Entering his senior season at Central Florida Christian Academy in 2006, right-handed pitcher Jacob Brigham was one of the most highly regarded high school pitchers in the nation. However, Brigham struggled throughout the year, as his mid-90's velocity dropped and his command became shaky.
Brigham fell to the sixth round of the 2006 draft, where the Rangers selected him with the 178th overall pick. He was eventually signed to a reported $200,000 bonus, which was the highest of the round.
The righty began to return to form when he appeared with the Rookie League AZL Rangers in 2006. In 58.1 innings with the rookie Rangers, Brigham allowed 54 hits, walked 19, and struck out 58. He had a 3.70 ERA.
As many of the organization's minor league players broke camp and headed for their full-season destinations in early April, the Rangers elected to keep Brigham in Surprise for extended spring training to iron out a few more issues.
"I was working on coming out of my windup," said Brigham when asked what he worked on in extended spring training. "They were changing me putting my hands over my head and doing different things with my leg kick."
Brigham says he adjusted to the mechanical changes easily, allowing him to work on other things once he joined the short-season Spokane Indians.
"I definitely took it real well," replied Brigham. "It helped me out a lot. There is a lot less stress on my arm."
After working on his mechanics out of the windup in Surprise, Brigham began to focus on his game from the stretch once he joined the Indians.
"When I got up to Spokane, I worked on different things because I had conquered the other things we were working on as far as the windup," he said. "I worked more with coming out of my stretch. As guys got on base, I had to throw a lot more balls out of the stretch. We worked more on that in Surprise."
All of Brigham's adjustments seemed to work in 2007, as the 19-year-old had a 3.16 ERA in 15 starts with the Indians. He pitched in 77 innings and gave up 66 hits, walked 34, and struck out 65.
One of the primary reasons for Brigham's Northwest League success was the improvement of his stuff. After using a four-pitch repertoire in high school, the Rangers took away his slider so he could focus on refining his fastball, curveball, and changeup.
"My fastball is usually 91-94 MPH and I'll top out at 95 or 96 on occasion," said Brigham. "I throw a changeup that is 80 to 84 and then my curveball is anywhere from 72 to 76.
Although Brigham has hit the mid-90's with his fastball in the past, he rarely did it during his senior season. The native of central Florida believes his current spike in velocity is due to working every single day.
"I'm throwing every day," said Brigham when asked about his extra velocity. "I'm just getting stronger and getting bigger. It's also now my job and not something I just do for fun."
Brigham's improved stuff has also come with a price tag. The right-hander's control was sometimes – though not often – inconsistent. He issued 34 walks in 77 innings, including 22 free passes over his first eight starts.
When Lone Star Dugout spoke to minor league pitching coordinator Rick Adair last month, Adair chalked up the struggles to his improved stuff.
"Probably the biggest reasons is that his stuff has improved over the last year," said Adair of Brigham's control issues. "He's throwing harder. With the changes and improvement of stuff, sometimes you lose command even though the stuff is better. That's just the maturing process."
Adair's sentiment is one Brigham agrees with.
"My arm got a lot quicker," answered Brigham. "It was in the right spot instead of being in the wrong spot. It was weird. It felt like a noodle out there. I didn't know exactly where my arm was all the time, but it was the right way to do it and I finally got used to it. Towards the end of the season, I started having a lot less walks."
With the 2007 campaign officially coming to a close, Brigham will go back home to Florida to relax for a few weeks before heading back out to Surprise for Fall Instructional League.
When looking back on his season with the Spokane Indians, Brigham enjoyed the experience, but – despite the gaudy numbers – he was not completely satisfied with the results.
"I loved it and had a lot of fun," said Brigham when asked about his time with Spokane. "It was the greatest place I've ever played. I feel that I had a decent season. It was decent."
Brigham working with improved mechanics
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