Name: Aaron Breit
DOB: April 19, 1986
Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned for the right-hander. It spiraled out of control early for Breit, and he never seemed to get on track until late in the season. By then, the ERA was unsalvageable.
Only once during the season was he able to drop his ERA into the 5.00's. That came in mid-May when he strung together two dominating outings – a two-hitter and three-hitter that produced one run against. His next two starts, however, lasted a total of two innings, as 13 runs crossed the dish.
Things came to a head in early July when he was removed from the rotation and placed in the bullpen. In his final two starts, Breit uncharacteristically walked 12 batters – six in each game.
Lost amidst the numbers was Breit changing his mechanics early in the year to get better movement and location on his pitches long-term.
"There were some things we changed at the end of last year," former Fort Wayne and current Lake Elsinore pitching coach Wally Whitehurst said. "We tweaked some of his mechanics trying to get him to stay taller. Sometimes you do things that are good for down the road but for the moment it might not be that good for the player. He stuck with it. He battled and we battled.
At the end of 2006, the Padres altered his motion slightly by asking him to stand taller while releasing the ball, hoping to take advantage of his size and get a better downward plane on his release of the ball. It also added more movement to his pitches.
The results were mixed, as he didn't command his pitches as well, but Breit saw the potential for success beyond this year and stuck to the plan. While his confidence wavered on the hill, he kept plugging away with his altered state in hopes of mastering it.
"I tell you what – Aaron, his last seven outings, were tremendous," Fort Wayne manager Doug Dascenzo said. "A few out of the bullpen and a few as a starter.
"If anyone got the most out of their year this year it was Aaron Breit. A guy that struggles so much for the most part of the year fought his way through every step of the way and to finish up the way he did just goes to show you what kind of individual we have."
The rewards came near the end of the year. After making 10 appearances out of the pen, Breit was put back in the rotation and flashed why he is thought so highly of.
"Aaron Breit got hairy for a couple of months but he got better," Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "Breit didn't command his spots, had a real rough going. It wasn't that he wasn't throwing strikes, he just wasn't controlling where he was throwing the strikes."
Over his final four starts to end the year, Breit allowed five earned runs over 19 innings, yielding 14 hits while walking three – a 2.37 ERA.
The Kansas native had a renewed sense of accomplishment and his confidence returned. A battler on the hill and off, Breit constantly worked on his craft.
"At the end of the year he started to use his stuff better and got ahead in the counts," Fuson said. "But, it took a couple of times of taking him out of the rotation and getting a few more sides out of him to get there."
During the tough months, his fastball was hitting too much of the plate. The control on the corners was gone, as he adjusted to his new life. And when he tried to be precise, Breit would often be outside of the zone.
He has a plus fastball that sits in the low-90s and tops out at 94 MPH. As stated previously, Breit's issue was fastball command in 2007. If he can work both sides of the plate, he could see a resurgence in the coming year.
Breit also flashes a plus curveball, at times, and can drop the hammer in to keep hitters guessing. With his fastball command lacking, however, Breit was not able to throw his curveball as much as he would have liked, masking its effectiveness.
His changeup is below average, as it tends to still come in too hard and does not maintain the same arm speed as his heater. It has been a work in progress over the last two years and a tougher challenge to master with the changes he went through last season.
"We have a power arm that never gives up when times are tough," Dascenzo added. "When you think about it – the Major League level is like that every single day. You are fighting for your life every single day. The kid was doing that all summer long.
"The way he finished up and what he went through for the most part of the season shows me that this kid has got it inside of him. Nothing is going to beat him down and he is going to come out fighting. He did a great job the last month of the season and I was very happy for him."
"Mentally, it was frustrating for him but he kept plugging away and by the end of the year he was pitching again like he did at the end of last year," Whitehurst agreed. "You could see it change in the way he came to the ballpark. Not that he was in a bad mood – smiling a lot, the confidence back. He is going to be fine."
He continually works on the pitch and if he can bring that pitch up to snuff it will make the rest of his repertoire even better.
Breit's late season success is attributed to his work ethic and makeup. He came to the field each and every day prepared to put in the work. Success was what he envisioned, even during the struggles.
"I think he will be fine," former Padres minor league field coordinator and current MLB scout Bill Bryk said. "Miller passed up Breit on the belief and confidence. The Instructional League would have been good for him but he was hurt. Aaron has good makeup and will bounce back."
"I think a lot of him and I know a lot of people in the organization like his stuff and his makeup," Whitehurst said. "You hope that no one goes through something like that but you all do at some point and hopefully this will be it for him at the lower levels."
ETA: Breit should come into the 2008 season with confidence, despite the likelihood of him repeating the Midwest League. A mid-season promotion seems fitting with an eye on tackling Double-A sometime in 2009. His path to the big leagues is dependent on fastball command and improving his changeup with 2011 a solid target.
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