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. Brandon's second turn in professional baseball was a bit rockier. After opening the season stuck in Lakeland with an oblique strain, the Tigers pushed him to West Michigan in May, where command problems and more advanced hitters knocked him around to the tune of a 4.96 ERA and nearly eight walks per nine innings. After an 0-5 start to the season with the Whitecaps, Hamilton was pulled back down to the GCL to get things in order. In nine appearances there, Hamilton tied for third in the GCL in wins (5), while posting a 1.86 ERA and 42 strikeouts in just 39 innings; all en route to winning TigsTown's GCL Pitcher of the Year award.
Hamilton's 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. Working from a high-3/4 arm slot, Brandon's arm action is clean though some scouts are concerned that his delivery has too much ‘effort' in it. The Tigers have worked some to smooth things out, but they are cautious not to tweak too much and cause a loss in effectiveness.
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, 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. There are rumblings that if the change-up doesn't come quickly, it may be scrapped as the organization could let him try his two-pitch arsenal in the bullpen.
His two biggest hurdles at this time are his command and his composure. He has struggled commanding his fastball, and must refine his ability to throw quality strikes. 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, and something that gave him problems at West Michigan in 2008.
With two plus pitches to his credit already, 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 A
The oblique injury that sidelined Hamilton to start 2008 was more of a freak injury than something symptomatic of a larger problem. He reported no problems as the season wore on, and scouts didn't see any noticeable changes to his delivery as he came back. He still has an ideal pitchers frame that can lend to both increased velocity and durability as he reaches physical maturity.
Hamilton enters spring training with a shot to land anywhere from the Gulf Coast League to Lakeland. There were reports last fall that his command had begun to come around, and if that is the case, West Michigan or Lakeland is his two most likely destinations. There are many pitchers vying for roles in these rotations, but the Tigers will make room for a high ceiling arm like this, no matter where that is. This may be a big year in Brandon's development, as the Tigers will need to make a decision soon on whether to move him to the bullpen and hopefully accelerate his time to the big leagues, or give him additional time to figure things out in the rotation. Either way, the Tigers have yet another power arm that has potential in any number of roles.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.