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.
Moved to Lake Elsinore to begin the 2009 season, McBryde went 6-3 with a 4.54 ERA across 13 games, including 12 starts. He allowed two runs or less in 10 of his outings and had a stretch where he yielded just three runs over a four-game span and 25.2 innings.
His ERA was a skewed due to two rough outings late in the year – one in Inland Empire and a second in the bandbox known as High Desert. Eighteen of the 38 earned runs he allowed all year came in those two games, pushing his ERA up from 2.75 to its final resting spot.
McBryde struck out 9.8 batters per nine innings pitched and walked just 18 in 75.1 frames. He also held right-handed hitters to a .202 average against. The opposition did, however, manager to take him yard 12 times during the season.
It was after allowing 11 runs on 13 hits, including three bombs, in a June 28 start against High Desert that McBryde was sidelined indefinitely. No matter what method he tried, he couldn't find his way back to the hill. It lasted through most of the instructional league as well and kept him from participating in live action.
"He was on his way," former pitching consultant Bob Cluck said. "I thought he got over that hump. He was using his changeup; we were looking for a big year of development, get through this year, maybe even get through Double-A before the year is out, and all of a sudden that back thing comes up. Instead of being on his way and moving to Double-A at some point in 2009, here we are now and, in my opinion, he'll have to repeat California League. And hope to -- he's lost a year with his back."
The injury and subsequent failure to return has caused some within the organization to question his dedication and work habits. There are some who believe he does the bare minimum to get by and that caused his rehabilitation process to extend far longer than it reasonably should have.
It isn't a new detriment against McBryde. There have been whispers through the years regarding his work ethic, or lack thereof. Stubbornness was also something people had claimed, although that subsided when he took on using the changeup more.
McBryde throws a low-90s heavy fastball that gets great sinking action. It is one of the best sinkers in the system and has the velocity to keep hitters from getting good wood on the ball. He can run it up to 94-95 mph but its downward movement is its best attribute.
"He throws what we call a real ‘heavy ball', guys just can't seem to get good swings off of it," Lake Elsinore manager Carlos Lezcano said. "Sometimes he starts a little slow, but he finds a way to compete.
"He was having an outstanding year. He's got a heavy ball. He throws a heavy ball; it has some sink to it. Guys never took good swings on him, but he just got hurt. We'll see how he comes back after that injury."
"We always joke about that, it's like a bowling ball," roving pitching coordinator Mike Couchee said. "The only thing right now is that we have to get him healthy."
"He's such a power fastball guy," Rajsich said. "He's come out with fastball/slider, heavy sink to his fastball. His slider is sharp."
The right-hander also throws a sharp breaking above-average slider that is a second power pitch. He runs it up in the mid-to-upper-80s and gets consistent break that tilts away from right-handed hitters. Fooled by a fastball look, it has late break that is tight and controlled. He can bury the pitch with ease and get it over for a strike, depending on the need.
Getting McBryde to trust in and use the changeup had been a challenge for the first few years. Since the end of 2008, however, he has been much more cognizant of its effectiveness. It is a critical pitch to keep left-handed hitters from sitting on either his fastball or slider with a pitch that goes the other way and away from their wheelhouse. Understanding when to use it is still being perfected, as his overall pitch sequencing continues to evolve. It is an average pitch, which is enough to get him by as a starter.
"The changeup – he's adding it more, but he's finding out he's having success again without it," Rajsich said. "His fastball is so heavy and it's dominant power in that he's like, ‘well they're not catching up to my fastball,' and I'm like, ‘I understand that but you've got to understand to throw it,' but when he adds to his fastball you can see his wrist position come up, his arm slot gets a little bit higher and that ball just explodes out. So he's had some very nice games, where he's had some good stuff. At times, he'll struggle a bit from the stretch, holding the runners but its been addressed. And he's coming along nicely."
The former draft-and-follow works inside a lot more than in previous seasons and gets a hitters' feet moving as a setup for his wipeout slider away. He has not had as much success working inside to left-handed hitters.
He has improved in his ability to expand the zone. The prominent feeling was he threw too many strikes in the past and hitters were able to take advantage because he is always around the zone. By moving the ball just off the plate, hitters are not making hard contacts.
The Oklahoman has a compact delivery and a three-quarters arm angle that he can repeat – something that eluded him in the past. He does not get a lot of drive from his legs and has a rather short stride, giving team insiders the belief that there may be even more in his tank.
"I love him," Rajsich said. "I thought he's got a power, heavy sinker. He loves to pitch inside. When he wants to go in with a fastball, four-seamer at 93-94 mph, he gets a little bit more on top and really drives it in there. I really like him. He's got a nice tight slider. His changeup was coming.
"It was just unfortunate with the back injury. It is what it is. It took him down for the rest of the year. He had such natural, nasty stuff. I wish that maybe he had a little bit more focus, maybe a little bit more caring about taking care of his body, or maybe a running program or whatever; just better all-around makeup because this guy has some legit stuff. Some power stuff."
A rhythm pitcher, McBryde can be a slow developing pitcher within a game. He needs an inning or two to settle in and can be taken advantage of early on. Sixteen of the runs he allowed in '09 came in the first two innings of the game.
Another area that saw improvement was his ability to keep runners close. Once an afterthought, McBryde can now vary his looks and keep the opposition guessing on the base paths. Because he is around the zone, runners are limited in their opportunities with running counts.
"One reason I like him is that I wouldn't want to hit off of him," a laughing Lezcano said. "When you see someone like that it is someone you want to have on your side. It seems like he is throwing a bowling ball with movement."
"His arm is healthy, and I think his head is on straight," Cluck said. "I think everything we need about him, the stubbornness to me is gone. He just wanted to have this be the year he advanced and maybe even jump the league and then boom, his back hits him. And those things happen."
Conclusion: Perception is sometimes reality. That means McBryde must change his work habits and do more than others to stand out. The guys who do just enough are the ones that don't get called when the big club needs someone – whether it is a fair or unfair assessment. McBryde has the stuff but can't rely on innate ability. He must use all the tools at his disposal. That includes working hard to ensure he meets his goals. Once thought to be a potential power reliever, McBryde has enough changeup to allow him to be a middle of the rotation starter. Whether he meets the potential will depend on how he can change the perception.
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