Name: Jeremy McBryde
DOB: May 1, 1987
Originally selected in the 26th-round in 2006, the right-hander didn't sign until days before the 2007 draft – coming to terms on May 30.
Sent to Eugene to begin his professional career, McBryde went 1-6 with a 5.31 ERA across 17 games, including 12 starts, in a learning year. He allowed 67 hits in 59.1 innings while striking out 56.
Fort Wayne was his starting and finishing point in 2008. The bit righty went 8-9 with a 4.28 ERA across 30 games, including 26 starts.
In 136.2 innings, he surrendered 151 hits, struck out 158 and walked just 24. He was second in the circuit in strikeouts while his 6.58 strikeout-to-walk ratio was the top mark in the Midwest League, and his 10.40 strikeouts per nine innings ranked second.
The right-hander also placed third with a 2.60 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) but was the worst among qualifying pitchers in BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) with a .381 mark.
McBryde posted a 4.95 ERA in the first half of the season but came back with a 3.81 ERA after the All-Star break. His hits allowed went down and his strikeouts went up during that process.
The turnaround was clear in August when the pitcher went 3-1 with a 2.65 ERA to earn MadFriars.com Pitcher of the Month at Fort Wayne.
"He started off kind of slow for us, pitching some tough luck. He came on real strong, was pitcher of the week and turned his season around," Fort Wayne pitching coach Tom Bradley said. "He lost this last outing, he gave up a double. We ended up losing 3-1, didn't score any runs. He really turned it around the last six weeks.
"I think the biggest thing with him is he maintained his high arm slot, which means he's able to get a good downward and downhill plane to his fastball. It's a power sinker. He's anywhere from 91-93, some he touches 94. He's got a good body, good frame.
"I think when he starts using his legs a little bit more, he's only 21, there may be more in there," Bradley said. "He started to pitch inside a little bit better, which he needs to do more of, pound those right-handed hitters. When he keeps his arm slot up and he's consistent, his slider was very good. There were some games where righties and lefties really didn't have much of a chance against his slider. He punched out 11; I think he ended up second in the league in strikeouts. He had 155 in 130-some innings. Plus, he only walked like 20-22 hitters. His strikeout to walk ratio was outstanding; probably as good as anybody in minor league baseball."
The reason for his success was clear to the Padres. McBryde finally began to use his changeup. Targeting 20 percent changeups for all their young pitchers, McBryde was lucky to get seven percent in an outing. With two other pitchers, hitters were sitting on pitches and taking advantage.
As the season progressed, the message got through to the Oklahoma native. His changeup became a go-to pitch down the stretch. He threw it in off-counts, to left-handed and right-handed hitters and used it as an effective tool to throw off a hitters timing.
"He was stubborn in a sense where he wouldn't throw the changeup," Fort Wayne manager Doug Dascenzo said. "Finally, he just started throwing it, he felt comfortable with it.
"If you were to take a video of him walking around on the mound in April and walking around the mound in August, you would have said there were two completely different kids out there walking around. The guy in April obviously had no confidence, and the guy in August had all the confidence in the world. The only difference is that he threw more changeups. He pitched inside a little bit more with his fastball and is obviously having success. It's pretty simple.
"We can read a book about trout fishing, but if we don't go out there and get our feet in the water and try and do it, the experience, you cannot beat the experience of getting that success. You really don't know what you're doing when you first go out to do it, but after you do it for a while and have success, now you know what to expect. That's the difference, that's what we saw in Jeremy. It was a great thing to see a young man walk around the mound with all of the confidence that he did there in the last month of the season."
Its success led to more success from his fastball. With a fastball that can hit the mid-90s and sits in the 92-93 mph range, McBryde was able to miss over the plate and still get outs. Hitters had to think about that changeup where they only had the hard stuff to contend with in the past.
That maturity led to increased strikeout totals in the second half and decrease hit totals. Hitters couldn't figure out what was coming.
"He could go through the lineup one time and blow guys away," Padres roving pitching coordinator Mike Couchee said. "I saw him punch out seven guys the first time through one time and, basically, it's all fastballs. I don't care if you're playing in Fort Wayne, or if you're playing in San Antonio, or the big leagues, once these guys see you one time, whether you're throwing 85 or 105, they just gear up or gear down to adjust to you
"I think the fact that his last quarter of the season, we harped on him and threatened him and everything else about using it. He was one of our instructional league guys last year and that's all he threw was fastball and changeup. He had some tremendous success with it. He surprised me when he got away from it early on.
"That was kind of one of my talks with him that, ‘Hey, you of all guys ought to know how good it works for you. You went to it in instructional league and that's all you had.'
"I think that, again, young kids pitching in front of a crowd for the first time really and getting caught up in the strikeouts. I think that's what happened. His first time through the lineup he'd get five, six, seven strikeouts then, like I said, they see you once and they gear it up and it didn't work for a while there. He kind of got back into it. I know I hit him with it, I know Tom Bradley hit him with it, and I know Bob Cluck hit him with it. He finally listened."
His changeup has become a swing-and-miss pitch that can be used to put a hitter off-balance. It has plus tendencies, at times, but will come in too hard on occasion.
"Certainly the changeup (improved)," Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "He put up some crazy numbers, the strangest that I have ever seen in the long time that I have been doing this. He had an incredible amount of strikeouts against hardly any walks but also had some high hit totals. It was his first full season, and he got better over the course of the year."
McBryde also has a darting slider that has late break and tight spin. Its action away from a right-hander, coupled with his ability to bury it in the dirt or nip a corner of the strike zone, makes it a tough pitch for a batter to lay off. It is a plus offering that McBryde controls with precision.
"He gave up more hits than innings pitched – that came down a little bit," Bradley said. "The reason for that is he throws too many strikes. He's around the plate so much. Twenty-some walks in 135 or 137 innings is phenomenal. So, it's a matter for him to maintain that arm slot, pitch downhill."
McBryde allowed more earned runs in the first inning than any other frame. It takes him time to get into the rhythm of the game. Once he settles in, his pitches become crisper and less predictable. There are times he throws too many strikes. As a result, many are first-pitch swinging early in the contest to try and rattle him. He has to know when to throw a purpose pitch early in the count, especially with the excellent command he has displayed.
"When he's ahead in the count, vary his slider, don't throw hittable pitches in the zone; expand the zone is what I'm trying to say," Bradley said. "He did better at that towards the end.
"With runners on base, he got a lot better at pitching with runners on base. He was around the plate, around the zone, probably threw too many strikes. For everybody, it's a matter of making better quality pitches in the strike zone when you're ahead. That's what pitching boils down to, and then expanding the zone when you've got two strikes on the hitter. I think he learned a lot this year; he had a good year, finished up strong. I think he's got a bright future ahead of him too."
The former Rose State junior college pitcher is improving in keeping runners close. He still has work to do in the area, as his main focus has been on throwing strikes and tossing the changeup. He and his catchers were 7-of-25 throwing runners out this past season.
Conclusion: His two-pitch repertoire of fastball/slider had many thinking McBryde would be a perfect candidate for a late inning role when he was ready to join the major leagues. His commitment to the changeup changes that thinking and puts him in as a potential top-of-the-rotation starter.
McBryde is still learning the nuances of the game and pitch sequencing will be big on the agenda. With an improving changeup, he needs to mix his pitches well to get the most out of his arsenal. If he does, look out.
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