Scouting Rangers Prospect Jake Brigham

STOCKTON, Calif. – Right-hander Jake Brigham is one of the more talented pitching prospects in the Texas Rangers organization. Lone Star Dugout was on-hand for his recent start in Stockton, and we profile the prospect with a feature story and an in-depth scouting report.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Jake Brigham
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: February 10, 1988
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 210
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Acquired: 2006 Amateur Draft, 6th round

This spring, right-hander Jake Brigham was producing plenty of buzz around minor league camp because of his sparkling results and above-average stuff.

With a 2-11 record and a 5.52 earned-run average with Hickory last season, Brigham wasn't exactly dominant, but his stuff took a step forward––a certain positive sign in his first season back from Tommy John surgery.

The improved stuff and impressive Spring Training convinced the Rangers that Brigham was ready to handle High-A Bakersfield to start the 2010 campaign, and he broke camp in the rotation there.

Through four starts this season, Brigham worked 20.2 innings, posting a 3.05 ERA. He has yielded 21 hits while walking nine and striking out 16.

Brigham faced the Stockton Ports on Friday, April 30, with Lone Star Dugout in attendance. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound hurler worked five innings, giving up four runs. He surrendered three hits [single, double, homer], walked three, and struck out five.

The first inning was Brigham's biggest enemy, as he hung a changeup for a bases-clearing double to score three runs. The two-bagger came shortly after he lost his mechanics and threw eight consecutive fastballs out of the zone for two walks.

"I thought [Brigham] came out and I think he tried to do more than what he needed to," said Bakersfield pitching coach Dave Chavarria. "He came out and it looked like he was trying to pitch from the very first pitch that he made, and he didn't have to. His delivery was a little slow."

When the dust had settled, the Florida native threw 35 pitches in the first inning, and it kept him from going too deep into the game, even after he had settled down.

Early in the contest, even Brigham's outs were well-struck balls hit either to the warning track or directly at defenders.

He eventually settled in and appeared to find a better feel for all three of his pitches. Brigham spotted his fastball better and he got on top of his curveball more often, leading to just one ball squared up out of the last 10 hitters he faced. Included in that were four weak groundouts, two infield popups, and two strikeouts.

"After the first inning," Chavarria said, "from the second inning on––I think he was much better delivery-wise, tempo-wise. It was much, much better."

Prospect Video: Jake Brigham warms before a Spring Training outing
Brigham warms in the bullpen before his start on Friday, April 30

Also See: Command making the difference for Brigham (March 20, 2010)
Rangers Minor League Notes (March 19, 2010)
Rangers Minor League Notes (March 16, 2010)
Sizing up the right-handed starters (December 9, 2009)

Repertoire: Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.

Fastball: Brigham's velocity took off in 2008, his first season back from Tommy John surgery. In the past, the right-hander had generally been an 88-93 mph guy that had the ability to touch the mid-90s. But with Hickory in 2009, Brigham generally worked in the low-to-mid-90s and touched 96 and 97 mph on occasion.

This spring, when Brigham was one of the most impressive arms in minor league camp, he worked between 92-94 mph, touching 95 and 96 mph at times while also showing plus command. In his start against Stockton last weekend, Brigham was down a tick––he worked between 90-93 mph and touched 94 one time.

Velocity isn't a problem for the prospect. He can simply blow his fastball by guys at times. However, command is the biggest issue. Despite the plus velocity, Brigham was hittable last season because he often left his fastball up in the zone.

Brigham also doesn't get much natural movement on his fastball, making command all the more important. During Friday's start, he placed his fastball well for the most part [and got all five punchouts on well-placed heaters], but the ones left up and over the plate were hit hard.

His fastball command showed drastic improvement this spring, but the early returns in Bakersfield show he still has a ways to go consistency-wise.

Other Pitches: Brigham's curveball also improved last season, but it is still a bit inconsistent. When it's on, his bender is a tight-spinning 75-78 mph offering that almost has 12-to-6 break. He was able to tighten up the pitch in '08, and it started breaking a bit later.

While Brigham's curve flashes plus and can get plenty of swinging strikes, he wasn't consistently getting on top of it on Friday night. Brigham threw 26 curveballs in the game, and while he didn't allow any hits on the pitch, only 10 of them went for strikes. When he got around [instead of on top] the curves, some came out much slower than usual [one at 69 mph] and some had more of a loopy, slurvy action.

The changeup is clearly still a work-in-progress, but he showed a decent feel for the pitch against Stockton. Using it against left-handers, Brigham threw the offsped pitch for strikes more often than not, but it was often left up in the zone.

Brigham's change had a bit of deception––some fade away from lefty hitters with a hint of sink––but, like the other pitches, he needs to hammer down the command. Brigham threw a change in the fifth that ran off the barrel of the lefty's bat, and the hitter bounced out to third base.

He threw 86 pitches against the Ports and didn't get a swing-and-miss on a secondary pitch. That's not nearly typical for him––and it shows he was absolutely working without his best stuff––but it also highlights how he must improve.

Projection: Armed with two potential plus pitches in his fastball and curveball, Brigham seems to profile as a mid-rotation starter with a possible [but unlikely] number two ceiling. He must refine his overall game––fastball command, consistency with the curve, and changeup–-but the tools are there.

Brigham will likely get every opportunity possible to stick as a starting pitcher, but if the third pitch never comes around, the Rangers could stick him in the bullpen, where his power fastball-curveball combination could play well.

2010 Outlook: Brigham is currently pitching at High-A Bakersfield, where he has having decent––but not spectacular––results. The prospect has had some troubles with pitch counts, but he is still adjusting to the higher level and it will be intriguing to see how he develops as the year progresses.

The 22-year-old has the talent to eventually tear through the league if he can put it together, and he could potentially reach Double-A Frisco before the season is over. To do so, Brigham will have to refine his command and become more consistent on a night-in, night-out basis. He has the stuff to be one of the organization's better breakout prospects this season.

ETA: 2012.

Year Team W-L IP H BB SO ERA
2006 AZL Rangers (RK) 2-6 58.1 54 19 58 3.86
2007 Spokane (SSA) 5-4 77.0 69 34 65 3.16
2008 DNP – Injured --- --- --- --- --- ---
2009 Hickory (A) 2-11 89.2 104 38 81 5.52
2010 Bakersfield (A+) 0-2 20.1 21 9 16 3.05

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