Name: Aaron Breit
DOB: April 19, 1986
In five starts with the Fort Wayne Wizards, Breit went 0-4 with a 6.75 ERA – walking more batters (11) than he struck out (9). In 22 relief appearances, the Kansas native went 3-3 with a 4.75 ERA – striking out 37 in 30.1 innings but allowing 36 hits. He finished the season with a 5.57 ERA and .293 average against, as hitters batted .318 off him with runners in scoring position.
Entering the system as a draft-and-follow, Breit posted a 3.08 ERA across 64.1 innings during his professional debut with the Eugene Emeralds of the Northwest League.
A year later, the troubles began. In 31 games, including 21 starts, the right-hander went 3-11 with a 6.73 ERA – giving up 139 hits in 108.1 innings of work.
Returning to Low-A for a second season, Breit again struggled with command and confidence.
"He came to us after having a little bit of elbow; he had an elbow operation in the winter time, during instructional league," Fort Wayne pitching coach Tom Bradley said. "I'd never worked with him before. He was in Eugene two years ago, and then I was in Eugene, so I missed him. He came to us after throwing the ball real well in Arizona.
"We put him in the rotation after he got one or two relief appearances, and he was lights out the first one against Lansing; put him in the rotation and he struggled a little bit with his command, then we put him in the bullpen. The last time out he pitched very well, his last outing, which was a real good sign."
"He had some immediate success and towards the end he kind of fell back into it a little bit," Fort Wayne manager Doug Dascenzo said. "He just needs to get some confidence, and he will."
Seen as a pitcher with immense potential, the 22-year-old has fallen to the ‘too much of the plate' syndrome.
Armed with a low-90s fastball, Breit has not been able to paint the corners with it, oftentimes sending it over the middle of the dish and seeing it crushed. His velocity was down slightly from subsequent seasons.
When he tried to be fine with his fastball command, he was missing too far outside the zone. There didn't seem to be a happy medium.
Breit has a solid curveball with two-plan action – a plus pitch when it is on. The problem he faced in 2008 was getting to the pitch. He fell behind in the count too many times to setup the hammer. This masked the effectiveness of the pitch.
His changeup remains a work in progress, as he has not been able to get it to come in with the reduced velocity necessary while keeping the same arm speed as his fastball.
Going to the Instructional League this fall, Breit again worked on putting the changeup into consistent effect – understanding that making that pitch better will enhance the rest of his repertoire.
"He's got good stuff," Bradley said. "He has a 90-92 mph fastball, so he's got an average to above average major league fastball. His slider's pretty good; curveball, his arm speed is good; a very usable pitch.
"Hasn't really developed a changeup a lot; it's hard when you're in the bullpen to really work on. You can't throw like a starter does, where you're on a routine, throw twice between starts. You can't work on secondary pitches, especially the changeup. You know how important the development of the changeup is for our starting pitchers. So, that's a pitch he's really got to work on. I know he went to instructional leagues and that was one of the things he was going to work on. He needs better fastball command down in the zone."
Breit is still working on consistent mechanics. In 2007, he was asked to change his delivery to stay on top of the ball more and get a better downward plane. It used to be that he bent over too far – the result was a flattening out of his pitches.
Today, he is standing taller on ball delivery and it has enhanced the movement on his pitches while giving him more moving parts to consider – including an inconsistent release point.
"Hopefully, he's going to put it together, he's only 22," Bradley said. "He certainly has the arm to make it all the way; it's just a question of refining and getting better command, better control in the strike zone. He's got the pitches, no question, he's got the pitches. The strength is there, the arm strength is there, the pitches are there, it's just a matter of him putting it together and hopefully he will."
The right-hander is not very good at keeping runners close to the bag. He does not vary his looks enough. It is a product of consistent command of his pitches and the Padres stressing that he focus on the hitter with an eye on improving his delivery with men on base after sustained success. Runners were successful in 13-of-14 attempts this past season – a year after the opposition swiped 33 bases in 39 attempts.
"He's a fighter, he's not a quitter," Dascenzo added. "When you see that in an individual, you know you've got something, and we know that he's got the arm to do it. Now he's just got to match it up and make it work."
Conclusion: Breit remains a pitcher with tremendous upside. He has two pitches that show flashes of being plus offerings but needs better command of his fastball to make his pitch sequencing effective. He is a hard worker that has shown a willingness to learn but it has yet to translate.
The changeup is a pitch that must make progress for him to truly be effective. As a reliever, he can get by without the changeup – provided his fastball paints more corners. As a starter, however, it is absolutely necessary that his changeup make strides. Using it will be the key – even if it gets hit hard. Only repetition in live situations will make it better.
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