Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Hamilton comes to the Tigers as a supplemental first round choice in the 2007 draft, after a standout career at Stanhope Elmore High School outside Montgomery, Alabama. As a senior, Hamilton struggled through a difficult season, backed by a porous defense. In 10 starts for Stanhope, Brandon allowed 47 runs – though only 13 were earned. His 2-7 record heading into the draft is very misleading, and not representative of his actual ability. Despite the obstacles he faced as a senior, he managed a 2.36 ERA and nearly sixteen strikeouts per nine innings (86 in 49.2 IP).
Hamilton's true ability shone through during a dominating sophomore season in which he helped lead his high school squad to the Alabama 5A State Championship. In 2006, Brandon finished with a strong 8-4 mark, backed up by a 2.30 ERA, 99 strikeouts, and a .159 batting average against. In both of his final two seasons at Stanhope, Brandon was named to the Montgomery All-Metro Team.
The key ingredient to Brandon's future is his extremely projectable frame and power arsenal. His good build should enable to him to fill out and add strength, lending to a touch more velocity and with any luck, some serious durability. He needs to toughen up his body just a bit, as some scouts view him as a little soft right now. A professional training regimen should remedy that in short order. He is a strong athlete that repeats his mechanics with some ease. He can get out of whack on occasion, leading to some bouts with wildness, but he has improved on this over the last two years. He works with clean mechanics and a high-3/4 delivery to generate a good downward plane on his fastball.
His fastball works consistently from 92-93, has been up to 97 in the past, and has some nice late action down and in on righties. He has begun playing with adding some cut to his fastball, but he hasn't yet figured out how to gain consistency with the pitch. His slider is a potential plus pitch that has great depth; and he throws it from 82-83. He can sometimes work his arm too far under the slider, causing it to lose bite and become very hittable. His third offering – a change-up – is still a work in progress, and will need substantial improvement as a pro. If he can develop the change into a solid-average offering, he will have the makings of a potentially dominating package.
His two biggest hurdles at this time are his command and his composure. He has struggled commanding his fastball and change-up, and must refine his ability to throw quality strikes with both pitches. Brandon is an intense competitor who wants the ball in his hands in every situation. When things aren't going his way, he can get rattled and thrown off his game, something he must curtail to succeed at the next level.
With two plus pitches to his credit already, and a third offering with some promise, Hamilton is no doubt a talented youngster with the potential to work himself into a solid number two or three starter. If his change-up stagnates and fails to become a reliable pitch, expect Hamilton to be moved to the back end of a bullpen where his power fastball-slider combination could dominate the late innings.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP WHIP High School
Hamilton's frame and arm have been durable throughout high school, and should remain that way with the added strength and conditioning he will receive in the Tigers organization.
Hamilton shouldn't be too tough of a sign for the Tigers, and should report to the Gulf Coast League to start his professional career by the end of the month. Should he sign, Brandon will be walking away from a commitment to play baseball at Troy University. He hasn't had much wear and tear on his arm, so expect the Tigers to turn him lose as a key member of the GCL rotation. It's likely to be a bumpy ride in the beginning, as he works to command his arsenal better, but the bumps will make him a stronger pitcher down the line.
The Tigers have the luxury of taking their time with someone as raw as Hamilton; allowing him to achieve success at a level before moving him up the ladder. It could easily take two full years before he is exposed to full-season ball at West Michigan, but the wait could be worth its weight in gold if things go as planned.
Mark Anderson covers the Tigers' minor league system and all of minor league baseball for TigsTown.com. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.