Before you jump to any conclusions, just because you can’t find Matt Brash’s name on many ‘lists’ doesn’t mean the Mariners didn’t absolutely score when acquiring the righty on Monday.
With minutes to spare on the 2020 trade deadline, the Mariners sent righty reliever Taylor Williams to the Padres for Brash, a 2019 4th round pick. Brash (6-1, 180) is a starting pitcher.
A product of Niagara University, San Diego made Brash the 113th selection in the 2019 draft, and for good reason. He’s not going to be on many ‘top lists’, but the underlying data behind his stuff is exciting.
You see, the Mariners have a model. They may not come right out and say it, but they prefer a pitcher cut from a specific cloth. There are a few factors a pitcher profile should exhibit if the Mariners’ player development staff is to really optimize his stuff.
First, the release point.
Seattle prefers arms that can get down the mound and release from the lowest slot possible. Logan Gilbert, George Kirby, Emerson Hancock... they may all be tall, but they get down a mound better than just about anyone in their class. They get the ball out in front and release it from the lowest point possible whilst staying within their natural arm slot. Why is this important? The Mariners really value a flat vertical approach angle (VAA). This means the ball coming to the plate from the pitcher’s hand comes in at the flattest angle possible, allowing a potential intersection with the bat to avoid dangerous trajectory. If the angle of the bat and the angle of the ball are a perfect inverse, the damage is substantial. A flat VAA makes that less likely.
With Brash, he gets more than 6-and-a-half feet of extension down the bump on his fastball, an extremely impressive figure given his 6-foot-1 frame. For reference, most guys mirror their height in their extension, so to get 5-7 additional inches down-plane, it’s an athletic feat. He really pumps the ball out in front.
The second important piece of the equation is good vertical movement (vMov) on the heater. If you’re going to come down the mound and produce a good VAA, the fastball should ride up in the zone making it difficult to square and catch up to. Brash gets above average ride on his fastball. He also gets a touch of run.
Now, back to basics? The heater is generally 91-94, touching 95 at Niagara. That’s ticked up a bit in San Diego, but primarily just in terms of average velo. By and large, he’s still the same pitcher when the catcher puts a “1” down.
Brash’s second best pitch is the changeup which is squarely a 55 offering right now. It’s 81-84 with some tumble and plenty of arm-side fade. He spots the pitch well and induced a lot of ground balls because of the separation and break.
Brash compliments the off-speed offering with a slider and a curveball. The curve is definitively the better offering with slurvy tendencies and good depth. It’s 77-80 on most nights and because of the extension and release point, tunnels well with the heater.
At Niagara, Brash had some trouble with a high-effort delivery, but has since cleaned that up a bit. The head-whack he was criticized for was reportedly cleaned up a bit in February.
A highly accomplished arm in his collegiate career, Brash struck out 121 batters his last year on campus in just 14 starts. His 2.43 ERA and three complete games led to him being named the MAAC Pitcher of the Year.
What a crazy inning! Niagara pitcher Matt Brash struck out 4 in the bottom of the 1st, but the Bison still managed 3 runs. Brash fanned the 1st 3, but a K-wild pitch kept the inning going. An RBI single by JP Bell and this 2B by Evan Klugerman sparked the rally. pic.twitter.com/0djF6BC87u— Bucknell Baseball (@Bucknell_BB) March 1, 2019
Brash made five appearances last season in the Padres organization at Low-A ball, pitching 5.1 innings and striking out 8. He produced a 2.08 ERA. He’s squarely a rotation prospect for Seattle so long as the mechanics and delivery don’t get too messy or violent.
Brash is a personal favorite of mine thanks to his operation down-mound, and I would rank him in the 28-30 range of my Mariners Top 30 prospects list.