Name: Brad Brach
DOB: April 12, 1986
A 42nd-round pick in the 2008 MLB Draft, Brach was placed in the Arizona Rookie League after signing a little late. He took over as the team's closer halfway through the year and turned in four saves in five chances while going 1-1 with a 2.01 ERA.
The right-hander never allowed more than one run in any outing, issuing 21 hits and five walks while striking out 33 across 22.1 innings. Brach held the opposition to a .192 average with runners in scoring position.
Brach skipped over short-season Eugene and was handed the closer reigns in Fort Wayne during 2009. It was a role that saw him thrive.
The New Jersey native went 3-3 with a 1.27 ERA across 60 games for the TinCaps. He saved 33 games in 34 chances. Eight of the 10 runs he allowed all season came in non-save situations.
"We used Brad in a lot of non-save situations – more so than you would normally use him," former Fort Wayne and current San Antonio manager Doug Dascenzo said. "If we had a four-run lead, he'd pitch the ninth inning, and that's the way we felt about it. Just an unbelievable season, including the playoffs."
He held the opposition to 36 hits and 11 walks across 63.2 innings while striking out 82. Opponents mustered a .164 average against, as he held the leadoff hitter to a .172 average on the season. His 7.45 strikeout-to-walk ratio was second best in the league.
Named a midseason and postseason All-Star in the Midwest League, he tied for second overall in the entire minors in saves. His .164 average against ranked ninth overall in the entire minors. He also led the Midwest League in appearances and saved three more games in the playoffs, striking out 13 in eight innings of work. His 1.27 ERA led all pitchers in the circuit with at least 60 innings and his .074 WHIP was a league best.
Brach notched an 82.7 left on-base percentage – the second best mark in the Midwest League and his 1.54 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) was also the top mark in the circuit.
"In a round two game against Great Lakes, when they hit the three-run homerun off him it was only his second blown save in 37 tries," Dascenzo said. "When he entered the game you felt very, very comfortable of taking a ‘W' home."
"He had such success this year," former Fort Wayne and current Eugene pitching coach Tom Bradley said. "I don't know how many one-two-three innings he had. He had like 50 games and I'll bet he had a lot of one-two-three innings in there. He started throwing that the latter part, during the second half primarily. It was a way to get him off his fastball a little bit, because when you play this game as many times as we do like Dayton and South Bend where you're playing over 20 times they get used to those fastballs and sliders."
A quick and efficient worker, Brach has confidence in all of his pitches. At one point, Brach had five pitches at his disposal but has narrowed that down to three he routinely uses with a fourth thrown occasionally.
Brach consistently throws first-pitch strikes – and quality strikes that hitters would rather let go than offer at. Everything begins with fastball command, setting up plus secondary pitches. He throws in the low-90s with a good angle and plane to his ball that utilizes his height from a near three-quarters delivery. While he mainly throws a four-seam fastball, Brach does a great job of hitting thirds of the plate. He is not afraid to come inside and will use it when he is ahead in the count, especially when hitters believe an off-speed pitch is en route.
His ability to spot his fastball allows Brach to favor the use of his slider and splitter while sprinkling in a few changeups as well. The changeup hasn't been there for him much this season and is more of a show-me pitch. It was a solid pitch in college but he lost a little bit of feel for it. He has replaced it with the splitter.
"He's got a fastball in the low-90s that plays a lot higher," Dascenzo said. "He's got a little slider in there and mixes in a little split. But his command of his fastball that plays higher than his velocity is the key to his success."
His slider has great, tight, tilting action. It isn't so much the depth of the pitch as the tight break that allows him to have success with the pitch. He uses the slider more to right-handed hitters and is able to throw it over the plate for strikes and expand the zone.
Left-handed hitters have to face an improving splitter. He didn't use the pitch as much in the first half as in the second half but found a rhythm with it late in the year. It has a precipitous drop that will kiss dirt and is extremely tough for hitters to stay away from. Early in the year, he would only use the pitch when the TinCaps had a three-run margin. As he continued to throw it, the confidence in it improved and the break became consistent. His faith in his catchers also allowed him to throw the pitch without fear of hitting the backstop.
"He threw it to left-handers more than right-handers," Bradley said. "He threw it like maybe two or three times in a game.
"I think it's a pitch that it will help him down the road. He needs to get a little bit better command of it, though, and keep his arms right up where his fastball is, but I think it can be a good pitch for him, especially against left-handed hitters. He just started throwing it and they allowed him to keep throwing it and he didn't throw it a whole lot. It is a pitch that is going to work on that league he's going to."
Brach's attitude and poise are big reasons for his success as well. He is not afraid to give the opposition his best stuff to see if they can compete. Rarely is he wrong in his choices. The demeanor is a huge boost that allows his confidence to ride high.
He is also one of the quickest workers in the system. He does not take a lot of time between pitches, preferring to get the ball and throw with conviction. Hitters do not get the chance to set their feet. They have to always be on guard. Taking away the hitters routine has been immensely helpful in throwing off their timing.
"Brad did a good job last year being thrown into that role and was nothing but nails for us," Dascenzo said. "He pounds the zone with great tempo. He throws three pitches for strikes. We felt very comfortable with him in the game."
"There is not any glaring weakness," former Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "He signed late and we were unsure of what we were getting. He kind of got exposed to the closer's role by accident in the AZL and he performed pretty well.
"We started to think that this might be for real, and he came into camp in great shape and was really firing like he did all season. He's big strong, athletic, good plane and angle, with a good sharp breaking ball and has some velocity. This year, he was so dominant in the strike zone. I can see him moving fast in the next year or two."
Conclusion: Attacking each hitter as if he is the leadoff hitter of the inning with his best stuff and not leaving anything on the table has been the hallmark for his success. He is an aggressive pitcher with a bulldog mentality that was meant to close. Given his ability to throw quality strikes early in the count and finish hitters off, Brach could move quickly. He has the stuff to play a role in a major league bullpen – likely as a seventh or eighth inning guy.
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