The Pittsburgh Pirates signed a few minor league free agents this week, most notably Brooks Brown and Erik Cordier. We will give you some background on both of these pitchers who also received an invite to spring training in Bradenton. First up is Brooks Brown.
Brown was the 34th overall pick for the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2006 MLB June Amateur Draft out of the University of Georgia. He threw his fastball in the 90-93 range and moved quickly to Double-A.
But his career stalled, and after toiling in the minors for the Diamondacks and Detroit Tigers, he now reminds me of a pitcher the Pirates grabbed last season and transformed into one of their best staters at the Triple-A level–Rick van den Hurk.
The only reason we can see the Bucs grabbed Brown was to complete another project.
Brown is a sinker baller that mixes in a slider and continues to work on improving his changeup. The Pirates coaches are fond of sinker ballers, he pitched in the Intertnational League last season, so the Bucs are familar with his work. Brown pitched to mixed success against the Indianapolis Indians in the 2012 season. (The game log is linked here for Brown) He outpitched van den Hurk in July and then allowed four runs in just five innings against Jeff Locke and the Tribe in August.
The Georgia Bulldog made 19 starts, 29 appearances for Triple-A Toledo last season allowing 125 hits in 112 innings. The numbers don’t look real strong, here they are at Baseball Prospectus, and one glance at the opposition slugging tells me the Pirates see a project.
We saw this on Baseball Amerca a few years ago when the Tigers traded for the 6’3″ right hander.
Brown, a 23-year-old righthander, helped guide Georgia to the College World Series in 2006, the year Arizona selected him with the 34th overall pick. In two seasons on the farm, he’s proven durable, racking up 26 starts in both seasons and compiling 146 and then 144 innings.
But he led the Double-A Southern League last year only in losses (15) while finishing second with 67 walks. His poor finish with Mobile (0-5, 6.75 in August) may simply have been a case of fatigue, because at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Brown has an ideal starter’s frame.
His sinker ranges from 88-92 mph and he complements it with a slider that often registers plus when it features two-plane break.
If his fringy changeup comes along, he’s a sure-fire starter, but as it is he has the perfect bullpen arsenal. He went 6-15, 4.18 for Mobile last season, striking out 112 while giving up just eight home runs in 144 innings.
Baseball America thought he would get a crack at the bigs, but it never happened.
Because of their acute, immediate need for big league arms, Detroit’s acquisition of Brown makes perfect sense. Though he may not be quite ready for the big leagues right out of the gate, the righthander at some point during the season should get a chance to try his sinker/slider mix on big league batters.
This is a video of Brown the last time he put up strong numbers, back in 2007 when he posted a 58 percent ground ball rate.