks to a workout program defined by high school coach Lyle Befort. It called for a lot of work and the results weren't immediate but they have clearly paid off, especially when one considers that he came into the program weighing 149-pounds.
"He has major league stuff across the board," Padres' minor league field coordinator Bill Bryk said. "He is a good competitor, soft-spoken but very confident."
Breit was shipped to Eugene where his professional career began as a member of the Emeralds in the Northwest League.
The first thing on the agenda – side sessions to work on a changeup.
While the Kansas native had the goods from a fastball point of view, the changeup was something being introduced for the first time.
"He's got a good attitude," 2006 pitching coach Wally Whitehurst said. "He wants to learn. He listens. He tries everything you ask him to do. He's got a gifted right arm and he's got good stuff, he's just got to learn how to pitch."
As with any young pitcher learning the off-speed pitch, particularly one whose fastball is above-average, Breit struggled with keeping its speed down while maintaining the same motion and arm speed as his heater. He took to the instruction relatively well and by the end of the year was getting a better feel for the pitch.
His fastball sits in the low-90s and can hit 95 MPH and offers up a curveball of the two-plane variety that also comes in pretty hard. He also throws a slider but has concentrated more on the curveball, in effect shelving the slider for now.
The changeup is designed to offer a pitch that can baffle hitters who will get into thinking hard all the time.
While he has been consistent mechanically with throwing the parachute, the ball is still coming out too hard and not giving the desired dropping effect that will make him deadly when it slows down.
In Eugene, Breit struggled coming out of the pen in the Emeralds piggyback rotation. In six relief appearances, the Kansas native posted a 5.25 ERA. By contrast, Breit touted a 2.58 ERA in his 12 starts. In seven of those outings, he yielded one earned run or less.
He was particularly stingy when runners got into scoring position. Breit mixed in his curveball to get punchouts and kept the ball low in the zone, giving up just 12 hits in 67 at bats with runners in scoring position.
"A nice good, young, power arm," 2006 Eugene manager Doug Dascenzo said. "He has a nice feel for his breaking ball. His changeup has come a long way this year and just a really good kid."
Breit was also better against left-handers than righties. He held southpaws to a .214 average while right-handed hitters batted .277. A lot of that was due to his curveball diving into them and the changeup should become a pitch that counters those on his side of the dish.
He was also effective working the inner half of the plate with his fastball and seemed to shy away from that against righties.
What was surprising to the Padres was his ability to finish off a hitter. He worked ahead in the count and used his repertoire to touch the corners or pitch outside of the zone to record whiffs – 69 in 64.1 innings.
"Breit was very good, certainly a quality arm to work with," Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said.
Breit went to the Padres' Instructional League and added 15 innings to his resume, working on his changeup. He threw the pitch as often as he could, approximately 10 percent of his pitches, and was adept at throwing a first pitch strike – hitting 60 percent at the end of fall ball. To be successful, the Padres would love for him to be confident enough in the change to flash it close to 20 percent of the time.
ETA: Breit is just heading into full season ball, but he is a high ceiling prospect that could jet through the system at a young age because of his plus fastball, solid mechanics and overall aptitude for the game. Working through the rigors of the Midwest League will provide a challenge, but we think he will master it.