Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Hamilton came 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 was 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.
In his first exposure to pro ball, Hamilton made a solid impression posting a 3.10 ERA in 20-1/3 innings, while striking out 23 hitters in seven appearances. Hamilton worked hard with the Tigers pitching instructors during the fall instructional camp, and made strides with smoothing out his mechanics and cleaning up his command.
The key ingredient to Brandon's future is his extremely projectable frame and power arsenal. His good build should enable 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. Some view his delivery as a little too high-effort and it is likely some tweaks will be made to tone it down.
His fastball works consistently from 92-93, has been up to 96 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 breaking ball is a potential plus pitch that has great depth; and he throws it from 82-83 mph. He can sometimes work his arm too far under the breaker, 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 combination could dominate the late innings.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG R
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. His usage will be watched closely this season as the organization has been more prudent with caring for its young arms.
The Tigers have not shied away from pushing young pitchers in recent seasons, and I expect Hamilton to get a fair shot to make the West Michigan rotation on opening day. Indications out of Florida have Hamilton making nice strides with some mechanical tweaks and there is hope that these small variations will allow him to harness his fastball and progress quickly.
Brandon is likely to have a very tumultuous season in his first taste of serious pro ball, but keep an eye out for signs that things are clicking. If he demonstrates improvement from the start of the season through about mid-summer, that will be a tremendous sign for his future. Hamilton won't be pushed as hard and fast as someone like Rick Porcello, so be patient and wait for things to fall into place.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.